Stephen Chow Sau-yan was not the Vatican’s first choice to be the head of Hong Kong’s Catholic diocese. And he openly admitted he didn’t want the job anyway. But the torturous politics between communist China and the Catholic Church has made him reluctantly accept the appointment. It will be his cross to bear. The appointment was made back in May . Only now is he willing to take up his post. He knows it will be a thankless task. A substantial segment of the local church has been politicised and for a time functioned like an opposition party under former diocese head and retired Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. The rest is more conservative and wants the church to remain apolitical and only attend to the rituals and the spiritual. After the retirement of Cardinal John Tong Hon, Michael Yeung Ming-cheung was the proverbial safe pair of hands to oversee the local church. Unfortunately, Yeung died prematurely at the start of 2019. Finding a replacement was difficult, and John Tong had to be brought out of retirement to serve as the apostolic administrator. These are delicate times between the Vatican and Beijing as they seek diplomatic rapprochement. Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing was widely believed to be the Vatican’s first choice in Hong Kong. But he was a bona fide pro-democracy advocate and supporter of the 2014 Occupy protest movement. He also took part in some demonstrations in 2019. He was, however, no firebrand like Zen and might have had a moderating influence on the more political wing of the local church. There is now a provisional deal between Rome and Beijing on the appointment of bishops on the mainland. Even though it doesn’t cover Hong Kong and Macau, some kind of tacit understanding is clearly in place. Under the circumstances, Chow is the more acceptable choice so far as China is concerned. By his own account, when first offered the job, he declined. But he is a man of Jesuit discipline and clearly understands what’s being asked of him. Hence his coded message to his local flock: to repair divisions in society after the polarising events of recent years and to urge the public to seek reconciliation. That’s not an easy goal to achieve these days. But at least the Vatican doesn’t have to worry about people like Zen and his followers upsetting the apple cart any more.