CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Pope names Bishop Tong to receive red hat

Hong Kong (SE): Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong, was named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI following the noontime Angelus prayer at St. Peter’s Square on January 6. He will be inducted into the College of Cardinals, along with 21 others, at a consistory in Rome on February 18.

The 72-year-old Bishop Tong will be only the seventh Chinese to be named cardinal and the third for Hong Kong after the late John Baptist Cardinal Wu Cheng-chung and the former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun. 

Bishop Tong told the Sunday Examiner on January 9 that he felt “unworthy and privileged” and said it was “a sign of the pope’s great love and concern for the Catholic Church in China, and an encouragement for the efforts Hong Kong diocese in its efforts to promote reconciliation and full communion between the China Church and the universal Church.”

Bishop Tong was born in Hong Kong on 31 July 1939, but lived mostly in Guangzhou during his early years. He did seminary studies in Macau, the Regional Seminary in Aberdeen and finally, Collegio Urbano in Rome where he was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI on 6 January 1966.

He also has a doctorate degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, and a masters in Chinese philosophy from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Since 1970, he has taught at the seminary in Hong Kong and, since 1980, he has headed the Holy Spirit Study Centre, which follows issues related to the Church in China. He was vicar general from 1992 to 2009. He was ordained auxiliary bishop on 9 December 1996, appointed coadjutor bishop on 30 January 2008, then was installed as the bishop of Hong Kong on 15 April 2009, succeeding Cardinal Zen.

Bishop Tong is an adviser to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a member of the Vox Clara Committee of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and a member of the Commission for the Catholic Church in China.

Moving forward, Bishop Tong said, “every day we should do our best. So, regardless of whether I am a bishop, cardinal, priest, I will try my best.” 

Among the others tipped for the red hat is 65-year-old Archbishop Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, an expert on China affairs and the Middle East, who is no stranger to Hong Kong. Between 1992 and 2001, he was assigned to the territory and headed a study mission, during which he acted as the pope’s link with the Church in China. 

Bishop Tong observed that the archbishop is “extremely capable, with a lot of Asian experience. With the situation in China, I think he will do a good job and make great contributions.”

Sixty-six-year-old Archbishop George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly of India, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, joins Bishop Tong among the two Asians named by Pope Benedict to received the red hat, while 16 of the newly-named cardinals come from Europe, two from the United States of America, one from Canada, and one from Brazil. 

Hong Kong will have two cardinals although Cardinal Zen, who was installed at a consistory in March 2006, may no longer vote in a papal conclave after his 80th birthday on January 13. 

Following the consistory in February, Asia will have nine voting members in the College of Cardinals. Europe has the largest representation with 67 red hats, while Latin America is represented by 22 cardinals, north America by 15, Africa by 11 and Oceania has only one voting cardinal.

A special delegation will attend the installation ceremonies at the Vatican and a solemn Mass will be celebrated the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Caine Road, on March 3, at 3.00pm (see Chancery Notice, page 2).

See page 12 for news of a revised prayer service and a list of the cardinals-designate.


Bishop Tong will be only the seventh Chinese to be named cardinal and the third for Hong Kong

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