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Beijing archbishop calls for unity, stresses sinicization

Li urged evangelization and spirituality along the direction of sinicization promoted by the Chinese Communist Party

Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing. (Photo supplied)

Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing. (Photo supplied)

Published: November 20, 2023 11:24 AM GMT

Updated: November 20, 2023 11:42 AM GMT

Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, who made a five-day visit to Hong Kong has called for greater unity among Chinese Catholics and emphasized on evangelization and spirituality aligned with sinicization promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“We pray that under the guidance of the revelation of the Holy Spirit of God, under the direction of the spirit of the Church’s communion, and under the diligent exploration of all of us, the Chinese Church will be able to promote the work of evangelization and spirituality along the direction of sinicization,” Shan said according to a report in Hong Kong’s diocesan site, the Sunday Examiner.

Li, president of the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), made the remarks at the end of his three-day visit to Hong Kong on Nov. 15, when he opened a theological conference entitled “The Synodal Church and the Church in China: Communion, Participation, Mission” at Hong Kong’s diocesan center.

The Church leader has been pressing on sinicization, which critics say aims to impose strict rules that help strengthen CCP leadership under the pretext of promoting Chinese culture across ethnic and religious communities.

“The Church should keep abreast of the times and promptly adjust the focus, methods and modes of evangelization as society develops and progresses. It should strive to fulfill its proper functions, engage in social responsibility, and pay attention to people’s livelihoods,” Li remarked in his address.

Li, along with a delegation, was visiting the Hong Kong diocese at the invitation of Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong, who made a similar visit to Beijing in April.

Li also celebrated a Mass together with Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-Yan, Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang of the Diocese of Zhoucun, John Cardinal Tong Hon, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, and a group of priests.

During his homily at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Li emphasized the importance of combining Chinese culture and faith for wisdom in life.

Cardinal Chow thanked Li and the delegation for the visit and also highlighted the importance of unity among Catholics in China.

“This is a Church of communion, a Church of the Chinese people. So, with thankfulness, we ask that Jesus Christ Our Lord bless our hearts and our efforts,” Chow was quoted as saying. 

The historically important visits of the Church leaders are expected to promote dialogue and exchanges with the church in Mainland China.

Chow’s visit was the first by a Hong Kong bishop since the British handover of the island to China in 1997.

During his visit, Li visited various diocesan offices in Hong Kong, the Holy Spirit Seminary and its study center in Aberdeen.

Cardinal Tong explained to the Chinese delegation how the study center has been acting as a bridge between the China and Hong Kong Church for research and studies since its establishment in 1841.

Li expressed his gratitude to the Hong Kong diocese for the arrangements made during the visit and promised to work towards the development of the church.

“We have seen the diocese’s concrete development in the process, and we have learned a great deal for our seminary and parish. We will work hard for the better development of our Church,” Li said.

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