At the end of Sunday Mass in the Hun Theatre in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, Pope Francis took advantage of his trip to Mongolia Sunday to reach out to Chinese Catholics, exhorting them to be “good citizens.”
The pontiff called forward two Hong Kong bishops to stand with him at the altar: Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, and Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, the current bishop of Hong Kong.
“These are two brother bishops, the emeritus of Hong Kong and the current bishop of Hong Kong,” Francis said. “I would like to take advantage of their presence to send a warm greeting to the noble people of China.”
“To all the people I wish the best. Strive ahead, always advancing,” he continued. “And I ask Chinese Catholics to be good Christians and good citizens.”
In 2021, the pope chose fellow Jesuit Father Stephen Chow to head up the important diocese of Hong Kong. Chow has shown himself unwilling to criticize Beijing or to defend the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, just the sort of compliant bishop the CCP prefers.
Instead, Chow has thrown his full support behind China’s Sinicization project, suggesting that the Communist party’s principles significantly align with Catholic teaching.
Supporters of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters such as Benedict Rogers, co-founder of the monitoring group Hong Kong Watch, had voiced their hope that Francis would appoint Hong Kong auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing as bishop of the diocese.
In 2018, a Chinese bishop of the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association has said that loyal citizenship must take priority over Christian faith.
Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan said at the time that Catholics should give their allegiance to President Xi Jinping “because we, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs.”
Fang was ordained a bishop in China without Vatican approval in 2000 but later legitimized by the Holy See. He is a member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese parliament that voted to eliminate presidential term limits.