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On the occasion of my elevation to the College of Cardinals Homily of John Cardinal Tong on 3 March 2012 — Hong Kong Cathedral
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Out of the great love of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the Catholics of Hong Kong and our Motherland, I was elevated as a member of the College of Cardinals on February 18.
I feel inadequate, yet grateful. Our previous leaders, especially John Baptist Cardinal Wu and Joseph Cardinal Zen, have laid a solid foundation for the diocese. I am happy to follow in their footsteps to be a good pastor, a good servant and to actively promote evangelisation and pastoral work.
To become a cardinal is both an honour and a responsibility, which requires me to be in hierarchical communion with the Holy Father, to love Jesus and to serve his Church with greater courage.
The cardinal’s red hat is a symbol of martyrdom, which reminds me to make greater efforts in evangelisation, to guide the people of God, to serve society, to defend human rights, justice and peace, and to even give up my life, without any hesitation, for my faith.
Since this honour of becoming a cardinal is also for the diocese, let us share this honour, as well as the responsibility entrusted to us.
I was ordained to the priesthood 46 years ago on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, and my appointment as a cardinal was announced on the same feast day this year.
The shining star emphasised in the Epiphany story reminds me of a famous British writer, Bernard Shaw (1856 to 1950), who once said, “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Under the light of Christ, we have all become missionaries to spread the true light.
Now, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my four major pastoral concerns.
First, evangelisation is the priority we share in the diocese. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will invoke a Year of Faith from 2012 to 2013, to give new impetus to the mission of the Church.
At the Pre-Consistory Day of Reflection and Prayer on February 17, the Holy Father led all the cardinals and cardinals-designate in prayer for the Announcement of the Gospel Today, bringing the Good News to peoples and lands where the Gospel has not yet put down firm roots, as well as revitalising our faithful through the New Evangelisation.
Each year, our diocese is blessed to have more than 6,000 baptisms. Half of them are adult baptisms and half are infant baptisms.
Certainly, the rise in the number of Catholics is gratifying, but the quality of their faith is equally essential. I hope all the faithful in our diocese will progress not only in the quantity, but also in the quality of their faith.
My second concern is promoting vocation to the priesthood and the religious life.
Happily, each year there are hundreds of lay Catholics taking theology, religious sciences, biblical and catechetical courses.
More than 1,000 Catholics volunteer to teach catechetics. But, I do hope more young Catholics will respond to God’s call for priestly or religious vocations; and parents will encourage their children to walk in the path of priesthood and religious life.
I also hope that all clergy and religious personnel will set a good example to attract young people to pursue the priestly or religious life. In this way, our evangelisation work will “bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).
My third concern is for the non-Chinese Catholics in our diocese. Hong Kong is an international city and one-third of our Catholics are non-Chinese-speaking (especially our Filipino brothers and sisters who work here).
Our previous Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his Message for World Migration Day in 1996, exhorted us, “In the Church no one is a stranger, and the Church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere.”
The presence of migrants challenges the responsibility of believers as individuals and as a community.
An effective way is for our parishes to schedule at least one English Mass within the regular Sunday schedule, so that migrants can gather for worship.
I always encourage parishes and Catholic schools to make their facilities available for their gatherings on weekends. In this way, we may deepen our friendship and communion with our non-Chinese Catholics.
My fourth concern is for the Church in China. Since China reopened in the late 1970s, its economy has been moving towards greater freedom.
However, policies on religion remain stringent. Although there is only one Catholic Church in China, believers there are still not united.
Therefore, echoing the appeals of the previous and current Holy Fathers, our Church in Hong Kong has shouldered the role as a Bridge Church, helping the Church in China to have better formation, to be reconciled among themselves and to achieve full communion with the Holy Father and the Universal Church.
We hope and pray that we can promote this important mission in a prudent and discreet manner.
Blessed Pope John Paul II had a great love for China and was praying for the Church in China every day. In 1986, he made an important decision, sending envoys of the Holy See to negotiate with the Chinese government with vigour and patience.
This dialogue was halted once due to the canonisation of Chinese Martyrs in the year 2000.
Today, the same dialogue is again being disrupted, because there were two illicit episcopal ordinations in 2011, which forced the Holy See to declare the excommunication of the two clerics in accordance with Canon Law.
Nevertheless, we have to look forward to the future. Only with an open and sincere dialogue can the problems be solved and a win-win result achieved.
Let us pray more fervently for the reopening of China-Vatican dialogue, as well as for the graces bestowed upon the excommunicated, so that their early repentance can bring reconciliation to our Church and thus the wounds of our Church can be healed.
In order to accomplish the above four pastoral concerns, from where can we draw the necessary strength? Where can we find the source of spirituality?
The answer rests with the love of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. The motto I chose for my coat-of-arms on the occasion of my episcopal ordination was inspired by Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 10 verses 14-16.
I also like the Gospel of St. John chapter 3 verse 16, For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.
This scripture passage entails three elements of spirituality: to offer oneself unconditionally; to make concrete action; and to be able to transform others.
In recent months, our diocese has installed relics of a few Blesseds in three churches located on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories respectively.
Besides entrusting our prayer to the intercession of the Blesseds, we have to learn from them how to love God and to love people.
Inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here, we have placed relics of Blessed Pope John Paul II.
In 1981, he was shot by a Turkish sniper. After his recovery, the Pontiff visited the assassin in prison, forgave him, and even requested the Italian government to grant him an early release.
Pope John Paul’s act illustrates Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel reading of today, “To love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43).
The Holy Father’s act proved that love requires each one of us to offer ourselves to God unconditionally.
The relic of Blessed Mother Teresa has been installed inside Ss. Cosmas and Damian Church. The loving heart and charitable work of Mother Teresa is well known internationally, both inside and outside the Church.
She inspired many people to follow her by abandoning their possessions, and to serve Jesus while living among the poor. The charity of Mother Teresa has taught us that love should lead to concrete action.
The relics of the parents of St. Theresa of Lisieux, Blessed Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin, are now installed inside St. Teresa’s Church for veneration.
This couple was very fervent and caring for the poor. They also sowed the seeds of religious vocations in the hearts of their daughters. Their youngest daughter, Theresa, has become a great Saint of the Missions.
When St. Theresa of Lisieux was in the convent, an elderly sister was not kind to her. However, St. Theresa did not mind this at all. Instead, she showed respect and great kindness to the elderly sister.
After some time, the elderly sister was transformed by the loving attitude of St. Theresa. This shows that love can really transform others.
If we can follow the good examples of the Saint and the Blesseds, and live out the love of Christ, I’m confident that we will be moving towards the three goals of the Year of the Laity being celebrated by our Diocese: “To sanctify oneself, to sanctify others, and to transform the world.”
Lastly, I would like to thank all my brothers and sisters once again for your prayers and greetings, as well as for taking part in this Eucharistic celebration.
Please continue to pray for me and all the cardinals of the Universal Church!
May God bless you!
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