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HK bishop to visit Beijing seeking exchanges, interaction

The visit 'underscores the mission of the Diocese of Hong Kong to be a bridge Church,' says Bishop Chow
Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong

Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong. (File image)

Published: March 09, 2023 12:08 PM GMT
Updated: March 10, 2023 05:37 AM GMT

Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop is scheduled to visit Beijing next month at the invitation of the archbishop based in the Chinese capital to promote exchanges and interactions between Catholics in the two regions of China, an official statement said.  

Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan of Hong Kong accepted the invitation from Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing and will spend five days in Beijing from April 17, Hong Kong Diocese said in a March 9 statement.

Chow accepted the invitation “in the spirit of brotherhood in the Lord,” the statement said.

Chow, a Jesuit, said his visit “underscores the mission of the Diocese of Hong Kong to be a bridge Church and promote exchanges and interactions between the two sides.”

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha, vicar general Father Peter Choy, and the bishop’s assistant Wong Ka-Chun will accompany Chow during his visit to Beijing.

In addition to the meeting with Li, Chow and the team will also meet with other local bishops, clergy, and laity during this trip, said the statement published on the Hong Kong diocesan website, the Sunday Examiner.

The team will also visit the Beijing Major Seminary, the national seminary of the Catholic Church in China, and other relevant institutions concerning religious affairs.

Upon arriving in Beijing, the bishop will participate in the evening prayers and celebrate a thanksgiving mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Beijing.

The prelate’s travel will also include a visit to the tomb of Italian Jesuit missionary Father Matteo Ricci, who was recently declared venerable.

The team is also scheduled to visit organizations that promote cultural exchanges and hold gatherings with "Hong Kong friends working in Beijing," the Sunday Examiner reported.

The latest gathering of clergy from Beijing and Hong Kong happened in the weeks ahead of Chow’s consecration as bishop in 2021.

At his consecration, Chow had said it was his “desire to be a bridge between the government and the Church in Hong Kong, and between the Catholic Church, fellow Christian denominations and other religions.”

Catholics in China are divided into two churches – the state-sanctioned “patriotic church” and the underground church that pledges allegiance to the Vatican.

For decades, the appointment of bishops has been a bone of contention between the Vatican and China as formal diplomatic ties were severed after the communists seized power some seven decades ago.  

In 2018, the Vatican signed a provisional agreement with China for two years, which was extended in 2020 and 2022. It reportedly allows the Vatican and the communist regime to jointly appoint bishops.

Critics of the deal say it is a “betrayal” of Catholics who remained loyal to the Vatican despite persecution.

Despite the criticism, Pope Francis said that he wants to continue “dialogue” with China despite the challenges.

The Vatican reportedly seeks to unite millions of Catholics split between two churches with the agreement.

However, media and rights groups reported that Beijing has been exploiting the deal to carry out a crackdown aiming at dismantling the underground church.   

Hong Kong diocese, which covers the entire former British colony, is not a part of the patriotic or the underground church but works directly under the pope.  

Hong Kong has estimated 400,000 Catholics in a population of about 7.4 million.

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