HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) — In a new interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow, S.J., who was recently appointed by Pope Francis, downplayed fears about the scandalous Vatican-Beijing deal that grants a say in the appointment of Catholic bishops to the atheistic Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The Hong Kong bishop also encouraged the CCP agenda of Sinicization — by which the Communists seek to bring all religions under the total control of the state — praising the former bishop of Shanghai who after two decades in prison betrayed the underground Catholic Church by joining the state-run church called the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Commenting on the agreement between the Vatican and Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops in China, Chow said he saw his recent visit to Beijing as a parallel cooperation at the diocesan level. Notably, he was visiting the president of the schismatic Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, whom Rome has scandalously recognized as bishop of Beijing despite the bishop’s continued role as leader of the Communist-run state church.
“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,” Chow stated.
“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.”
In contrast, however, Catholics of the underground Church in China told LifeSiteNews that they feel with the agreement they are being asked to make a deal with the devil, noting that there are still 10 Catholic bishops in communion with Rome who are in prison in China for their steadfast refusal to swear loyalty to the atheistic Communist Party and thereby betray the true faith, a fact about which Rome has kept deafeningly silent.
Asked about the CCP decision to install Bishop John Peng Weizhao of the Diocese of Yujiang as Auxiliary Bishop of Jiangxi — a diocese established by the CCP that is not recognized by Rome — Chow said that despite such a blatant and schismatic move, the Vatican-Beijing deal on the appointment of bishops “is not dead as some seem to have suggested.” Instead, Chow downplayed the clear contempt shown toward the Vatican, saying, “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.”
The Patriotic Association
Asked to comment on the significance of his recent visit to Beijing, the bishop tried to claim continuity with Cardinal John Baptist Wu, a staunch opponent of the Communist-run state church in mainland China. Posturing as a bridge builder, Chow said,
Honestly, I do not think that my trip was ‘historical’ but a continuation of Cardinal John Baptist Wu’s Beijing trip in 1994. He was the bishop of Hong Kong at the time. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, our diocese was missioned by the late Pope John Paul II to be a ‘Bridge Church.’ The idea of being a bridge was first mentioned by the Venerable Matteo Ricci.
What Bishop Chow failed to mention, however, was that Bishop Wu left China in 1949 as a priest and did not return for nearly 50 years because he refused to compromise with the CCP by joining Beijing’s state-run schismatic church. After obtaining a degree in canon law in Rome, Wu was not allowed to return to mainland China, and worked for 20 years in Taiwan before being made Bishop of Hong Kong. So much did he resist the Communists that as bishop of Hong Kong he forbade mainland priests from being incardinated into the Hong Kong diocese because he was aware of the potential danger that some were spies of the CCP.
Chow not only spoke favorably of the deal allowing the CCP to name bishops but also praised the former Bishop of Shanghai, Aloysius Jin Luxian, who after more than two decades of imprisonment for the faith caved to CCP pressure and joined the schismatic state-run church. On behalf of the CCP, Jin then attempted to persuade Cardinal Ignatius Kung, with whom he had been arrested in the 1950s, to also defect to the state church, which Kung firmly refused, suffering another decade in prison.
Ignoring Kung’s heroic example of steadfastness, Chow praised Jin’s cooperation with the CCP, saying he was “much respected by the Chinese government.” “Because of his willingness to work with the government, his multiple languages skills and ability to go beyond China, he was able to connect the government-sanctioned Church with the Universal Church and the world. His pastoral presence also energized the Church in China at the time, helping her to develop and flourish,” Chow said.
Castigating perseverance in the face of long persecution as doing “nothing” and merely maintaining “the status quo,” Chow claimed that his great “challenge” now “is to face attacks and criticisms coming from different sides.” “They may perceive that their interests and concerns are being compromised by the connecting efforts of the bridge,” he said. “I can certainly understand their concerns with empathy. The alternative is to do nothing and maintain the status quo, without any chance for mutual listening and understanding.” Such refusal to cooperate with the Chinese Communists on the part of Catholics he branded as “upholding deep distrust and hurtful actions against their perceived evil ones.”
Instead of holding fast to the one true faith, Chow encouraged the adoption of the CCP’s agenda of Sinicization, claiming this was essentially Chinese inculturation. Chow refused to acknowledge that the Sinicization proposed by the CCP involved any adulteration of the Catholic faith by an adoption of a totalitarian subservience to the Communist state on the part of the Church.
Chow explained that, “according to one of the government officials whom we met during the trip, 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,” the Hong Kong bishop said, as if the CCP has not already been very clear that their program means the total subjection of the Church according to the official party line.
Whitewashing the reality of totalitarian Communism, Chow stated, “What I can say with confidence is that the collaboration and exchanges between the Beijing Diocese and the Hong Kong Diocese will continue and deepen. Since I am encouraged by the bishops and the government to visit the other dioceses on the Mainland, I believe it is an invitation for further development of our synodality with the Church on the Mainland.”
China expert Steve Mosher, commenting on the situation and whether the CCP will try to take over the Catholic Church in Hong Kong as it has done in mainland China, has told LifeSiteNews,
Of course, the United Front Department of the CCP, which is responsible for directing the activities of the Patriotic Catholic Church, will also try the same tactics on the Church in Hong Kong. Remember, ‘Sinicization means that all religious communities should be led by the Party, controlled by the Party, and support the Party.’ The CCP only allows religious organizations to exist if they agree to serve, in effect, as extensions of the Party. That’s what ‘united front’ means in the Chinese Communist context.
Voices of Catholic resistance
Not all clergy from Hong Kong agree with this posturing of Bishop Chow to appease the Chinese Communists. Cardinal Joseph Zen has called the Vatican’s agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops an “incredible betrayal” of the decades of martyrs of the underground Church in China, who persevered in resisting the Communists even in the face of imprisonment and death.
In a biography titled “Ignatius, The Life of Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei,” Msgr. Stephen DiGiovanni related an encounter between Cardinal Kung and Bishop Jin while the former was held behind bars, touching on the differing stance of the two prelates toward the schismatic CCP-run church in China.
In 1985, “the government once again tried to cut a deal with the aging and weakened Bishop: his freedom in exchange for heading the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. He refused. As his jailer later recalled, Bishop Kung told him that ‘so long as there is still one priest, nun or Christian in jail for the faith, he will stay in jail; he will be the last one to leave jail.”
Bishop Kung later recalled what was termed ‘the most difficult moment during your 30 years in jail’ during an interview after his release. Joseph Kung, Bishop Kung’s nephew and translator, recalled the Bishop’s reply, ‘The most painful time for him was when Bishop Jin, S.J., the then patriotic Auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai, who was the previous seminary rector serving under Bishop Kung, was sent by the government to visit him in jail, in an attempt to persuade Bishop Kung to change his position and to leave the Holy Father.’
Cardinal Kung remained faithful to Rome and the Catholic Church until his death.
The Kung Foundation, established to keep alive the memory of courageous cardinal and the true history of the Catholic Church in China under persecution, declared that “Bishop Kung’s fidelity and resistance was an inspiration for the bishops and thousands of Catholics throughout China. The unyielding fidelity of these pastors and the blood of the martyrs encouraged the entire Catholic community in China. Failing to eradicate the Catholic Church, the Chinese government created in 1957 its own Church, called the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).”
The Catholic Church in China, therefore, has two faces: the government-established Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) that became illegal in China and was forced underground.
Explaining the dynamics of the state church in China, the Kung Foundation stated,
The Chinese Government officially recognizes only those pastors who openly declared their independence from the Holy See and joined the autonomous CCPA. The CCPA takes its orders only from the State Council’s Religious Affairs Bureau, which is an agency under the United Front Department of the Communist Party. It does not recognize the supreme administrative, legislative, and judicial authority of the Pope, even though it does recognize the Pope as ‘the spiritual leader’ of the Catholic Church.
The CCPA, for example, has appointed and ordained its own bishops mostly without the permission of the Pope, especially in the early days. It does not take its mandate from the Pope. It does not recognize the Pope as the leader of the universal Roman Catholic Church. It declared its autonomy from the Pope. Therefore, it does not recognize that the Pope has authority over the Catholic Church in China.
Referencing papal condemnations of the Communist-run church in China, the Kung Foundation wrote, “Apparently referring to the CCPA, Pope Benedict XVI said: ‘the proposal for a Church that is independent of the Holy See in the religious sphere is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. The claim of some entities… to place themselves above the bishops and to guide the life of the Church does not correspond to Catholic doctrine… ’ In his speech on December 3, 1996, the late Pope John Paul II, apparently referred to the CCPA as ‘a Church which does not respond to either the will of the Lord Jesus, or to the Catholic faith.’”
Sadly, high ranking prelates have forgotten that the Catholic faith is incompatible with totalitarian Communism and a church run by an atheistic Communist state, with bishops and cardinals whitewashing the schismatic nature of the CCPA and the intensified persecution of the faithful of the underground Catholic Church.
Cardinal Kung, on the other hand, affirmed to his dying day that those who joined the state church in China separated themselves from the true Church established by Christ. On September 8, 1988, the feast of the birthday of Mary, Kung celebrated his first public Mass after arriving in the United States following his release from prison after 33 years behind bars.
In a moving homily given to Chinese Catholics, many of whom had themselves been imprisoned for holding to their faith, Kung declared,
We must pray for those who have gone astray, and for all those who failed when confronted with a painful challenge. We must pray especially for those who separated from the Church and have established an independent, self-assertive and self-reliant church. But worst of all, we must deplore the ordination of bishops without papal sanction or permission. We sincerely hope that they will refrain from taking any further action to separate themselves from the true Church; we pray rather that they may receive the grace to return to the true fold and profess obedience to the one true shepherd… Successor of Peter, Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth.
Oh, my fellow Catholics! Preserve that bright flame of faith forever! Forever preserve your honorable privilege as God’s adopted children. Never betray your Church. Rather, protect and defend her with all your might. You, my brothers and sisters in Christ who are present at this Mass, have given proof that you have kept your faith and fidelity to the Church. Let us praise and thank God for giving us the grace of such fidelity and courage.