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Cardinal Chow: HK a ‘Bridge Church’ for China and world

Developing human connections helps each other to witness love of God, says Hong Kong church leader
Cardinal Stephan Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong

Cardinal Stephan Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong. (File photo: AFP)

Published: November 06, 2023 09:50 AM GMT
Updated: November 06, 2023 11:44 AM GMT

Hong Kong’s bishop Cardinal Stephan Chow Sau-yan has reiterated his commitment to making his diocese a ‘bridge church’ that connects the church in China and the world.

“Church in Hong Kong is a bridge church,” Chow said on Nov. 4, while speaking to the media after his first Mass in the city after Pope Francis made him a cardinal on Sept. 30.

“That means we are connected with the Church in China, with the Beijing Archdiocese in China. That is important, because we know each other, that we exist,” he explained.

The brief video of his address to the media has been posted by Sunday Examiner, the official publication of Hong Kong Diocese.

Chow answered press queries on his priorities as the bishop of the politically troubled former British colony and his efforts to reduce gaps between the church in China and the world.

He said as part of Hong Kong’s diocese’s mission to be a “bridge church” he visited Beijing Archdiocese in mainland China on April 17-21 to develop connections and exchanges.

Chow’s visit to Beijing garnered significant media attention as it was the first trip of a Hong Kong bishop since the British handover of the island to China in 1997.

“I went up to Beijing to develop connections, the human connection. We start with humanity first. Everything begins with humanity, not by the structure or policies, but human connection,” he said.

“This time Archbishop Li Shan will visit Hong Kong, and this also confirms the human connection,” Chow said, referring to the upcoming five-day visit of Beijing Archbishop Li to Hong Kong starting Nov. 14.  

“With this connection, we can work together. We can talk about how to strengthen the structure, how to make some policies, even humanitarian policies, in the long term. This is how we can help each other to witness love of God,” he added.

During the visit, Archbishop Li will meet with Bishop Chow and different diocesan offices to promote exchanges and interactions between the two dioceses, Hong Kong diocese said in a notice.

His visit comes following China’s tightening of freedom and rights in Hong Kong since Beijing imposed the repressive National Security Law to crush a strong pro-democracy movement.

It also comes at a time amid tensions between the Vatican and Beijing regarding the Sino-Vatican agreement of 2018 on the appointment of Catholic bishops in the country. Initially signed for two years, the agreement was renewed twice in 2020 and 2022, each time for two years.

Though the deal was never made public, it reportedly allows both parties to accept or reject a candidate for bishop. In the past years, several bishops have been appointed and installed in China through mutual agreement.

However, recently the Vatican has accused Beijing of violating the agreement by installing a bishop and transferring another unilaterally.

China severed diplomatic ties with the Vatican following the communist takeover more than seven decades ago. The communist nation’s millions of Catholics have been split between a state-controlled patriotic church and the underground church that pledges allegiance to the pope.

Human rights groups have reported a renewed crackdown on the underground church and other unrecognized religious groups in China in recent times.

For years, the appointment of bishops and church governance have been contentious issues for the Vatican and China.

Experts say, with the deal the Vatican seeks to establish formal diplomatic ties with the communist-ruled nation.

Critics of the deal alleged the Vatican has betrayed the underground Catholics by warming up ties with the communist regime.

Pope Francis said that despite the setbacks, the Vatican will continue dialogue with China.

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