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Developing the pastoral dimension of liturgy

HONG KONG (SE): Charged with the challenge of developing the pastoral dimension of the liturgy, the 17th annual meeting of the Asian Liturgy Forum was opened by the bishop of the host city for the event, John Cardinal Tong Hon, who welcomed delegates to Hong Kong at a dinner held on the opening night, October 21, at the Caritas Community Hall in Central.

Cardinal Tong quoted from the statement produced at the last gathering held in Mira, Malaysia, in 2012, saying that over the past 50 years since the Vatican II document on the liturgy, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was published, Catholic people have received spiritual and pastoral inspiration that helps them to participate consciously and actively in the liturgy.

He noted that there is an intrinsic interconnection between pastoral work and the liturgy, as the pastoral dimension is the summit to which the liturgy aspires and liturgy is the font from which pastoral inspiration grows.

However, he stressed that good, dynamic liturgy needs good pastoral formation and through the grace given to the Church the last 50 years has seen this revitalised.

He said that his hope for the forum, which ran from October 21 to October 24, was that it would contribute to both sustaining this revitalisation and helping it to increase.

Delegates from the 16 countries or districts present for the forum were asked to give a greeting in their own tongue, which reflected the vast variety of languages used in the liturgy across Asia, as well as cultural differences that are their hallmark and are a big challenge to the Church in its development of its liturgical expression.

Bishop Anthony Lee, from Mira in Malaysia, the chairperson of the forum, described the gathering for the annual event as a family affair. He welcomed familiar faces back to the gathering and new faces as well, inviting them to enjoy the spirit of sharing and support for each other.

He said that the choice of the pastoral dimension of the liturgy as the theme for the forum highlights the intrinsic link between the two, as Cardinal Tong had pointed out, noting that the choice of this theme was the last contribution the Filipino Benedictine, Father Anscar Chupungco, who had been the inspiration of the group for many years, made before he died suddenly on January 9 this year.

In referring to Hong Kong’s Fragrant Harbour, he said that he hopes and prays that its fragrance will embrace the forum meeting and spread throughout the liturgies of Asia, as Catholic life is built on the liturgy, where Jesus is present.

Students from the Little Flower Catholic Primary School in Shatin presented an energetic Lion Dance, in a traditional Chinese opening of the event.

Cardinal Tong and Bishop Lee were invited to dot the eye of the lions, a ceremony that brings life and imbues the spirit of fruitfulness into an undertaking.

The opening dinner was followed by solemn evening prayer in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception presided over by Cardinal Tong, who invited the gathering to sing as a bride singing to her bridegroom.

The cardinal again welcomed the liturgists from across Asia, whom he described as serving well in celebrating the liturgy of the Church.

He said, “It is through the liturgy of the Church that the faithful renew themselves and carry the presence of Christ to others.” 

He added that from a social point of view, it is a way of going deeper into life and breaking all fetters, a way of recognising the real me.

He called on the gathering to pray that this would enlighten them during their weeklong deliberations and experiences, saying that there is a particular joy in having people from so many cultures and different places together.

He quoted Confucius as saying, “It is delightful to have friends who think alike coming from afar and to share their goals and ideas of common concerns.”

While liturgy is fundamentally a communication through sign and symbol, Cardinal Tong quoted from the biblical story of the resurrected Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus, saying that Jesus quoted all the passages from the scriptures that related to himself and they recognised him in the breaking of bread.

Although the lingua franca of the forum is English, the solemn evening prayer was celebrated in English, Cantonese and Putonghua, with a throwback to the traditional with the singing of the Kyrie in Greek, and the Lord’s Prayer and Salve Regina in Latin.

Previous gatherings of the forum have been held mostly in The Philippines and Indonesia, but Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Brunei and Singapore have also taken a turn in hosting it. 


The forum concluded with a Mass at Rosary parish church in Tsimshatsui on October 24, finishing as it began, with a shared meal.

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