CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Lutherans and Catholics prepare to mark Reformation anniversary

HONG KONG (SE): As part of preparations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next year, representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong paid a formal visit to the Catholic diocese on April 5.

The visit was to promote mutual understanding between the two Churches. Representatives from both expressed the belief that the visit would be helpful in promoting ecumenism among Christians in the city.

In preparation for his visit to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Caine Road, Bishop Ben Chang Chun-wa, from of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong, together with 90 pastors and other representatives, visited the nearby St. Luke’s Cathedral on Arbuthnot Road, where they were welcomed by Metropolitan Nektarios, of the Orthodox Church, who spoke with them about the tradition of liturgy and theology in his Church.

The guests then visited the cathedral and were received at the auditorium in the Diocese Centre by John Cardinal Tong-Hon, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing and Father Leung Tat-choy, the vice-chairperson of the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission.

Cardinal Tong first introduced the development of the Catholic Church, which has been deeply affected by the reforms brought about by the Vatican II, especially in the area of lay involvement in many facets of Church life.

The cardinal told the visiting delegation that the Hong Kong diocese is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, so it is a relatively young Church.

However, he added that it has contributed to Hong Kong society throughout the years through its parishes, education services and social services.

He also shared that around 7,000 people, half being adults, have been baptised annually in recent years and that the diocese has been actively promoting the permanent deaconate over the past 20 years.

Bishop Chang said during the meeting that it is necessary to renew our understanding of God through ecumenical sharing and to seek the mercy and grace of God so as to properly serve society.

He said the Lutheran World Federation has been dedicated to ecumenism over the past 30 years. He called the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification published in 1999 and its Chinese translation, which was ratified in May 2014, a milestone in ecumenism.

Bishop Chang told the Chinese-language Kung Kao Po that the spirit of the Reformation is to revitalise the Church and live out the teaching of the gospel. He hopes that his co-workers can have their spirit rekindled through the visit.

During the question and answer session, Cardinal Tong quoted the Decree on Ecumenism from Vatican II, saying that the document encourages people from different Christian traditions to have more to do with each other.

He explained that Catholics and Protestants are encouraged by Vatican II to avoid attacking one another, promote more cooperation and involve themselves in more in-depth discussion on various topics.

The cardinal then presented a compilation of the documents of Vatican II to his guests.

Father Lawrence Lee Len, the chancellor of the diocese, shared about the challenges the local Catholic Church faces, especially in the area of social issues and developing Hong Kong as a bridge to the Church in China.

Some representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church said that it is a good sign of cooperation that their congregation sometimes uses a venue provided by Caritas Hong Kong, while Caritas is also invited to use their gathering venues as well.

Bishop Ha gave a short talk on how the Church shepherds its flock through different ministries.

While welcoming the guests to lunch, he mentioned that the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church have recently issued a joint document titled, From Conflict to Communion, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which is a good step towards mutual understanding and friendship.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church was set up in Hong Kong in 1954 and now boasts 51 congregations, over 1,700 members and over 100 co-workers.

The Lutheran Churches also include the Rhenish Church, Tsung Tsin Mission and the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod.

Pope Francis, together with leaders of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of other Christian Churches, will attend a joint ecumenical commemoration of the start of the Reformation in Sweden on October 31.

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