When Pope Francis, a Jesuit, was elected pope in 2013, the Church witnessed a new vitality and hope. What can we expect from Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan, also a Jesuit? The answer was quick: “I am not Francis!” Bishop Chow sat over a cup of coffee to chat with the diocesan newspapers—the Sunday Examiner and the Kung Kao Po, a couple of weeks before his episcopal ordination and installation as the ninth bishop of Hong Kong.
Bishop Chow acknowledged the common factor that he shares with the pope: “As Jesuits, one of our General Chapters gave great importance to spiritual conversation and discernment in communion—communion not just among the Jesuits, but we have to discern with non-Jesuits in mission and our lay-partners in mission. I think that is an important way for a bishop. And I don’t believe in running the diocese like a corporation with big strategic plans. We have to listen to different sectors, especially laypeople. They have a voice to represent. And this is what the pope means by Synodality. Francis is very much a Jesuit!”
When queried about what changes he expected in his life as a bishop, he laughed: “I am not a bishop yet, so I don’t know!” With the pope’s call for synodality in the life of the Church, Bishop Chow hopes we will listen to one another and discern together for the mission. “If you are serious about Vatican II, people of God as the body of Christ, you cannot walk away from the call for synodality. Francis is pushing us to live the Vatican II,” he observed.
The bishop further explained that “any changes could cause some amount of confusion and disturbances to the status quo. But if you do not go through those disturbances, how do you grow? Even in growing up [of a person], there is pain. When a person enters puberty, there are a lot of changes. Does anyone want to stop puberty so that you do not change? So also with the Church, we need to grow and therefore, those uncertainties are not always a bad thing.”
He said, “We should always ask: what do you want to see in the future—a divided Church and divided world, or do we want everyone to be winners? The big problem the world faces today is that we are stuck in ideologies. Ideologies kill because the very definition of ideology is ‘I am right, and you are wrong.’ There is no dialogue. We need to learn to discern together. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. But today, not many people believe in the Holy Spirit! We are often over-dependent on ourselves; our convictions. They are not bad, but we need to open ourselves to be different and to be surprised by the Holy Spirit.”
To continue reading this article, click here.
With thanks to the Sunday Examiner, a publication of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, where this article originally appeared.