“Our diocese has received from Pope John Paul II the mission to be a ‘bridge church,’” said Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow in an interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Jesuit review La Civiltà Cattolica.
The prelate said the “greatest challenge … is to connect the different and opposing sides, to help them see themselves as human persons eager to be heard and understood.”
“To help them listen to their counterparts with respect and empathy, in the hope that this will ease their discomfort and/or foster collaboration,” added Bishop Chow.
The interview was published last week on the eve of the presentation of the Chinese language volume “The Magisterium of Pope Francis. A guide to reading his Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations” by Father Spadaro.
In the interview, Bishop Chow said he sees his visit to Beijing as a continuation of the trip made in 1994 by the then-bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Baptist Wu.
He said being a “bridging Church” was first mentioned by the Venerable Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary in China between the 16th and 17th centuries.
“We see our trip on April 17 as a bridge, at the diocesan level, between Beijing and Hong Kong,” said the prelate, referring to his trip to the mainland last month.
“Among the most notable fruits of that visit was the personal contact between the prelates of the two dioceses and the rekindling of cooperation in several areas. The collaboration we agreed upon, strongly desired by both sides, gives us hope and determination to work together,” said Bishop Chow.
Regarding the Provisional Agreement between the Vatican and China, Bishop Chow said “it is not dead as some seem to have suggested.”
“But the discrepancies of views between the two sides on the assignment of bishops to other dioceses could be a factor to be better understood,” he added.
He suggested “more regular and in-depth talks.”
Asked about the meaning of the so-called “sinicization” of the Church, he said that there is a need to continue dialogue on the subject because the Church on the continent is “still trying to understand what meaning this concept should take on for itself” and “has not come to a definitive conclusion to date.”
He said that China, like the rest of the world, “must learn to do better in promoting the dignity of all at home and abroad, although it must be credited with doing an extraordinary job in eliminating material poverty and illiteracy in the country.”
Bishop Chow said many Catholics “appreciate what [Pope Francis] is doing for the Church in China,” adding that the bishops “have a positive disposition towards him.”
“But those who are against the Provisional Agreement seem rather prejudiced’ towards him,” said the prelate.
“However, from what I have seen and read, as well as from the attitude of the Catholics I met during the trip, I would say that a large majority of Catholics in China are faithful to Pope Francis and hope that the Provisional Agreement will bring desirable changes for their Church, not least a meeting between Pope Francis and President Xi,” said the bishop.
“The Chinese government also has a lot of respect for Pope Francis. Its members particularly appreciate his open-mindedness and inclusiveness,” he added. – from a Vatican News report