Bishop Chow's entrance into Hong Kong: 'Together beyond our wounds'
by Sergio Ticozzi

Episcopal ordination and installation in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. His words at the end of the celebration: "My desire is to be a bridge between the government authorities and the Church. It will not be easy after these two years, but the pandemic has taught us all to help one another". The delicate situation awaiting the new bishop.

 


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - "Collaboration will become a living culture among us", despite the "painful wounds" of these past two years: This was the message of the new bishop of Hong Kong, Jesuit Stephen Chow Sau Yan, addressed to his diocese today at the end of the ceremony during which he was ordained a bishop and officially installed in his episcopal chair.

The ordination ceremony in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was presided over by Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop emeritus and until now apostolic administrator of the diocese of Hong Kong. The celebration was attended by many priests and faithful, along with representatives of other religious denominations and city authorities, including Governor Carrie Lam.

"As bishop," said Msgr Stephen Cow in his brief address, "it is my desire to be a bridge between the government authorities and the Church and Hong Kong, between Catholics, Christians of other denominations and other religions. I am aware that this will not be an easy task after the painful wounds that the different parties have experienced in these past two years. But the pandemic has taught us that helping one another, regardless of religious and political positions, is the way forward".

Speaking more generally about Christianity in the East, Msgr Chow recalled that "the history of the Church in China and Hong Kong tells us that Catholicism is not a foreign presence, but part of society". Citing a message received from Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, the new bishop of Hong Kong said that "the Lord does great things, we just have to discern and follow his ways. I entrust myself to your prayers".

With today's ceremony, the Diocese of Hong Kong has therefore finally returned to having its ordinary bishop, almost three years after the death of Msgr Michael Yeung Ming Cheung on 3 January 2019. The choice of a suitable candidate was not easy, indeed troubled, given the social and political events, known to all, that have recently shaken and divided Hong Kong society.

The appointment of Jesuit Stephen Chow Sau Yan was announced on 17 May, but the wait was not over because the new candidate, given his commitments as superior of the Chinese Jesuit province, asked to be ordained bishop and officially installed only on 4 December. In the meantime, however, in addition to his commitments, he tried to meet people and attend significant activities and gatherings in the diocese.

Msgr Chow takes up the leadership of a diocese in a delicate condition, but - although he does not come from the diocesan clergy - the new bishop knows the Church and Hong Kong, where he was born and raised. The aforementioned social upheavals in Hong Kong have also divided the Catholic community, which is why one of the new bishop's concerns is to foster communion.

Fully aware of this, and as he has stated, his main aim will be to listen to everyone: fostering unity in the Church will be his main task. Having much experience in the field of education and formation, he is committed to listening in particular to the new generations and to understanding their expectations. Moreover, in a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, and given his experience in different countries, Bishop Chow aims to foster exchanges between different peoples and cultures for mutual enrichment.

Some voices have raised questions about how the new bishop will relate to the civil authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing, now that they are jointly deciding on control measures in Hong Kong, in addition to restrictive measures on religions in mainland China. Msgr Chow seems to want to adopt an attitude of openness and dialogue with the civil authorities and - as far as mainland China is concerned - is inspired by Fr Matteo Ricci's model of adaptation, maintaining the principles of the Church and promoting evangelisation through all possible avenues. 

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