CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Hong Kong receives relics of 
Blessed John Paul II

HONG KONG (SE): Relics of of Pope Blessed John Paul II were welcomed into the diocese of Hong Kong at a special Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on November 12 by Bishop John Tong Hon.

The bishop said that as soon as he heard that relics were available, he applied, as he is aware that although the late pope had a great love for China, he never had the opportunity to set foot on its soil.

Bishop Tong reflected that now at least there is some physical connection between the pope, who always demonstrated such great love for the people of China and the persecuted Church in the mainland, and the actual soil of the country.

He explained that the lock of hair of the blessed pope can at least be housed on Chinese soil and he will have a connection with the country in death that he could never have in life.

“Although it is not convenient for mainland Chinese to visit the Vatican, millions of them now come to Hong Kong every year for shopping and sightseeing,” Bishop Tong pointed out. “During these days, they will have every chance to pray in the presence of his relic.”

The bishop added that on 19 August 1979, the first year of his pontificate, Pope John Paul publicly expressed his love and care for the suffering Catholic people of China and prayed for them every day.

“I will always remember his words,” Bishop Tong said. “His hopeful longing and yearning for unity were the inspiration and motivation for my work, and the source of my concern for my motherland and for its Church.”

Bishop Tong explained, “He continually hoped the Church in China could be in communion with the universal Church. He showed great concern for the Church of my motherland.”

Bishop Tong pointed out that Pope John Paul expressed this care concretely prior to the 1988 Asian Synod of Bishops, issuing invitations to two bishops in China to attend. “As it turned out, there were two empty chairs during that synod. That thoughtful invitation with its deep expression of concern and love enlarged my own vision and deepened my concern,” Bishop Tong reflected.

The bishop thanked the chargé d’affaires from the Taiwan apostolic delegation, Monsignor Paul Russell, for carrying the precious relics of the late pope to Hong Kong.

Encased in a small monstrance-shaped reliquary, they were carried in procession down the main aisle of the cathedral at the beginning of Mass by the deacon, before being presented to the bishop, who placed them on a temporary shrine to the late pope for the duration of the Mass.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the relics were taken in procession to a side altar, where they were displayed for the all to venerate.

Bishop Tong described Pope John Paul as the model for many Catholics around the world. He added that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger reflected on the words, “Come follow me,” at his funeral in 2005, saying that they are the key to understanding the late pope.

“(He) was thrilled by literature, the theatre and poetry,” the current pope said. “Working in a chemical plant, threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord… In this extraordinary setting he began to read philosophy and theology, and then entered a clandestine seminary.”

The bishop said that the other great love of Pope John Paul was the youth of the world. He added that he gave them World Youth Day, explaining that he and Joseph Cardinal Zen had an agreement that they would attend alternate events.

“I was able to be present in Paris, Toronto, Sydney and lately Madrid,” the bishop said with gratitude.

Bishop Tong explained that the goal of the lay vocation is self-sanctification and the transformation of the world through the sanctification of others. During his homily he made a strong appeal to all young people in the diocese to be inspired by Blessed John Paul and respond to the call to priesthood and religious life.

“Through his intercession, may you answer the call to follow me,” he said, explaining that the diocese is currently in great need of religious vocations, as there are only 15 students in the Holy Spirit Seminary.

“Our diocese is facing a serious vocation shortage,” he explained. “Please pray for that number to increase from 15 to five-zero (50).”

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