Pope Francis has appointed the head of the Jesuits’ China Province as the new Bishop of Hong Kong.
Father Stephen Chow Sau-Yan will succeed Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, who served as Hong Kong’s Bishop for just 17 months from August 2017 to January 2019. Following his untimely death, the diocese has been headed by his predecessor, Cardinal John Tong Hon.
The appointment of a new Bishop for Hong Kong comes amid intense diplomatic activity between the Holy See and China. In November, the Vatican announced the renewal of an agreement with the nation’s communist government that deals primarily with the nomination of Bishops. The agreement, according to the Vatican, is motivated by a concern for “promoting the proclamation of the Gospel” and “restoring the full and visible unity of the Church” in China.
The agreement, however, does not apply to the special administrative regions of Hong Kong or Macau, or to Taiwan. In response to a question from the Jesuit journal America, an unnamed “senior Vatican official” confirmed that the Holy See had not consulted with China’s government on the appointment of Father Chow.
The new Bishop-elect was born in Hong Kong in 1959, when the city was still a British territory. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Master’s degree in psychology, Chow entered the Society of Jesus in 1984. He undertook his novitiate and earned a Licentiate in Philosophy in Dublin, Ireland, before continuing his theological studies in Hong Kong from 1988-1993. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1994.
Father Chow returned to the United States in 1993 to pursue studies at Loyola University and later Harvard University, where he earned a doctorate in Human Development and Psychology with a dissertation on “Understanding Moral Culture in Hong Kong Secondary Schools: Relationships among Moral Norm, Moral Culture, Academic Achievement Motivation, and Empathy.”
He took his final vows with the Jesuits in 2007.
Since that time, Father Chow has served as the supervisor of two Catholic boys’ high schools run by the Jesuits. He has also held the position of Honorary Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong and Jesuit Formator.
He has served as Chairman of the Education Commission of the Chinese Jesuit Province since 2009, and as Part-time Professor of Psychology at Holy Spirit Diocesan Seminary in Hong Kong since 2012. He was a Member of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Hong Kong from 2012 to 2014, Provincial Consultor from 2013 to 2017, and Member of the Diocesan Board of Education since 2017.
At the beginning of 2018, Father Chow became Provincial of the Jesuits’ China Province, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. There are currently 168 Jesuits in the province, with 18 Jesuit priests and one scholastic in Hong Kong.
In a statement following the announcement of Bishop-elect Chow’s appointment, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa, said, “I am happy that Father Stephen can continue to serve, and I wish him every blessing in this new ministry.” Recalling the Jesuits’ long history in China, he said, “The Jesuits are proud of our links with the Chinese people, which go back to the great missionary Matteo Ricci who had such a respect for Chinese culture.”
According to the Diocese of Hong Kong, Father Stephen Chow’s ordination to the episcopate will take place on December 4, 2021.