How Hong Kong can help, as China moves closer to the Vatican
Recent reports indicate that Beijing and the Vatican are moving towards an agreement on the status of the Catholic Church in mainland China (“State-run Chinese paper confident Beijing will establish ties with Vatican” February 6). We in Hong Kong should be encouraged, because church-state harmony is helpful to society.
The Vatican has official delegates in most countries around the world, even Muslim nations. The Pope is thus able to guide the Catholics in those countries and learn the views of their governments. Officials, in turn, send diplomats to Rome who can meet other delegates at the Vatican. They can learn about the worldwide Catholic Church, about religious and charitable services and acquire valuable diplomatic information.
China expelled the Vatican’s delegate nearly 70 years ago, thus depriving itself of this valuable resource and leading to unnecessary friction and isolation. This error was caused by Marxist thinking that made religion an enemy of progress and scientific advancement. But in fact, many of the Western world’s achievements in science were brought about by devout believers among Catholics, Protestants and Muslims.
Noted scientists like Copernicus and Mendel were clergymen. The central idea of religion as promoting respect for creation and fellow humans has endured. Personal religious faith or atheism has little to do with one’s success in science or technology.
Christians have been living and serving in China for over a thousand years. The dedicated work of Reverend Matteo Ricci and his Jesuit followers in the Ming and Qing dynasties was a great boon to China’s opening up to the West and its science.
In later centuries, the hundreds of schools, orphanages, and clinics built by Christians enriched and saved thousands of lives. In our times, Pope Francis, who comes from a non-European country, is fostering a social awareness that is inspiring.
There are over 10 million Catholics on the mainland, many thousands in Taiwan and possibly 100 million Christians altogether who are loyal citizens, eager to serve their motherland. By allowing religious believers to serve freely, especially in education and social needs, the Chinese leadership can undo past errors, enhance human rights, promote social harmony and gain further acceptance from the international community. Our experience in Hong Kong in these matters for over 160 years can help to reach this desirable outcome.
Jack Khong, Tai Kok Tsui