05/03/2024, 17.55
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Card Chow in Guangdong: new bridge with Catholics in mainland China

A year after his first historic visit to Beijing, the cardinal and a group of aides held meetings in local churches in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, two metropolises in southern China on, like Hong Kong, the Pearl River Delta. He also encouraged meetings among the laity to feel “that we belong to one family”.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Exactly one year after his historic visit to Beijing in April 2023 (almost 30 years after the last one), a delegation of the Diocese of Hong Kong led by Card  Stephen Chow Sau-yan made a new, important visit to Catholic communities in mainland China.

From 22 to 26 April, the Chinese cardinal – together with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, Vicar General Fr Peter Choy Wai-man, and a small group of priests and lay people involved in pastoral care – travelled to Guangdong province where they held meetings in the dioceses of Guangzhou and Shantou as well as the Church of Shenzhen.

This is a very significant aspect of the task of building bridges, the cardinal laid out in his ministry for the Church of Hong Kong

Guangzhou and Shenzhen are large metropolises in southern China. With Hong Kong, they constitute the huge metropolitan area of the Pearl River Delta, which are increasingly becoming a single community through large-scale infrastructural development undertaken by Beijing.

For Card Chow, this was his first visit to these dioceses and on his return he relayed his impressions to the diocesan weekly Sunday Examiner.

He said, for example, that he was struck by the large number of parishes that a priest has to serve in China, citing as an example two parish priests who serve 31 parishes in Shantou.

He praised the various ministries carried out by the local Church in Guangzhou, a huge area that offers the possibility of cooperation with many groups and organisations in Hong Kong, something that should be explored.

His stay in Guangdong were punctuated by meetings with the local prelates – Bishop Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou, Bishop Su Yongda of Zhanjiang (Beihai), and Bishop Huang Bingzhang of Shantou – as well as celebrations with the faithful and visits to significant places like the Huanghuagang Mausoleum, built in 1912 to commemorate 72 victims of the revolt against the Qing dynasty, which was brutally suppressed.

Above all, the delegation had the opportunity to exchange views with local Catholic communities on various topics, including youth ministry, catechesis, and families.

Other issues were explored, such as the devotion and commitment of the laity, the importance of support for Catholic marriage, and the responsibility of Christians in the care of creation.

Card Chow said he found many similarities between the Church in Guangdong and that of Vietnam, which he visited in early April at the invitation of the Diocese of Xuan Loc, from which hail three missionaries involved in the pastoral ministry in Hong Kong.

According to the prelate, both Churches survived under a communist regime for many years and still operate well, thanks to people who evangelise in a creative way.

The cardinal believes cultivating friendship with respect was the bottom line of the trip, inspired by the work of the Venerable Matteo Ricci who engaged in dialogue while respecting the culture of local people in China.

“We must acknowledge and respect the culture and customs of others while still maintaining our faith in God. They are eager to communicate with us but have their own way of doing things,” he said.

For the prelate, the laity also have a role to play in building a bridge between the Church in Hong Kong and that in the mainland, guided by the Holy Spirit.

“I encourage Hong Kong people to invite the brothers and sisters there to gather in Hong Kong as they travel to mainland China. Let’s visit one another and create more chances to meet; this is a sign of a family,” the cardinal said. 

The Sunday Examiner also notes that some specific collaborations were discussed during the trip; in particular, the possibility of creating a training centre in China together with the local churches. The possibility of activities with young people in Shantou was also raised.

For his part, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Hong Kong, Fr Peter Choi, stressed that the visit was designed to boost ties in the region, linked by shared language (Cantonese) and cultural background, to develop closer relations between the Church in southern China and Hong Kong.

He cited the dynamism of the Church in Shenzhen, a metropolis with many migrant workers from various regions, which knows how to open up to people from different backgrounds to assist them in their spiritual needs.

“I think we all have a clear feeling that we belong to one family in Church, and we feel so joyful,” the cardinal said summing up the meaning of his trip.

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