Pope Meets with HK Bishop Amid Speculations on Sino-Vatican Diplomatic Ties

03/25/2022 Hong Kong (International Christian Concern) – During a recent meeting with the Hong Kong Bishop in Rome, Pope Francis passes on his special blessings for the Church in China and Hong Kong as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.

On March 17, Bishop Stephen Chow Sau Yan, who was installed last December as the 9th Bishop of Hong Kong, asked the pope to bless China and Hong Kong as COVID cases continues to surge in the latest wave. More than 1 million cases and 6,563 deaths have been reported in the city, mostly in the last few weeks.

According to UCA News, the pope in his two separate video messages in Italian thanked the testimony of people’s faith.

“Thanks for the love to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Mother of God, Our Lady. Thank you for your work; for bearing so much with this COVID pandemic makes us suffer a lot,” the 85-year-old pontiff said in his message to China.

“We go forward with the Lord, sometimes the Lord is hidden from our sight, but He is always beside us. It takes patience to hope. I am close to you; I love you so much! I pray for you, and you, please pray for me!” he added.

He also told the people of Hong Kong, “I wish you are good citizens that you are courageous in the face of the challenges of time!”

The timing of Bishop Chow’s visit, and his meeting with top Vatican officials including Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin had some Catholics speculate the significance behind them. Their meeting occurred a month after the Vatican pulled out its diplomats from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Monsignor Javier Herrera Corona, the Holy See’s representative in Hong Kong, was transferred as apostolic nuncio to Congo on Feb. 5. Days later, the Vatican announced the transfer of its Taiwan representative Monsignor Araldo Catalan to Rwanda. The posts remain vacant to date.

Although the Vatican has denied that the removal of these posts was not to strengthen ties with China, it is not a secret that Beijing has been wanting to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See. With a provisional Sino-Vatican bishop appointment deal signed in 2018 and renewed in 2020, the two sides will likely renew the secret agreement this October, which could lead to the establishment of a diplomatic mission in China and the Holy See severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan.