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Hong Kong bishop: Evangelization in China shouldn’t have ‘agenda of turning them into Catholics’

Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow said Sept. 28, 2023, that evangelization in China today should focus on communicating the love of God “without the agenda of turning them into Catholics.” / Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 28, 2023 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Cardinal-elect Stephen Chow said Thursday that evangelization in China today should focus on communicating the love of God “without the agenda of turning them into Catholics.”

In an interview in Rome with CNA on Sept. 28, the bishop of Hong Kong, who will be made a cardinal in the consistory this weekend, spoke about his vision for evangelization in mainland China.

“I think it is important that we say that Pope Francis made a distinction. Evangelization is really to help people to understand the love of God — and the love of God without the agenda of turning them into Catholics — because that shouldn’t be the focus, as that focus would be very restrictive,” Chow said.

The cardinal-elect underlined that evangelization should help “them to come to understand our God means love, means goodwill and a better life.”

“Evangelization should be really coming to know God, who is love,” he said.

In Pope Francis’ travels to countries where Catholics are in the minority, the pope has made a distinction between “proselytism” and “evangelization.”

“Evangelization is essentially witness,” Francis told the Jesuits in Mozambique in 2019. “Proselytizing is convincing, but it is all about membership and takes your freedom away.”

The pope has also praised Venerable Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary and scholar, for his “proclamation of the Gospel” in China by proposing “the truth of the Christian faith and morality.”

The Chinese people have faced increased restrictions on religious freedom in the last decade. Catholic priests are only allowed to minister in recognized places of worship, which minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter.

Earlier this month, the Chinese government implemented new “Measures on the Management of Religious Activity Sites,” which ban the display of religious symbols outdoors, require preaching to “reflect core socialist values,” and limit all religious activities to government-approved religious venues, according to China Aid.

Despite the restrictions, two bishops from mainland China have been permitted to travel to Rome to participate in the Synod on Synodality assembly in October.

Chow is also a synod delegate, personally nominated by Pope Francis to take part in the nearly monthlong assembly. He said that he is “excited that the laypeople, men and women, and religious, are represented as full voting members.”

The cardinal-elect has led the Diocese of Hong Kong since December 2021. Chow said that one of the biggest challenges facing Hong Kong Catholics is how “to provide good moral education … so that we have moral citizens.”

He underlined the importance of formation in the parishes so that laypeople can evangelize outside of the parish.

“Evangelization is to your social community. Each parish is connected to your social community. We need to go out, get out of our parish, and really to connect with the social community and serve them,” he said.

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  1. As established by Christ, let’s do away with His call to action for evangelization.

    Why, if the Church does not represent truth by way of the Deposit of Faith, then let’s form ‘moral’ people without an objective reference.

    And continue to let China be ‘China’…body counts notwithstanding.

  2. What has Francis wrought? A Christ-less Church. Maybe we ought to just concede and now call ourselves “unitarian-universalist” or “The Society of Ethical Culture.”

    • Good one. Following the trajectory of Fancis’ logic, both “evil” proselytizing (evangelization that accompliches its purpose) and evangelizing can be done away with since all future synods will enable all three Persons of the Trinity to permanenty settle into their well-earned retirement since the synods will now run the universe.

    • Which Gospel? The Lord’s or the CCP’s.

      Does he even know what the actual Gospel is because if memory serves me right Jesus was quite clear that we must make disciples of all nations and that includes communist countries, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

      This bishop/deludes himself

  3. Considering he’s a cardinal-elect who was approved by atheists and the CCP – and that he has their blessing to do their bidding at the upcoming Synod Synoodle thing – I suppose he could have done worse. But, yes, that’s praising with faint damnation. He’s no Cardinal Joseph Zen by the remotest stretch of the imagination.

  4. Will no one free us from these vexatious Bishops?

    Francis’ reign of error continues unabated.

    “without the agenda of turning them into Catholics”

    Maybe we should have the agenda of turning this guy into a Catholic.

  5. What? I had to read some of this twice. There is a huge difference between hammering people with dogma, striking fear in their hearts if they reject a “force feed” and sharing with joy the Truth in Love. Rightful evangelization declares the gift of Faith, the conveyance of Hope (eternal life with God, and the assurance of unconditional Love that embodies perfect justice and Divine Mercy. Catholicism is a fusion of all three and necessarily points to Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life. Why would we hide our (the) lamp, or worse, deny there is one? Come Holy Spirit!

  6. As a retired Pastor, our efforts to reach people groups for Jesus as the only true on God and Creator Savior of the Universe should be to preach Jesus and not some denominational citation. Jesus is not interested in greeting Methodists, Anglicans but born again Christians of all races, colors and faith in Him. Churches since the Reformation should have learned that.

    • Jesus did not establish denominations. He established one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

      Read the history of Christianity beginning with the earliest accounts, the Church Fathers. The church founded by the apostles was not Protestant.

      What happened in the 16th century was not a reformation but a revolution and a deformation. Had Luther not been terribly proud he would have been a force for good. But instead, hubris got in the way.

      John Henry Newman was so right: to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.

      And while you may eschew denominations, it all amounts to yourselves being the authority. Not the Bible. No, you are the authority as far as you are concerned. One could say that you are your own Pope.

      And as we have free will, you are free to do that.

      Do study the history of Christianity beyond the nailing of the 95 thesis all the way back to the 1st century.

      • Words like “Reformation”, “counter reformation” etc are vestature adopted by a desire to justify differences and the backlash from the establishment. Jesus was radical. He offered freedom to worship His Father without the mill-stone of heritage.
        It could be said that the human condition, itself, is in a dynamic state of evolution. Within generations we see changes in attitudes and values. Jesus’ apostles had to iron out individual differences in opinions and interpretations to lay the foundations of the Church. When Thomas refused to believe, he was not chastised by Jesus, but, was offered a reason to believe. Today (unfortunately) there is no one Catholic and Apostolic Church. I could go further than that and say,”Thank God”.
        Therefore, I believe that it is not hubris that divides us. But, a genuine desire to understand and worship God. We need to worship Him through a community – with a deep-seated personal devotion.

        • Christ established a church. And that aint the ever increasing number of denominstions and it aint your version either.

          Read scripture and study history.

        • When people talk about Jesus they need to remember that He came to institute a New and Everlasting Covenant upon which the Catholic Church is founded. In the early years of the Church there was a need to establish the relationship between the Old and New Covenants, which started at the Council of Jerusalem. The coming of Jesus and His New and Everlasting Covenant were predicted in the Old Testament. The New Testament contains warnings to hold fast to the faith.
          To me the Protestant Revolt/Reformation resembles the division of King Solomon’s kingdom because of his faithlessness in caving into his foreign wives. Martin Luther’s role was like that of Jeroboam, who was allowed to divide the kingdom to punish King Solomon for his worldly faithlessness. At the time of the Protestant Revolt/Reformation the Church hierarchy had fallen into worldly faithlessness similar to that of King Solomon when his heart was turned from God by his foreign wives.

  7. Catholic bishops are obliged to teach the Catholic faith and make disciples of all nations. Reading between the lines, it should be obvious what a “code” message or “showing of true colors” is happening here.

    • “Reading between the lines”, I see a lot of blank space. Each of us exercises basic freedom to read “codes’ and “colours” where others may see nothing. God bless those with eyes to see!
      But, when preceded by the desire to see all things as God sees them, we may unearth the valuable gem.

  8. One can understand the distinction of proselytism; yet evangelization is about the love of God, good will, but its spiritual force is the preaching of the Good News for the salvation of souls, and ultimately the love of God as expressed in the Catholic Faith, as Christ founded. This is freedom. Not “restrictive.”

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