CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Bishop of Macau on honours list

MACAU (UCAN): Bishop José Lai Hung-seng, from Macau, is to be presented with the Silver Lotus medal, it was announced on November 19.

A total of 63 decorations, medals, certificates or titles are to be bestowed on 48 individuals and 15 public or private entities at a ceremony to be held sometime in December.

A secondary school principal and a Catholic education group are included on the list of recipients of medals or honorary titles from the Macau government.

The principal of Colegio de Santa Rosa de Lima English Secondary School, Sister Alice Yuen Mei-fun, and the Union of Catholic Schools of Macau, are listed as the recipients of the Medals of Merit for their contribution to education.

Bishop Lai, said the government did not give him any reason for his honour. However, he believes the award is not intended for him as an individual, but for the whole diocese and its longtime contribution to various aspects of education and the social welfare of the people of Macau.

The late Bishop Domingos Lam Ka-tseun was presented with the Gold Lotus medal in 2002. Bishop Lai believes the metal was to acknowledge his contribution as a member of the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative Region.

Sister Yuen, a recipient of the Medal of Merit–Education, said she feels surprised at the award. “I have only been in Macau for a little over 10 years and I have many predecessors who made a bigger contribution in the field of education than I have. I never thought I would receive a medal,” she said.

Sister Yuen said she thinks the award is an acknowledgement for her work in education and her educational objectives, particularly in promoting environmental protection at her school.

She says that she intends to continue to voice her opinion of education and related issues.

The Franciscan sister said she believes it is important to link environmental protection projects to the community outside the school. As a result, around six to seven years ago, she made an agreement with two nearby supermarkets to ban the distribution of plastic bags to students at the school.

She recalled that students gradually got into the habit of not asking for plastic bags and supermarket staff bit by bit were able to recognise the students from the school and not offer them a bag.

She said the school had tried to introduce the project to other schools and some visitors from other schools showed interest in learning more about the idea.

In recognition of achievement, outstanding contribution and distinguished service by individuals or organisations, the Macau government confers honours on individuals and organisations every year. They are classified as Grand Lotus, Golden Lotus and Silver Lotus, as well as Medals of Merit, covering the fields of various professions; industry and commerce; tourism; education; culture; philanthropy and sport.

Despite the public acknowledgment of the Catholic contribution to society, Leung Pok-man said he does not believe the honours represent government appreciation of Church work. He said he thinks such honours are just a way to reward those who have pleased the government.

Leung said there are many government officials who have done good work in improving the life of people, but do not receive any recognition, as they have offended patriotic or pro-Beijing groups.

However, he pointed out that even officials with integrity problems and no performance track record still get in the line for the Golden Lotus medal.

While he admitted that some recipients really do make a significant contribution and are deserving of the honours bestowed on them, he has serious doubts about the criteria used to acknowledge state-owned investment companies or developers of poor quality projects and restaurants, like the Plaza and Federal restaurant chains, owned by big groups in China that are included in the list of recipients.

However, in response to such criticism, Bishop Lai said he does not agree that the awards are just a way to stroke the public image of the government of the special administrative region.

Bishop Lai is also listed by the University of Macau for his award on the list of awards to its people as a member of the University Assembly.


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