A Look at the Bishop of Hong Kong’s Recent Visit to Mainland China

Cardinal Chow’s first stop in China was Guangzhou, a port city located about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong with a population of more than 15 million people.

Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, archbishop of Hong Kong, China.
Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, archbishop of Hong Kong, China. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN)

Cardinal Stephen Chow recently visited three Catholic dioceses in mainland China, one year after the bishop of Hong Kong’s first historic trip to Beijing.

Cardinal Chow led a 10-person delegation of Catholics from Hong Kong to the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Shantou, and Shenzhen in April in his second official visit to China since becoming bishop of Hong Kong.

“We brought our people to have an encounter … where we share common concerns, for example, youth ministry, catechism, marriage and family,” Cardinal Chow said in a video interview published May 5.

Here is a look at some of the Catholic communities Cardinal Chow visited:

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou, China. Credit: Kc1446 at Chinese Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou, China. Credit: Kc1446 at Chinese Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of Chinese Catholics attended a Mass in St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Shantou concelebrated by Chow and Bishop Huang Bingzhang of Shantou on April 24, according to the Sunday Examiner, a publication of the Diocese of Hong Kong.

Bishop Huang is one of seven bishops appointed by the Chinese government from whom Pope Francis lifted the decree of excommunication when he first signed the Vatican’s provisional agreement with China in 2018. 

He replaced an elderly underground bishop of Shantou who was loyal to the Vatican, Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, who was asked to step aside as a result, despite a personal appeal to the pope on his behalf by Cardinal Joseph Zen in Rome. 

Earlier this year, Bishop Huang spoke at the Chinese government’s National People’s Congress. He previously participated in the National People’s Congress in 2018 that revoked presidential term limits, clearing the way for Xi Jinping to rule for life. Huang said in 2017 that he would work to actively promote the practice of Catholic patriotism, according to the Chinese Patriotic Association website.

A new residence for the bishop is currently under construction and the Hong Kong delegation visited the construction site during their visit.

Shantou is a city in eastern Guangdong Province on the coast of the South China Sea with a population of about 4.6 million people. The city is known for its toy manufacturing. Shantou’s Chenghai district is home to 10,000 toy companies. 

During their stay in the city, the Hong Kong delegation also visited the Holy Family Church and St. Roch’s Church in Shantou.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, China. Credit: beibaoke/Shutterstock

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou, China. Credit: beibaoke/Shutterstock

Cardinal Chow’s first stop in China was Guangzhou, a port city located about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong with a population of more than 15 million people. The city’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on the banks of the Pearl River was built almost entirely out of granite in a Gothic style by French missionaries from 1861 to 1888 with financial support from Napoleon III.

Metropolitan Archbishop of Guangzhou Joseph Gan Junqiu was appointed by the pope and consecrated in the cathedral with the Vatican’s support in 2007 after attempted obstruction by Chinese authorities. At the time, Gan said that the archdiocese averaged about 100 baptisms per year.

Archbishop Gan welcomed the Hong Kong delegation to the Sacred Heart Cathedral on April 23, where they celebrated Mass together. Father Joseph Yim Tak-lung, the chief executive of Caritas Hong Kong, also gave a presentation about his ministry at the cathedral.

Huanghuagang Mausoleum of the 72 Chinese Martyrs

Huanghuagang Mausoleum of the 72 Chinese Martyrs. Credit: NGCHIYUI/Shutterstock

Huanghuagang Mausoleum of the 72 Chinese Martyrs. Credit: NGCHIYUI/Shutterstock

Following Mass in the cathedral, the Hong Kong delegation also visited the Huanghuagang Mausoleum, which commemorates the 72 revolutionaries who died in the Guangzhou uprising on April 27, 1911, against the Qing dynasty.

The 1911 Revolution ended China’s imperial dynasty and led to the establishment of the Republic of China under the leadership of its first provisional president, Sun Yat-sen, a convert to Christianity known as the father of modern China who is revered today by both Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party. 

The Huanghuagang Mausoleum is topped with a tiny replica of the Statue of Liberty in New York, which was removed during China’s Cultural Revolution and replaced by the city in 1981.

St. Anthony’s Church in Shenzhen

St. Anthony’s Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Anthony’s Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

With a population of more than 17 million people, Shenzhen is one of China’s megacities and is known as “the world’s factory.” Shenzhen experienced rapid growth in recent decades as one of China’s special economic zones. Inc. reported in 2015 that 90% of the world’s electronics were made in the city, which is located just north of Hong Kong. 

The Catholic population in Shenzhen includes many migrant workers who came from more rural parts of China and abroad to work in the factories. 

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Shenzhen was built between 1998 and 2001. At the time of its opening, it was the only Catholic church in Shenzhen, according to UCA News. St. Anthony’s also offers Masses in English for foreign Catholics who work or travel to Shenzhen for business. Chow and the Hong Kong delegation visited the church on April 26. 

Christ the King Church in Shenzhen

Christ the King Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Christ the King Church in Shenzhen, China. Credit: Huangdan2060, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The foundation for Shenzhen’s Christ the King Church in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district was laid in 2007 and the construction of the church was completed in November 2010.

During their visit to Christ the King Church, the Hong Kong delegation discussed the possibility of future cooperation between Chinese Church officials and the Diocese of Hong Kong via a catechetical formation center in China. Connie Chung To-hing, the director of Hong Kong’s diocesan catechetical center, took part in the meeting. 

Other members of the delegation from Hong Kong who traveled to China included Father Peter Choy Wai-man, Father Paul Kam Po-wai, and Father Joseph Chan Wing-chiu.

Deacon Gabriel Lau Nam-shan, the chairperson of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family; Wong Ka Chun, the personal assistant to the cardinal; and Sherman Cheng Ching-man of the Hong Kong Catholic Marriage Advisory Council also joined the cardinal on the trip.

In the video posted by the diocese, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, the auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, said that “friendship” was really at the heart of the trip.

Chow joked that everyone in the delegation “put on a few pounds” because of all the meals involved in getting to know these new friends, adding that it was true for him even as a vegetarian.

“Cardinal Stephen also expressed his belief that the Church in Guangdong is similar to the Church of Vietnam, which he visited earlier in April,” the Hong Kong Diocese’s Sunday Examiner reported. “Both have continued under communist/socialist rule for many years and are functioning well, with individuals evangelizing in a creative manner.”

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