CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Remembering murdered priests

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SE): A memorial Mass in honour of Father John Baptist Cheng Kwok-cheung, and Father Peter Ngai Wan-fai, who were murdered on 7 September 1953 in their sleeping quarters at Holy Soul’s Church (now Our Lady of Mount Carmel), Wanchai, on the 65th anniversary of their deaths.
“I wanted this Mass because I want my generation to remember my uncle,” said Cheng Tak-Mei, Father Cheng’s niece. 
The last celebration in memory of the two priests was 25 years ago, and today Cheng—one of the few relatives left in Hong Kong—is concerned that the memory of the event will be lost.
At the time, investigators emphasised that nothing had been stolen from the scene of the crime. Diocesan archives report that telephone and electricity lines leading to the priests rooms were found cut and that a police dragnet covered the Kowloon railway station and Macau shipping wharves in search of the suspects who were believed to have hand injuries and bloodstained clothes.
It was widely believed that the two were eliminated by the Chinese Communist Party because they had complained about discrimination and persecution against Catholics in the People’s Republic China in the early 1950s.
Two months before his death, Father Cheng the then-editor of the Chinese language Kung Kao Po diocesan newspaper, received a threatening letter telling him to resign.
Although she was born after her uncle was killed, Cheng remembers how her grandmother always talked to her about Father Cheng.
Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai, parish priest of Our Lady of Carmel, and Father Timothy Wan Kwok-kwong concelebrated at the Eucharistic service.
“We commemorated our dead ancestors,” said Father Law. “This is not related to with politics. I can only say that the reports from that time are true. The martyrdom of Father Cheng and Father Ngai resembles the sufferings of Jesus under Pontius Pilate.”
One young Catholic, Ian Ng, priased the two priests saying, “They are witnesses of Christ and a role model for Hong Kong Christians. They were prophets who spoke out for the truth and criticised injustice. They make me think that we cannot be indifferent in society, especially in today’s Hong Kong.”
Father Cheng was born in Hong Kong in July 1918, and was ordained a priest in Macau, in July 1944. Soon after his ordination, he was appointed editor of the Kung Kao Po and head of the Chinese section of the Catholic Truth Society. 
He was also the founder and editor of Modern Students, a monthly magazine for Chinese students. At the same time, he was spiritual director of the Chinese Catholic Students Association. 
Father Cheng was also an active in the Legion of Mary and, at the time of his death, was the spiritual director of the Junior Chinese Section of Hong Kong. 
Father Ngai was born in Shen Yong, Waichow, in Guangdong province, in 1900. He was ordained to the priesthood in Hong Kong in April 1930. In June, the same year, he was appointed to work in the Hoi Fung district.
The following year, he was assigned to Hong Kong and was made assistant parish priest in St Margaret’s parish, Happy Valley.
During the Japanese Occupation, he was sent back to Hoi Fung, where he worked with people in rural areas.
In 1946, he returned to Hong Kong and worked Holy Souls’ Church as assistant parish priest and became well known and loved by the people of Wanchai. 
Their funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop Lorenzo Bianchi while it was reported that some 4,000 people came to pay their last respects.

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