CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Clamp put on priests joining pilgrimages

HONG KONG (SE): With the popularity of pilgrimages overseas on the increase, the diocese of Hong Kong has issued a new regulation for priests working in parishes or in other Church ministries who lead or take part in these journeys. 
While there is no question that pilgrimages can deepen the spiritual life of participants and enhance their knowledge of the Church, the new regulation underscores prioritising primary pastoral ministries.
The new regulation came into effect on April 1 after consultation with the Council of Priests and the Deaneries. 
It will not affect arrangements made prior to April 1.
According to the regulation, priests who have been appointed by the bishop to parishes or other ecclesiatical offices may join or lead pilgrimages outside of Hong Kong not more than twice a year, covering the period of annual leave or long leave. 
In exceptional cases—more than two pilgrimages—the matter will need the permission of the diocese. The bishop will exercise his discretion in these cases, taking pastoral needs into consideration, in deciding whether or not to grant permission.
Father Lawrence Lee Len, the diocesan chancellor, told the Kung Kao Po on April 20 that the Church understands the benefits of pilgrimages for both participants and priests. He clarified that the new regulation only applies to priests appointed by the bishop to serve in parishes or in different Church ministries, as these must have first priority. Therefore, it is not appropriate for them to leave their ministries several times a year to participate in pilgrimages. 
He added that priests who are assigned by the superiors of their religious institutes rather than the bishop of Hong Kong do not need to follow these regulations.

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