UCA News

HK cardinal makes another trip to mainland China

Ten-member Hong Kong delegation paid visits to three dioceses in Guangdong province last week
Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong blesses Catholics outside Sacred Heart of Jesus cathedral in Guangzhou on April 23 during his visit to Guangdong province in southern China.

Cardinal Stephen Chow of Hong Kong blesses Catholics outside Sacred Heart of Jesus cathedral in Guangzhou on April 23 during his visit to Guangdong province in southern China. (Photo: Hong Kong Diocese)

Published: May 03, 2024 09:06 AM GMT
Updated: May 03, 2024 11:25 AM GMT

Hong Kong bishop Cardinal Stephen Chow has paid another "bridge-building" trip to dioceses in mainland China, about a year after his historic visit to Beijing on a similar mission, says a report.

Chow led a delegation to three regions in Guangdong province in southern China during the April 22-26 visit, Hong Kong diocesan publication Sunday Examiner reported on May 3.

Ten Church representatives, including clergy and laity, visited the Diocese of Guangzhou, the Diocese of Shantou, and the Church in Shenzhen in Guangdong.

The delegation sought to strengthen their understanding of one another and explore opportunities for future cooperation, the report said.

Among the delegates were Hong Kong’s auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing and Vicar Generals Father Peter Choy Wai-man, Father Paul Kam Po-wai, and Father Joseph Chan Wing-chiu.

Chow has been keen on visiting Guangdong since his trip to Beijing last April and Beijing Archbishop Li Shan’s reciprocal visit to Hong Kong in November of the same year.

The visit was not publicized as it was “only intended to bring the dioceses in South China closer together,” Sunday Examiner explained.

Chow was reportedly impressed to find that in Guangdong a priest needs to serve a large number of parishes. In Shantou diocese, the ratio was two priests for 32 parishes.

The delegation had the opportunity to exchange thoughts on various areas, including youth ministry, catechism, and family issues, the report said.

Moreover, they gained insights into different aspects such as the devotion and commitment of Catholic laity, the significance of upholding Catholic marriage, and the importance of environmental protection.

Chow said that the Church in Guangdong is like the Church in Vietnam, which he visited earlier in April. Both have continued under communist rule for many years and are functioning well, he said.

The Jesuit bishop emphasized the work of Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit missionary priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions.

Ricci’s long journey in China reminds all of the dialogue with respect for the culture of local people in China, Chow said.

“We must acknowledge and respect the culture and customs of others while still maintaining our faith in God. They are eager to communicate with us but have their own way of doing things,” he said.

He urged the laity to also participate in the bridge-building process.

“I encourage Hong Kong people to invite their brothers and sisters there to gather in Hong Kong as they travel to mainland China. Let’s visit one another and create more chances to meet; this is a sign of a family,” the cardinal said. 

The Hong Kong delegation also discussed with the Church officials the chances of future cooperation with dioceses in mainland China.   

Bishop Ha said the visits offered opportunities to cultivate and deepen the relationship between dioceses.

“It is to concretize the universality of the Church because ultimately all of us were baptized in Christ, sharing the same Holy Spirit,” he said.

Father Kam said his first trip to the mainland to meet with bishops and church officials felt like “a visit with friends and family.”

Kam said there is a plan to jointly organize a youth program in a formation center in Shantou diocese in July.

Father Choy said visits to three churches in Guangdong were eye-opening for Hong Kongers like him, helping them understand their different historical and economic contexts.

On April 23, the delegation visited the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Guangzhou diocese, where Chow celebrated a Mass with three bishops.

They also visited the Huanghuagang Mausoleum of the 72 Martyrs on the same day.

On April 25, they visited the Holy Family Church and St. Roch’s Church in Shantou.

During the visit, the delegation presented the gift of an image of the Holy Spirit incorporated with a painting of Hong Kong scenes designed by Catholic artists.

“I think we all have a clear feeling that we belong to one family in Church, and we feel so joyful,” Cardinal Chow said.

The visits come as a deal between the Vatican and China on the governance of the Catholic Church in the communist country is set to expire in October.

The provisional deal, signed in October 2018 and renewed twice for two years in 2020 and 2022, reportedly allows both parties to have a say in bishop appointments.

The administration of the Catholic Church has been a thorny issue between Rome and Beijing for decades since China served diplomatic ties with the Vatican following the communist takeover in the 1950s.  

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