VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic bishop of Hong Kong has continued the Vatican’s apparent policy of appeasement towards the Chinese Communists by inviting the state-approved bishop of Beijing on a highly significant visit to Hong Kong.
On April 21, the South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong’s Bishop Stephen Chow, S.J., had invited Beijing’s Communist state-approved Archbishop Joseph Li Shan to visit Hong Kong.
Bishop Chow was in Beijing for a five-day visit, after he had been invited there by Li Shan. Chow — appointed to the Hong Kong see and study mission by Pope Francis in May 2021 — stated that Li was “quite positive” about the invitation.
As LifeSite has noted, Li is president of the Communist state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). The CCPA is supported by the state, in contrast to the “underground” Catholics in China, who face persistent persecution for remaining loyal to Rome over the Bejing communists.
Li has unsurprisingly voiced support for the Communist Party on a number of occasions, stating on one occasion in 2019 that “supporting the leadership of the Communist Party and fervently loving our socialist motherland is the basic premise for upholding our country’s direction to Sinicize religion.”
When Chow’s visit was announced in March, China watchers warned it could lead to the Diocese of Hong Kong gradually falling under Beijing’s influence or control. Announcing the event, the Diocese of Hong Kong stated it “underscores the mission of the Diocese of Hong Kong to be a bridge Church and promote exchanges and interactions between the two sides.”
Chow appears to have been warmly welcomed by the Communist authorities in Beijing, and echoed a number of their regular talking points, particularly regarding patriotism — a theme which is used by the CCPA to promote the state church over Rome.
“Everyone would like to see their own country do well, no one wants it to do badly. I think it’s everyone’s duty to be patriotic if you’re a citizen in Hong Kong or mainland China,” said Chow.
“If someone lives in Hong Kong and China, then they should love their country,” he added.
Chow also gave numerous statements to the press about his desire for a deepening relationship with the Communists and state-approved church in China. Chow expressed the “hope that the two dioceses [Beijing and Hong Kong] can foster more exchanges, more understanding and cooperation.”
“I hope it will not be my last visit,” said Chow, revealing that he had been invited to “visit other dioceses” in China.
While he did not anticipate the reciprocal visits being regular, Chow declared that “the more we have them, the better.”
In a homily Chow delivered on April 20 for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Li, Chow stated how “we hope that the diocese of Hong Kong, the diocese of Beijing and all mainland Catholic communities can have more intense collaborations and exchanges in the communion of love.”
The Jesuit bishop cited Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, repeating a theme Francis himself has often used when he stated “the Holy Spirit is the God of unity not of division.”
Chow’s official visit to Beijing is believed to be the first made by a Hong Kong bishop since 1997. His policy of evident appeasement towards to the Chinese authorities will no doubt be welcomed by Vatican-based supporters of the secretive Vatican-China deal. While still officially undisclosed, the deal is believed to recognize the state-approved version of the Catholic Church and allows the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to appoint bishops.
The Pope apparently maintains a veto power, although in practice it is the CCP that has control. It also allegedly allows for the removal and replacement of legitimate bishops by CCP-approved bishops.
Yet the Chinese authorities have made moves in recent months which suggest their rejection of the deal. Two bishops have now been appointed by the Chinese authorities since November, without the involvement of the Vatican.
Most recently, in early April, Bishop Shen Bin was moved by the Chinese authorities from his Vatican-approved see of Haimen, to lead the Diocese of Shanghai. The Vatican-recognized bishop of Shanghai has been in house arrest after he left the state-approved church in 2021. The Vatican was merely “informed” of the news days prior to it taking place.
Previously, in November 2022, the Chinese appointed Bishop John Peng Weizhao as auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi. The diocese is not recognized by the Holy See, and in a subsequent statement the Vatican declared that it learned of the ceremony with “surprise and regret.”
While both Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin have continually defended the deal, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has repeatedly criticized it strongly. He described the agreement as an “incredible betrayal” of China’s Catholics and accused the Vatican of “selling out” Chinese Catholics.
The deal has led to a heightened increase in religious persecution, which the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China described as a direct consequence of the deal. In its 2020 report, the Commission wrote that the persecution witnessed is “of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”