ASIA/HONG KONG - Bishop Stephen Chow to "La Civiltà Cattolica": Many Chinese Catholics hope for a meeting between Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping

Friday, 12 May 2023 local churches   evangelization   mission   pope francis  

Hong Kong Diocese

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - About a third of the dioceses of mainland China are "waiting their respective episcopal appointments", revealed Jesuit Bishop Peter Chow Sau-yan, head of the diocese of Hong Kong, in an in-depth interview with La Civiltà Cattolica.
The interview was published today, on the eve of an important event also organized by the authoritative Jesuit magazine: at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, May 13, in the historic Roman headquarters of Villa Malta and where the volume in Chinese which collects reflections and reading guides on the most important documents of the first ten years of the Pontificate of Pope Francis (Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations) an edited by La Civiltà Cattolica, will be presented. The Volume, entitled "The Magisterium of Pope Francis", will be presented by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, and Father Antonio Spadaro, Director of La Civiltà Cattolica.
The interview published by La Civiltà Cattolica, and released to Father Spadaro himself, takes its cue from Bishop Chow's recent visit to the diocese of Beijing. "Honestly", the Jesuit Bishop laughs "I do not think that my trip was “historical” but a continuation of Cardinal John Baptist Wu’s Beijing trip in 1994". The Bishop adds that "although an official channel has been established between the respective State Departments of the Holy See and China since the setting up of the provisional agreement, we see our trip on April 17 as a bridging one on the diocese level, between Beijing and Hong Kong. The more outstanding fruits of the trip included personal connection between the leadership of the two dioceses and the rekindling of collaboration in different areas".
Asked by Father Spadaro about the speculation and comments that followed the transfer of Bishop Joseph Shen Bin from Haimen to Shanghai and the installation of Bishop John Peng Weizhao, Bishop of Yujiang, as Auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi, Bishop Chow pointed out that the current provisional agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic on the appointment of Chinese bishops "is not dead as some seem to have suggested. But discrepancies in the understanding between the two sides on the assignment of bishops to other dioceses could be a factor requiring better understanding. Hence, more regular and in-depth dialogue could help minimize confusion in the future".
Bishop Chow also answers a question about "sinicization" that the Chinese apparatuses are demanding of the Catholic Church in China. "My impression, confides the Jesuit Bishop, is that the Church on the Mainland is still grappling with what sinicization should mean for them. It has not reached a definitive conclusion at this point in time. Therefore it should be meaningful for us to dialogue with them via seminars, so that we can also share with them the meaning and implications of “inculturation,” which certainly addresses some of their concerns about sinicization. And we are learning from them what sinicization can mean for them. According to one of the government officials whom we met during the trip", reports Chow, "sinicization is similar to our concept of inculturation. So, I think that it is better not to jump to a conclusion regarding sinicization for now. It should be more helpful to hold further dialogue on the topic".
In the interview, the Bishop of Hong also paid tribute to the memory of his Jesuit confrere Alojsiys Jin Luxian, recalling that "on April 27, the Shanghai diocese commemorated the 10th anniversary of the death of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, with gratitude for his enormous contributions and influence in the Church in China".
In the interview, among other things, Bishop Chow recalls that even Chinese President Xi Jinping, in one of his speeches to the international community, paid tribute to the great Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, adding that "it is clear that the proclamation of Matteo Ricci as venerable was widely welcomed. And we are praying for his beatification and canonization, which will certainly be joyfully applauded in China".
When asked by Father Spadaro about the love Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed for China, Bishop Chow reports that "many Catholics still honor him as their Holy Father and appreciate what he is doing for the Church in China. The bishops whom I have encountered during this trip are positive toward him. But for those who are against the provisional agreement, they appear to be rather negative toward Pope Francis.There are no statistics", continues the Bishop of Hong Kong " on the spread of the likes and dislikes. But from what I have seen and read, together with the attitude of the Catholics whom I have encountered on the trip, I would say a large majority of the Catholics in China are loyal to Pope Francis, and they hope that the provisional agreement will bring desirable changes for their Church, including a meeting between Pope Francis and President Xi".
Bishop Stephen Chow adds that "the Chinese government also has much respect for Pope Francis. They particularly appreciate his open-mindedness and inclusiveness. His love for humanity as a whole is seen to coincide with the values espoused by President Xi with his focus on the “Community of Common Destiny” of humankind". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 12/5/2023)