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Thomas Aquinas and the roots of Catholic social teaching

HONG KONG (SE): Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun urged people to uphold the core values of Hong Kong and talk the truth based on Church traditions during an open talk marking the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of students and all universities.

The function was organised by the Caritas Institute of Higher Education and the chaplaincy of the Caritas Bianchi College of Careers on March 7.

The former bishop of Hong Kong said during his talk that one of the most important duties of the local Church is to uphold social justice, while giving special attention to the social teaching of the Church, much of which has evolved out of the principles developed in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The cardinal said that he believes some of the contemporary philosophical principles tend to ignore the virtues of human nature and so do not provide a good ground for moral responsibility to grow.

While emphasising that the moral virtues come from God, he said Church tradition can help to rebuild the ethical and moral grounds in societies.

Cardinal Zen said the Church supports charitable outreach in society based on the principle of fair and just allocation of resources, as the development of a society should enable all people, not only a certain few of them, to improve their lives.


He emphasised that every life should be respected.

As changes and developments create new problems, Cardinal Zen said the government can play a positive role in dealing with the trials and tribulations of civil society, but it cannot replace the function of a civil society.

The cardinal said that one challenge for Hong Kong at present is the preservation of the legal, as well as the cultural systems, which should be a top priority.

He believes people in Hong Kong should not only talk about the economy, but also the meaning of life, as well as the preservation of our universal values.

In a question and answer session, the cardinal was asked how to deal with the problem of people in the Church holding different views on certain social issues.

Cardinal Zen said it is important for Catholics to respect the consciences of each and every person, while keeping themselves updated on different issues and learning to understand one another. At the same time, he emphasised that the truth should be judged by objective standards, not relative ones.

The cardinal was also asked how he sees the views of John Cardinal Tong Hon on Sino-Vatican relationships, which was described by the media as optimistic, while he appears to hold quite an opposite view.

He said it is good to hear two different voices, as the Vatican can make comprehensive considerations in this way.

Over 100 people, including staff and students at the institute, took part in the talk held in the new main building of the Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Tiu Keng Leng.

The pastoral team of the institute also took the chance to promote Catholic culture during the feast day celebration.
Wu Man-man, a student at the institute, said she likes the compulsory subject on religion and life, which she finds helps her to look positively at life from a religious point of view.

A Mass was then celebrated by the chaplain to the institute, Father Ephraim Lam Shing-man.

 

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