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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Hong Kong bishop invitations head of China’s state-backed church

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HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s Roman Catholic bishop on Friday stated he has invited the state-appointed archbishop of Beijing to go to his metropolis, a symbolic gesture that consultants stated might strengthen the delicate relationship between China and the Vatican.

Bishop Stephen Chow stated Joseph Li, who’s the chief of the mainland’s Communist Social gathering-sponsored model of the Catholic church, seemed to be “fairly Positive” in regards to the invitation. He gave no indication when Li would possibly go to.

Chow introduced the invitation on the final day of a five-day journey to Beijing, the primary by a bishop of Hong Kong in practically three a long time. Chow’s journey adopted a yr of strained relations by which Beijing unilaterally appointed two church leaders and Hong Kong arrested a cardinal.

Hong Kong’s diocese “is affiliated with the Vatican, so implicitly, it may be stated that this strengthens Vatican-Sino ties,” stated Lo Lung-kwong, an honorary senior analysis fellow on the Divinity College of Chung Chi School on the Chinese language College of Hong Kong.

Final month, Chow stated his journey to Beijing on the invitation of Li underscored the mission of the Hong Kong diocese as a bridge church.

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Beijing and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 following the Communist Social gathering’s rise to energy and the expulsion of overseas monks. Because the break in ties, Catholics in China have been divided between those that belong to an official, state-sanctioned church and people in an underground church loyal to the pope. The Vatican acknowledges members of each as Catholics however claims the unique proper to decide on bishops.

In 2018, the 2 sides introduced that that they had reached a personal accord which regularized the standing of a number of Chinese language-appointed bishops and paved the best way for future nominations.

The trade of visits provides substance to the high-level ties created by the settlement, stated Professor Kung Lap-yan of the divinity college at Chinese language College.

“When (a relationship) is fragile, then it should want some constructing works within the decrease degree,” he stated.

The settlement on Catholic bishops has been renewed twice, most just lately in October for 2 extra years. However in November, a feud broke out over the set up of an auxiliary bishop in Jiangxi province, which the Vatican doesn’t acknowledge as a diocese. Two weeks in the past Vatican Information, the information portal of the Holy See, tersely reported that China had unilaterally appointed a brand new bishop of Shanghai.

The settlement has been harshly criticized by Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was detained in Could on suspicion of colluding with overseas forces below a Beijing-imposed nationwide safety legislation that jailed or silenced many activists. He was launched on bail and has but to be formally charged, however he and 5 others had been fined in a separate case in November for failing to register a now-defunct fund set as much as assist arrested protesters.

When Chow led a prayer on Friday, he stated individuals ought to each “love the nation and love the church,” Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK reported. He later informed reporters that everybody ought to learn to do these two issues on the similar time.

“If somebody lives in Hong Kong and China, then they need to love their nation,” he stated.

Estimates of the overall variety of Chinese language Catholics run between 6 million and 12 million, worshipping in each the acknowledged Chinese language Catholic Patriotic Affiliation and the underground church.

Kung stated the visits present that the church in Hong Kong is rising nearer to the mainland.

“The bilateral invites present that the idea of ‘China and Hong Kong is an in depth household’ … has been prolonged to … faith,” he stated.

These adjustments additionally increase questions in regards to the destiny of Chinese language Catholics who usually are not a part of the Catholic Patriotic Affiliation, he added, and would possibly name into query the Vatican’s diplomatic recognition of Taiwan. Solely 13 governments, together with the Vatican, acknowledge Taiwan as a substitute of China.

However Professor Tobias Brandner from the divinity college stated he wouldn’t learn an excessive amount of into Chow’s invitation, noting that it was a traditional trade and that the Hong Kong church is a bridge builder.

He stated the event wouldn’t be seen as an indication of bettering ties, including it was “offensive” that China had appointed a bishop in opposition to the spirit of the 2018 deal shortly earlier than Chow’s go to.

Chow visited church buildings and the tomb of Matteo Ricci, one of many first Jesuits to reside in China, who died in Beijing in 1610.


This text has been corrected to indicate that China’s acknowledged church group is called the Chinese language Catholic Patriotic Affiliation, not Patriotic Catholic Affiliation.

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