By Courtney Mares
The archbishop of Beijing is visiting Hong Kong this week in a trip that marks a historic first since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican 70 years ago.
Archbishop Li Shan is the president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-managed Catholic organization in mainland China controlled by the CCP’s United Front Work Department.
The Beijing bishop’s five-day visit to the Diocese of Hong Kong is at the invitation of Cardinal Stephen Chow, the city’s bishop, who has said that he sees Hong Kong as “a bridge Church” with the mainland.
Li was ordained archbishop of Beijing in 2007 with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI after being named to the post by Chinese authorities months prior. He was the first bishop to be consecrated in China following the publication of Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter to Catholics in China.
Earlier this year, Li prayed for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China “as soon as possible” during a Mass at the diocesan seminary, according to the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
The Chinese bishop began his visit to Hong Kong on Monday night with vespers in the chapel of Hong Kong’s diocesan offices followed by an exchange of gifts.
Li presented Chow with a stained-glass image of Venerable Matteo Ricci, and Chow in return gifted a wood panel painting of Sts. Peter and Paul.
During his time in Hong Kong, Li will meet with staff from different diocesan offices to promote future exchanges between the Diocese of Hong Kong and the Archdiocese of Beijing.
The archbishop of Beijing will also visit Hong Kong’s Holy Spirit Seminary and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Chow told the Associated Press ahead of the visit that he believes that Li’s visit is significant because of the “human connection” it promotes. Chow visited Beijing in April, becoming the first bishop of Hong Kong to make an official visit to the Chinese capital in nearly 30 years.
“With that connection, we can walk together, we can talk about how to strengthen the structure, how to make some policy, even in terms of policy in the long term, (and) how would that help us to witness for the love of God. Now, I’m not saying this as a very abstract thing. Love is really the remedy for a lot of problems in the world today,” the bishop of Hong Kong said.