Spanish Bishop calls out Chinese collaborationist cardinal for his errors

The Bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, Monsignor José Ignacio Munilla, showed through his social networks his perplexity at the latest statements of the newly created cardinal, Stephen Chow.

In an interview in Rome with CNA on 28 September, the bishop of Hong Kong, who was just created cardinal at the consistory this weekend, spoke about his vision for evangelisation in mainland China.

"I think it's important for us to say that Pope Francis made a distinction. Evangelisation is really helping people to understand the love of God, and the love of God without the agenda of making them Catholics, because that should not be the focus, because that focus would be very restrictive," Chow said. The cardinal stressed that evangelisation should help them "to understand that our God means love, goodwill and a better life".

These statements by the Chinese cardinal have caused such a scandal that even Bishop Munilla has been forced to raise his voice on his twitter account. The Basque prelate shared an image with the headline of the article published by this media and accompanied it with the following comment: "As far as I know, the LOVE OF GOD has manifested itself by sending his SON-JESUS CHRIST into the world for our salvation; who founded the CHURCH as the universal sacrament of salvation...".

These statements are not the first unorthodox statements made by this Chinese bishop who will participate in the next conclave that elects Francis' successor. In addition to being favorable to the ordination of women, he has also been close to the Chinese communist dictatorship. With this history, Munilla, like many Catholics, will surely wonder how it is possible that after making these types of statements such a bishop can be created a cardinal. What are the criteria that Pope Francis follows to choose future cardinals? What does he intend when he chooses bishops who create confusion? Is the Pope aware of which characters he gives the red biretta to, or is he being naïve?

Who is Stephen Chow?

Stephen Chow Sau-yan was born on August 7, 1959 in Hong Kong. After his pre-university studies, he obtained a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota (United States). He entered the Society of Jesus on September 27, 1984.

From 1986 to 1988 he completed the novitiate and graduated in Philosophy in Ireland, continuing his theological studies from 1988 to 1993 in Hong Kong, where he was ordained a priest on July 16, 1994.

At Loyola University in Chicago he earned a master's degree in Organizational Development (1993-1995) and at Harvard University in Boston (2000-2006) he earned a doctorate in Human Development and Psychology (Ed.D.). He pronounced the final vows on April 17, 2007.

He has held the following positions: since 2007, supervisor of two Jesuit colleges in Hong Kong and Wah Yan, Kowloon; honorary assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong (2008-2015) and Jesuit trainer (2009-2017). Since 2009, he has been president of the Education Commission of the Jesuit Province of China and since 2012 a part-time professor of Psychology at the Holy Spirit Diocesan Seminary in Hong Kong; from 2012 to 2014 member of the Presbyteral Council of the diocese of Hong Kong, from 2013 to 2017 provincial consultant and since 2017 member of the Diocesan Council of Education. From January 1, 2018 until now he has been Provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus and since 2020 deputy secretary of the Association of Religious Superiors of Men's Institutes of Hong Kong.

Favorable to the ordination of women

Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow in April 2022 expressed his hope for the Catholic ordination of women, joining several European bishops who have expressed similar sentiments in recent years.

During his homily at the Hong Kong diocese's Chrism Mass on April 13, 2022, Bishop Chow said he had "turned to English, only to address our ordained brothers, and I hope one day also the ordained sisters."

The bishop's homily did not focus on this issue, but instead called priests and deacons to "synodality through our own ministries in collaboration with the different capacities, or different roles, within the People of God...discerning the direction in "the one that the Spirit wants us to move as a body."

His closeness to the Chinese regime

In an extensive interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, Monsignor Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, bishop of Hong Kong, noted that about a third of mainland Chinese dioceses are “awaiting their respective episcopal appointments,” but defended the agreement between China and the Vatican.

The interview, granted to Father Spadaro, then director of the newspaper, takes as its starting point the recent visit of Monsignor Chow to the diocese of Beijing. The latter explains that "although since the establishment of the interim agreement an official channel has been established between the respective Departments of State of the Holy See and China, we consider our trip on April 17 as a bridge, at the diocesan level, between Beijing and Hong Kong".

Monsignor Chow points out that the current Interim Agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic on the appointment of Chinese bishops “is not closed as some seem to have suggested. But the differences of opinion between the two sides on the assignment of bishops to other dioceses may be a factor that should be better understood.

Chow further noted that “many Catholics revere the Holy Father and appreciate what he is doing for the Church in China. The bishops I met during this trip show good disposition towards him. But those who are against the temporary agreement seem to be prejudiced against Pope Francis.

Furthermore, the bishop added: "I would say that a large majority of Catholics in China are loyal to Pope Francis and hope that the temporary agreement will bring favorable changes to their Church, including a meeting between Pope Francis and President Xi."

This same year, Chow met in Beijing with his archbishop, Joseph Li Shan, controlled and tested by the communist government.



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