Hong Kong’s top Catholic priest Stephen Chow Sau-yan was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in Rome on Saturday, a role which the city’s diocese leader said was an important bridge between “China and the universal church”.
Chow was among 21 bishops promoted in the ceremony hosted by the pontiff at St Peter’s Square, making him fourth in the city’s history to hold the title.
The 64-year-old follows in the footsteps of late John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 91, and John Tong Hon, 83.
In a speech marking occasion, Pope Francis compared the College of Cardinals to a symphony orchestra.
“A symphony thrives on the skilful composition of the timbres of different instruments: each one makes its contribution, sometimes alone, sometimes united with someone else, sometimes with the whole ensemble. Diversity is necessary,” he said.
The Pope announced the selection of new cardinals in July during one of his traditional Sunday weekly public appearances.
Chow was quoted in Vatican News as saying he was “surprised” by the appointment, and that he was having dinner with his family when he found out.
He also stressed the importance of having many voices involved in the College of Cardinals, and that he needed to speak up for Hong Kong.
“I think this is an important role. Even Hong Kong itself in history is a bridge between East and West. And so is the church, between the church in China and the universal church. And we would like to see that come closer,” he told Vatican News.
The Pope’s choices for cardinal are closely watched as members aged under 80 are eligible to take part in the conclave to appoint a new pontiff.
Born in 1959, Chow was appointed by Pope Francis as bishop of the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong in 2019 following the death of Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung.
The bishop called for closer ties between the city’s diocese and churches and their counterparts in mainland China.
He is one of the youngest clerics to be promoted to bishop in Hong Kong since the first Chinese prelate was appointed in 1969.
Chow is also seen as a moderate, or politically neutral.