CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Holy Door in Hong Kong is open

HONG KONG (SE): As darkness fell across the city of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon stood in the flickering light of a phalanx of torch bearers in the grounds of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to formally inaugurate the Jubilee of Mercy in the diocese on December 12.

Beginning with a plea to God to have mercy on the world and its people, the bishop of the diocese prayed to the Lord who forgives faults and heals infirmities, as well as human weakness.

Cardinal Tong prayed, “Glory to you, Lord, merciful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in mercy,” before calling on all present to fix their eyes on the merciful face of Jesus.

Then, as Pope Francis did when he opened the Jubilee of Mercy at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the bishop of Hong Kong inaugurated the Extraordinary Jubilee to open to us, all men and women, the door of God’s mercy.

He described the moment as a prelude to the profound experience of grace and reconciliation that awaits the Church this year, praying to God, the author of true freedom, who desires to gather the whole human race into one people unshackled from the chains of slavery, to make the Church a brilliantly shining sacrament of salvation.

A deacon then read the Gospel of Mercy from St. Luke, where the scribes and Pharisees were critical of Jesus for talking with tax collectors and sinners, to which Jesus replied, “Rejoice for I have found the lost sheep.”

The mystery of mercy demands concentrated contemplation, as it is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace, upon which all salvation depends.

Then as the sweet aroma of incense swirled through the gathering in the blustery breeze, the bishop of the diocese walked in solemn procession with his ministers and stood in silent prayer at the closed door of the cathedral.

Beneath the door, the words, The Home of the Church, the Gateway to Heaven, have been inscribed in Chinese and Latin, inviting people to pass through in search of repentance and forgiveness, as an expression of trust in the mercy of God.

Cardinal Tong then prayed aloud, “Open the gates of justice, we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord.” As the door yielded to the pressure of his hand, he prayed, “This is the Lord’s gate, let us enter through it to obtain mercy and forgiveness.”

The procession, headed by representatives of various nationalities showing the universality of salvation and the multi-ethnic nature of the Church in Hong Kong, moved into the packed cathedral, before Cardinal Tong proceeded to the altar to bless the water sprinkled upon those shoehorned into the church as a reminder of their baptism.

He prayed that the water would purify and open the hearts of the people to receive forgiveness for sin and deliver them from evil, and finally well up into eternal life.

He then prayed to Mary, the mother of God, asking that her merciful gaze may rest upon us during this Holy Year, so that all may rediscover the tenderness of God.

The tradition of the Holy Door dates back to 1499 and this year is the 27th Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in the history of the Church.

The current jubilee year formally began on the 50th anniversary of the closing of Vatican II in 1965 and is the first such jubilee to be held since.

While Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to signal the official beginning of the year on December 8, he also carried out the same ceremony in the Central African Republic on November 29.

In Africa, the pope made a pointed call for the laying down of arms and urged people to refrain from revenge, as he said that it only leads to an escalation of violence.

December 13 was designated as the day for the universal opening of Holy Doors in cathedrals the world over, with many dioceses replicating the ceremony at other designated churches within their bounds.

In Hong Kong, six other churches have been designated as places of pilgrimage for the Jubilee Year of Mercy with the opening of the Holy Door celebrated by Cardinal Tong at St. Thomas the Apostle in Tsing Yi on December 13, while one of the bishops or the vicar general will open the Holy Door at each of the other five on January 1, the solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God.

The other five churches are: St. Teresa’s in Kowloon; St. Joseph’s Chapel in  Yim Tin Tsai; Our Lady of Joy Abbey (Trappist Monastery) in Lantau; Immaculate Heart of Mary in Taipo; and the Chapel of Holy Spirit Seminary in Aberdeen.


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