A New Bishop for Hong Kong/Prayer for China/Persecutions Continue

05-30-2021Weekly Reflection

In a podcast for Radio Free Rome, Vatican-reporter Marco Tosatti, opined on the new bishop for Hong Kong. This transcript appeared on Signor Tosatti’s blog:

Hong Kong finally has a new bishop: Stephen Chow, a Jesuit. For two years there have been several moments in which it seemed that the appointment was about to be announced, followed punctually by reconsideration, but now finally the Holy See has made its choice.

It has chosen an intermediate way, between those who wanted the office to be given to the auxiliary bishop, the Franciscan Joseph Ha, who is close to the democratic movement which has been opposed by and has been fighting against the dictatorial drift of the communist sort in the former British colony, and Peter Choy, a man whose appointment probably would have been very welcome to Beijing.

According to what we have been told, at different moments both Joseph Ha and Peter Choy received papal approval for the appointment. But Ha’s candidacy is said to have been dropped due to the discontent expressed by Beijing, which reproached the Franciscan for his support for pro-democracy movements, and Choy’s nomination was abandoned because on closer examination this seemed too acquiescent to the wishes of the mainland regime.

Chow is described by those who know him as a capable and cultured man. His curriculum vitae includes three important degrees, different assignments in the diocese, and above all he has spent much of his life working in the world of education. And this characteristic probably carried weight in the evaluation of the Holy See, because the Catholic Church in Hong Kong – for now – plays an important role in education in the region, with 300 schools that educate, catechize, and hold Masses. They are “equal schools” – recognized by the government in virtue of an agreement that goes back to the time of the British Governorate.

Now, with Beijing’s push to increase control over the city, there is the danger that the communist regime wants in some way to limit and reduce this role played by the Church, and Chow could be the right man to fight this battle. It should also be noted that – according to what we are told – the new bishop at first declined the honor (perhaps also thinking of the prohibition Saint Ignatius placed on the Jesuits against becoming bishops), and only when he was asked a second time did he consent. Indeed, we are told that Chow, who was Provincial of the Jesuits, said no twice: first to the possibility of a candidacy, and then to the nomination itself.

Born in Hong Kong, educated by the Irish Jesuits, he has a perspective that is closely tied to the reality in which he lives. And given the problem of free instruction, which is closely tied to the problem of the pastoral life of Catholics, his experience and his roots appear to be precious elements of his qualifications. Also because it is not at all certain how much longer the rule of “One country, two systems” will last, a rule which has guaranteed spaces of freedom within the former British colony.

Many of the democratic activists imprisoned in Hong Kong are Catholics. But the Church can do little about it, ever since the National Security Act came into force. During the first demonstrations against the law of extradition Cardinal John Tong called for respect for democracy and an independent investigation into the work of the police.

This appointment takes place against the background of the secret agreement for the appointment of bishops between the Holy See and the communist regime. But according to what Father Bernardo Cervellera, the editor of Asia News, says in in an interview with Franco Bechis: “This agreement is already dead. Even some Vatican officials admit this in a whisper. Since the time the agreement was signed more than two years ago, only three bishops have been named. In the meantime, the underground Church continues to be mercilessly targeted: bishops under house arrest, priests expelled from their parishes, churches and convents destroyed. It is a persecution that has no end in sight.” (END) #489

An invitation to pray for Catholics in China "whom I hold deep in my heart" was addressed by Pope Francis to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Pentecost for the recitation of the Regina Caeli. Recalling May 24th, is "the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians and heavenly Patroness of their great country", the pontiff underlined that "the Mother of the Lord and of the Church is venerated with particular devotion in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai and is assiduously invoked by Christian families, in the trials and hopes of daily life”.

Meanwhile Asia News reports: Xinxiang, the bishop, seven priests and 10 seminarians arrested

Bishop Zhang Weizhu has been imprisoned on other occasions. A large number of policemen broke into the factory that served as a seminary and arrested the students and professors. In the space of just two days, almost all the ecclesiastical personnel of the apostolic prefecture of Xinxiang were wiped out with an operation by the police forces of the province of Hebei. Yesterday 21 May the bishop Msgr. Zhang Weizhu; the day before, seven priests and 10 seminarians were arrested.

On the early afternoon of May 20th, at least 100 policemen from Hebei province - from Cangzhou, Hejian, and Shaheqiao - surrounded the building used as a diocesan seminary in Shaheqiao (Hebei). Xinxiang, in fact, used a small factory owned by a Hebei Catholic as a seminary. The police entered the building and arrested four priests, seminary professors, and three other priests who carry out pastoral work. Together with them, 10 seminarians who attended lessons in the factory were arrested. Following the directives of the New Regulations on religious activities, the factory was closed and the director of the company was arrested. The apostolic prefecture of Xinxiang is not recognized by the Chinese government. As a result the activities of priests, seminarians and faithful are considered "illegal" and "criminal".

After the raid, the policemen confiscated all the personal effects of the priests and seminarians. Given the huge deployment of police forces, the raid is thought to have been planned for some time. The civil authorities believe that there are other seminarians who have managed to escape and are looking for them in the surrounding area. Public security and police are going from house to house in search of them. If they discover that there are signs attributable to the Catholic faith (crosses, statues, sacred images, photos of the pope, etc.), the owners are fined and the objects seized and destroyed.

According to many observers, since the signing of the provisional agreement between China and the Holy See, the persecution of Catholics - especially the unofficial ones - has increased. The Agreement concerns only the appointment of new bishops, but had a premise that all outstanding issues regarding the life of the Church would remain on standby, to be addressed later in further dialogue between the two parties. Instead the police forces have placed bishops under house arrest, imposed very high fines on the faithful, expelled parish priests from churches, arrested priests and seminarians. For many faithful "the Agreement has been betrayed". Mgr Giuseppe Zhang Weizhu, 63, was ordained a bishop in 1991 and has suffered several periods of imprisonment. The apostolic prefecture of Xinxiang has 100,000 faithful. Pray for the defeat of communism in China and throughout the world. The Church’s social teaching reminds us that communism is intrinsically evil. Its history is replete with the denial of God, the persecution of the Church, genocidal murder, suffering, persecution, and loss of freedom about which the West is suffering from amnesia, silence, and complicity, including many in these United States in Washington and in the mainstream press.

See the encyclical Divini Redemptoris by Pope Pius XI; The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Nicolas Werth, Stéphane Courtois, Jean-Louis Panné; the writings of Robert Conquest and Alexander Solzhenitzyn ; Banishing God in Albania the Prison Memoirs of Fr. Giacomo Giardin S.J.; the writings/lives of heroic Catholic churchmen who lived under communism like Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, Cardinal Josef Beran, Pope St. John Paul II, Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pinmei, Bishop Francis X Ford, Bishop James E. Walsh, of Maryknoll, Fr. Walter Ciszek S.J. Cardinal Josyf Slyipj, Cardinal Joseph Zen to name a few.