CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Bishop commissions 500 for World Youth Day

HONG KONG (SE): People who have signed up to attend World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland, from July 26 to 31, were commissioned by John Cardinal Tong Hon in a ceremony held at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception on July 10.

Cardinal Tong said during the ceremony that he hopes that the young people making the trip will be able to have an encounter with God during their pilgrimage and come back to Hong Kong imbued with the enthusiasm to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in society.

The delegates from the Hong Kong group come from over 20 Church communities and groups in the city. Among them, over 80 are travelling in the diocesan-sponsored delegation, while around 100 belong to the China Province of the Salesian Youth Movement.

This will make the representation from Hong Kong one of the largest from Asia at the worldwide gathering of young Catholic people, which is held in different venues around the world every four years.

The biggest delegation from Asia comes from The Philippines, which with its huge Catholic population has gathered together 1,500 people. 

This is followed by South Korea with 800, making Hong Kong the third biggest from Asia.

Representation from Asia this year will be significantly higher than it was at the gathering in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, mostly because travel to Europe is much cheaper than distant Latin America.

The World Youth Day delegates gathered outside the cathedral and solemnly entered the church through the Holy Door. After receiving a formal invitation, Cardinal Tong symbolically opened the Holy Door and led the young people into the church in procession.

The cross of World Youth Day, which was presented to the young Catholic people of the world by Pope John Paul II in 1984 as a sign of peace and hope, together with an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary followed the bishop through the Holy Door, along with the priests who gathered for a concelebrated Mass.

Cardinal Tong thanked the priests, deacons and sisters who have journeyed with the young people during their preparation period for their journey to Europe.

He added that he hopes the young people will be active in sharing their experience and faith with their friends after they return to Hong Kong and make a significant contribution of energy to the life of the Church in the diocese.

Cardinal Tong commissioned the delegates at the end of the Mass and presented each of them with USB wrist bands bearing the printed logo of World Youth Day and an introduction to the social media #myHKWYD, which is symbolic of online mission.

It is a simple ploy to place the everyday activities and experiences of World Youth Day online for the whole world to share.

At the final preparation for their departure, the delegates prayed that they would be able to communicate the mercy of God to others through their lives.

Lukasz Felczak, a vice consul from the Consulate General of Poland to Hong Kong, attended the Mass with his family. He said he is happy to see so many young people going on a pilgrimage to his native land from Hong Kong.

“I believe that the Church in Poland has already prepared to receive the pilgrims and the local Catholics in Poland will have their faith strengthened through the experience of the universal Church,” he said.

Around 400 of the delegates attended a final activity in their preparation for World Youth Day organised by the Diocesan Youth Commission at the Caritas Hall before the commissioning ceremony.

Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing said the gathering helped him feel the joy of World Youth Day.

“Before World Youth Day, let us become people with hope, faith, energy, warmth and sincerity. We will see one another in Poland,” the Franciscan auxiliary bishop of the diocese said.

Bishop Ha will lead reflections on the teaching of the catechism in Cantonese on each morning of the July 27 to 29 study period and meet with other Chinese-speaking people in Poland.

Father Paul Kam Po-wai, the chairperson of the Diocesan Youth Commission as well as the Hong Kong delegation, said he hopes that everyone on the trip will experience the four steps of Come and see, go and tell and imbibe them as an inspiration for a lifelong mission.

The lyrics of the theme song for World Youth Day were translated from Polish into Cantonese by a band called AMDG. One of the principal composers, Cheung Chun-kin, described them as imparting a message of the mercy and forgiving heart of God.

Another member of the band, Vanise Kwok Wai-shuen, said the Cantonese theme song can help Hong Kong people know more about the theme of World Youth Day and give them a sense of involvement in the event.

Both Cheung and Kwok were joining the delegation travelling to Kraków in the following few days.

Chan Geng-tsuen, a volunteer worker at World Youth Day from the parish of St. Patrick in Lok Fu, said he was scheduled to arrive at Kraków on July 18 to go through a week-long training session for volunteer workers.

His hope is that he can serve people attending the gathering along with other volunteers from the various countries who are attending.

Although total numbers are not available, the next biggest official delegation from Asia will come from Indonesia, which is sending 170 people to Poland, followed by India with around 150, a sizeable delegation from a small Church of 120 will come from Japan and about 140 from Taiwan.

AsiaNews reported that the Taiwan group has invited young people from mainland China to lose themselves among their numbers, as they are unable to organise any official delegation to travel on the worldwide pilgrimage themselves.

Most of the groups from Asia also have plans to extend their activities beyond the formal part of World Youth Day and travel to sites of historical importance around Poland, like the shrine of Czestochowa, which represents the baptism of faith in Poland and is marking its 1,050th anniversary this year, and the infamous German concentration camp from World War II at Auschwitz.

One group from Taiwan has plans to go to Taizé and spend several days with the local community and some from the Hong Kong group plan to visit Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Ambitions have also been expressed to extend their travels to Assisi and Rome.

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