CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Bishop highlights China and marriage in celebration of priesthood

HONG KONG (SE): It is at the Chrism Mass, which this year was celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, March 24, at Immaculate Conception Cathedral that the priestly identity of Christ in the local Church as a diocesan community made up of bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons and lay people, is explicitly acknowledged.

This is described in detail in the Apocalypse, which says, “Jesus loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and has made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and father” (1:6).

The bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, stressed that this identity is magnified this year, as it is being celebrated in the Year of the Jubilee of Mercy, which is a specific call to recognise the character and significance of the gathering of the whole diocesan community as the priestly people of God.

Reflecting on recent happenings in the diocese, Cardinal Tong called on people to be strong in realising the nature, purpose and importance of marriage and the family in the life of society.

He also spoke of the importance of young people in our community and called on everyone to look after them and cherish their presence.

He then looked to the four-pronged pastoral plan of the diocese, asking people to be conscious of the need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, reflecting that as a child he first began to hear his own call to priesthood from watching the missionaries as they attended to wounded Chinese soldiers.

“It was a great witness to me,” he said.

He also pointed to the large expatriate presence in the diocese, singling out the largest of them, the Filipino community, and thanking the Filipino people for the great interest they show in the life of the diocese, despite the limitations on their freedom and time that most of them are subjected to.

Cardinal Tong made a strong call for prayer for the Church in China, asking that there may be true reconciliation among all the Catholics in the country. He also referred to reports of violations of human rights in the mainland and asked people to pray for justice.

On a more domestic scene, Cardinal Tong conveyed the best wishes for a blessed Easter celebration from a former auxiliary in the diocese, Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang, who became the bishop of Macau in February.

He mentioned that he had recently attended a function in the former Portuguese enclave and met with his former auxiliary bishop.

The celebration of the Chrism Mass revolves around the consecration of the oils that will be used in the sacramental life of the Church during the coming year in the celebration of baptism, confirmation, the sacrament of the sick and ordination.

Cardinal Tong described it as a symbol of fragrance, a fragrance of the Christian presence that wafts out of the cathedral church to be spread among the people through the ministry of Christians as a priestly people in their interaction with neighbour, friends and family.

He pointed out that the nature of the priestly ministry is described by the prophet, Isaiah, as bringing good news to the poor, binding up hearts that are broken, proclaiming liberty to captives and bringing freedom to those in prison—a proclamation of the year of favour from the Lord.

Cardinal Tong said that today, these things are fulfilled in the identity of priesthood, which is a calling to spread the love of the people of God throughout the world.

He called it the fruit of the Eucharist and a call to make that fruit richer as a source of strength to the people.

He described the symbolism of the Holy Door, which was opened at the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, as being a call to open our hearts to others in responding to the call of the royal priesthood of the people.

He added that during this year it is also an opportunity to respond to the call of Pope Francis to live mercy in our lives, as a witness to others, especially through the unity of the priests, religious and laity of the diocese.

Those who have been ordained into the shared priestly character of the people of God renewed their commitment to service, promising to be faithful ministers of the Eucharist and teaching of the faith.

They recommitted themselves to working to give people who live in an often conflicting world a song that can help them to keep a Christian perspective on life in an atmosphere often out of harmony with their values.

Cardinal Tong pointed out that at this Easter there is much to rejoice about, as around 3,200 adults were due to receive the sacrament of baptism at the Easter Vigil, which takes the total number of people in the diocese to around 500,000.

He offered a special note of thanks to those who walked with them during their time of formation and preparation, especially the catechists, their godparents and the priests and members of their local parishes or communities.

He said that as far back as 1953 in the context of a very different Hong Kong, Bishop Lorenzo Bianchi called on people to be especially conscious of giving a witness of charity to their neighbours.

He noted that during the 1950s and 1960s, when the Church was deeply embroiled in both structured and spontaneous caring outreaches to the many refugees and displaced peoples in the then-British colony, between 10,000 and 20,000 people a year were joining the Church.

Finally the cardinal reflected that the Church in Hong Kong has reached an era where quite a number of missionaries who left their homelands decades ago to adopt the city as their own are growing old.

He thanked them for their labours in the diocese and asked people to pray for them in their sunset years.


And as the world still wonders and tries to come to grips with the recent terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, he made a call for sincere prayer for all victims of the most recent atrocity, as well as those who suffer from absurd violence, but do not get the highly public airplay.

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