Catholics account for just over 5 per cent of Hong Kong’s population. They remain polarised following the anti-government unrest of 2019 and the imposition of the national security law. But their church is still credited with historically important influence disproportionate to its numbers, not least because senior officials can usually be found among its followers. The appointment by the Holy See of a new bishop of Hong Kong has therefore been keenly awaited, particularly because the post has lain vacant for more than two years. The choice of Stephen Chow Sau-yan, a Jesuit theologian and educational psychiatrist who has headed the local Society of Jesus since 2018, has been welcomed as “prudent” and “sensible”. In other words, this is not seen as the time for activist pro-democracy prelates like former Hong Kong bishop Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun. Chow says he will unify the divided Catholic community with active dialogue. But unity does not mean uniformity and there should be room for people to respect pluralism and to communicate well, which suggests the church will uphold a key value of a vibrant civil society. Both Beijing and the Vatican apparently found Chow acceptable, which may account for him finally accepting the appointment after receiving a personal note from Pope Francis, having first declined. Religious freedom is enshrined in the Basic Law. But it does not mix with politics. In the new political and national security environment, clerics need to remember that Beijing is adamant about this. Yet religion can influence politics. This calls for the skills and wisdom implicit in Chow’s commitment to pluralism. Vatican appoints Stephen Chow as new bishop of Hong Kong He will never be able to please all people all the time. This was evident from his replies to sensitive questions on Tuesday. He said he used to march on June 4 or pray for those who did but, this year, if the march were illegal, he would not encourage people to march. He did not like the demolition of crosses on Christian churches on the mainland, but there were many backstories and he would like to hear more. Religious freedom was a basic right, he said, and he would not stop reminding the government of that. Those answers also show the prudence with which he has been credited. Hopefully, it will help reunite the church and be positive for social harmony.