During Bishop Stephen Chow's fifth and last day in Beijing, he invited Joseph Li, the Archbishop of Beijing, to attend their church in Hong Kong. This offer aims to 'strengthen the ties between China and the Vatican.'
Invitation of Bishop Stephen Chow
According to The Washington Post, Bishop Stephen Chow stated that Joseph Li, the leader of the Catholic church on the mainland sponsored by the Communist Party, appeared to be "quite positive" about the invitation. However, the bishop did not provide any hint as to when Li may come to visit.
As mentioned, Bishop Chow announced on the final day of a five-day journey to Beijing, which was the first visit to the Chinese capital by a bishop from Hong Kong in almost three decades. Chow's journey came after a year of tense ties, during which Beijing selected two church officials on its own and Hong Kong detained a cardinal. Chow's visit came as a result of these events.
The outstanding senior research associate at the Divinity School of Chung Chi College, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Lo Lung-Kwong said that the diocese of the country "is affiliated with the Vatican, so implicitly, it can be said that this strengthens Vatican-Sino ties." Since the Vatican is affiliated with Hong Kong's diocese, "it can be said that this strengthens Vatican-Sino ties," Lo said.
Moreover, South China Morning Post Publishers reported that the local parishioners greeted Chow upon visiting the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also known as Xizhimen Church. He expressed his gratitude for the chance to travel to the nation's capital and his hope that this would not be his final trip to the country.
The congregation reportedly urged the bishop to travel to various dioceses because China is such a large country, and different dioceses in China have distinct cultures and climates.
In addition, when asked if he had spoken about China-Vatican ties with authorities in Beijing, he responded, "This is a matter between states, but [our exchanges] are inter-dioceses."
Bishop Chow previously stated that the goal of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong is to serve as a "bridge church" that promotes interactions between the city and the mainland was highlighted by his visit. It was organized following Li extended invitation to him last year. Furthermore, on Friday, Apr. 28, the bishop will return to Hong Kong. He will travel with Vicar General Father Peter Choy Wai-man and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing.
Relationship Between Vatican and China
In 1951, after an ascension to power of the Communist Party in China and the subsequent deportation of foreign priests, diplomatic connections between Beijing and the Vatican were terminated, ABC News reported. Following the rupture in connections, Catholics in China have been split into two groups: those who are members of an official, state-sanctioned church and those who are members of a secret church loyal to the pope. Although the Vatican acknowledges the validity of members of both groups as Catholics, it asserts that it alone has the authority to select bishops.
In 2018, the two parties announced that they had come to a secret agreement establishing the status of numerous bishops chosen by the Chinese government and setting the door for future appointments.
Professor Kung Lap-yan, who teaches in the divinity school at Chinese University, stated that the exchange of visits provides a stronger foundation for the high-level ties developed due to the agreement. "When (a relationship) is fragile, then it must need some building works in the lower level," he noted.