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Book Fair turns a lens on history of local Church

HONG KONG (SE): Visitors to the Hong Kong Book Fair this year were treated to a brief review of the history of the Church in Hong Kong through a photography exhibition marking the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the diocese which was on display above the Catholic booth.

The Book Fair, which is one of the largest in the world, was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai from July 20 to July 26. A total of 13 Catholic publishers and groups presented displays at the fair this year.

The bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, blessed the Catholic exhibits saying that people of today have much to be grateful to their predecessors for. He urged people to make good use of the press and the online media to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

He added that he hopes that more authors will come forward and write in a way that can inspire people to strengthen their spiritual values in life.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, the coordinator of the Hong Kong Catholic Board of Communications, as well as members and volunteers from participating groups.

The Catholic exhibition area included a small stage where people from all walks of Catholic life spoke about Church history, spirituality, family, social justice and other issues.

Some groups organised activities to convey the Catholic message.

Father Jacob Kwok Wai-ki, from St. Francis parish, Ma On Shan, told the Kung Kao Po prior to the Book Fair on July 12 that because of the high turnout every year, he believes it is a good opportunity for Church organisations to put their message forward, as well as encourage people to learn more about the history of the Church through reading.

Father Kwok said there are a lot of books about the history of the local Church. He named one authored by Father Luis Ha Ke-loon about the early development of the Catholic Church in the city.

However, he believes Catholics are more interested in anecdotal stories than analytical history. He also observed that the free information available online has weakened people’s desire to read books.

“The E-books have their value, but paper books are irreplaceable,” he stressed, saying that he hopes the press can develop the resources to publish more new books that respond to the needs of today’s Catholics.

Father Kwok added that many interesting topics can be dug out of historical documents. He gave the example of the experience of the Church during the Second World War.

He pointed out that despite all the difficulties, Mass was able to be celebrated at the cathedral right through the Japanese occupation, because it was then under the administration of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions from Italy, which at the time was an ally of Japan.

Father Kwok added that parish history is also an interesting topic to be explored.

He said that the cultural relics from the old Ma On Shan chapel have been collected as an illustration of the history of the Ma On Shan Iron Mine, from which many workers and their families were baptised in the 1950s.

Frederick Cheung Hok-ming, an associate professor of the Department of History of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Kung Kao Po on July 8 that young people regard history as something boring and irrelevant to their daily lives.

However, he believes that history can actually encourage people to learn more about themselves.

He said he is happy that many schools in recent years have been involved in writing their own histories and that students have been invited to take part.

A scholar of western history, Cheung encouraged people to learn more about both Chinese and western history through reading, and link the events of the past with current issues.

He gave an example from mediaeval Church history, which he said can teach us about the problem of bishops being ordained illicitly today in China.

He recommended people to read Mediaeval Papacy, by Geoffery Barraclough, which explains in great detail how the Dictatus Papae (separates civil control from Church governance and appointments, placing it firmly under the authority of the pope), issued in 1087, established the tradition of all bishops having to be appointed by the pope.

Chui Kai-cheung, a teacher from the moral and civic education team at the Choi Hung Estate Catholic Secondary English School, said schools can let young people know more about the Church through books and experiential activities, as well as through the religious icons displayed in parishes and schools.

He explained that his school has organised a tour around the Choi Hung parish and the stations of the cross within the campus.

He recommended the Special Bulletin for the 150th Anniversary of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong as good reading matter, as it gives a comprehensive history of the local Church.

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