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The new Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong wants diversity to be respected

HONG KONG (AP) – Roman Catholic Bishop Stephen Chau, who is in Hong Kong, called for respect for pluralism as the political situation in the Catholic community worsens during the polarization period.

Chow said that while he did not have a “big plan” for how to unite the diocese, which had been politically divided over the past two years amid anti-government protests in Hong Kong, he believed that God wanted them to unite.

“Unity is not the same as homogeneity,” Chao told a news conference on Tuesday. “One thing I have always mentioned in schools lately is that (there is) unity is pluralism.

“We must respect pluralism,” he said.

Pope Francis appointed Chow on Monday to replace the late Bishop Michael Young, who died in 2019. Chao, a native of Hong Kong, was educated at Wah Yang College School in Ireland, USA.

The Catholic community in Hong Kong is about 404,000 people, or about 5.3% of the city’s population. The Catholic community is divided between those who see Beijing’s control of Hong Kong as an attack on the city’s freedoms, and pro-establishment figures who prefer a less confrontational approach.

Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing chief executive Kerry Lam is also a Roman Catholic.

Chao has been heading the Chinese province of Jesus Society since 2018, leading the Jesuit order in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as China and the Vatican signed a historic deal in 2018 that allowed both sides to appoint non-Chinese bishops.

Chinese Catholics are legally allowed to worship only in churches approved by the Chinese government, but many attend underground churches headed by bishops loyal to Rome.

Chou said on Tuesday that Beijing’s “Chinese churches are enemies because they both believe in the same faith” should not be assumed to try to understand each other.

However, he reiterated that the Latin Church has no official diplomatic relations with China, so it operates independently.

When asked how he thinks about 1989 this year. Asked to mention the pressure in Tiananmen Square, Chou said whether public remembrance is possible this year, depending on legal requirements.

He attended a memorial service for the past in Hong Kong, which last year barred public gatherings for the first time last year to mark the anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on Chinese-led student protests in Beijing, killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of protesters.

He said that there are different means of remembrance. “I pray for all those who have passed through 1989, in all respects, from all walks of life,” Chow said.

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