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Reading and living God’s word

Over 200 participants gathered for the Eleventh World Chinese Biblical Congress held from November 22 to 26 in Hong Kong, following the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Chinese Catholic Bible (Studium Biblicum version, 1968-2018), and committed to continue promoting the reading and living of God’s Word to nourish fruitful ministry in the Church.
 
The international gathering brought together Chinese communities and collaborators in the biblical pastoral ministry from 35 territories including Hong Kong, China, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, England and Canada. Lay people formed the majority with more than 130 participants.
 
Organised by the United Chinese Catholic Biblical Association (UCCBA) around the theme, Journey with the Word to Live Out Faith, Hope and Love, the gathering aimed to respond to the papal exhortations: Verbum Domini (Word of God), Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) and Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Exult), in strengthinging the Word of God as the heart and animating force of the Church’s life and mission. 
 
The supporting text of the event: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), was chosen to help everyone set their gols. 
 
The opening Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on November 22, followed the next day by a keynote address delivered by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing ofm, reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s document, Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Relating to pastoral ministry, made on approaches to studying the Bible were highlighted, as well as the lectio divina, community formation and service to people. 
 
Each participant received a Bible seed, with the message: “diligent reading of the bible and living the divine word” referring to the Parable of the Sower, together with a leaflet indicating simple steps of planting during the Bible enthronement ceremony on November 23. 
 
During his intervention on The Bible Inspires All Pastoral Work, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF), referenced to Verbum Domini [VD] and Verititas Gaudium (Joy of Truth) [VG]. He noted that the biblical apostolate should make the Word of God the animating force of all services in the Church (VD 73). 
 
To achieve this, it is necessary to have full communication and collaboration between pastors, lay pastoral workers, catechists, educators, basic communities, exegetes and other related parties. The ever-fresh and attractive good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be embodied in the life of the Church and of humanity (VG 4a). The Word of God shapes the whole evangelisation mission of the Church and its many expressions. 
 
The association’s president, Father Joseph Fung, referring to Hong Kong as the birthplace of both the Studium Biblicum Bible and the UCCBA, said, “We are conscious of continuing to createand nourish ‘an efficacious and constant love’ of sacred Scripture, source of the interior life and of apostolic fruitfulness, among Chinese faith communities worldwide through networking, collaboration and sharing of experience and insights for greater biblical apostolate.”
 
Convinced of a direct link between holiness and the Word of God, three notable figures that had a special relationsihp with the Church in Hong Kong were honoured as patrons of the UCCBA Congress. They were Pope St. Paul VI, who made a pastoral visit to Hong Kong in 1970 after the promulgation of Dei Verbum (word of God) in 1965; St. Joseph Freinademetz of the Society of the Divine Word evangelised in Yim Tin Tsai Village in Sai Kung, from 1879 to 1881 before heading to South Shandong, China, to fulfill his lifetime mission; and Franciscan Friar Blessed Gabriele Maria Allegra, who founded the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in 1945 in Beijing, and spearheaded the translation and publication of the first complete Chinese Catholic Bible in Christmas 1968. 
 
The pectoral cross of St. Paul and the relics of St. Joseph and Blessed Gabriele were displayed beside the enthroned Bible in the meeting hall as unique symbols of their prayerful company.
 
UCCBA Secretary, Cecilia Chui, said that “every saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God” (VD 48). The association invited the winner of the Second International Chinese Hymn Composition Contest in 2017, organised by Radio Veritas Asia Mandarin Service, Samson Chiew of Malaysia, to create a theme song for the congress, The Light of Life. The key message of the is “In him was life, and the life was the of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
 
Father Tarsisius Sigho of Taiwan of the Divine Word Missionaries, walked through Pope Francis’ exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (GE), released in April 2018, on the topic, God’s Word: Key to Holiness. Nothing is more enlightening than turning to Jesus’ words and seeing his way of teaching the truth. Jesus explained with great simplicity what it means to be holy when he gave us the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-23). We have to do, what Jesus commanded us in the Sermon on the Mount, each in our own way. (GE 63)
 
The immense horizons of the Church’s mission and the complexity of today’s situation call for new ways of effectively communicating the word of God (VD 97). Father Francis Ching of the Companions of the Cross, from Canada, shared his experiential insights on New Evangelisation in the Light of the Word with living examples and references to chapter five of Evangelli Gaudium on spirit-filled evangelisers. Emphases were made on the personal encounter with the saving love of Jesus, the company and support of small ecclesial communities, and Christian witness of joy and peace in life situations to share good news. 
 
Mary, Mother of the Word was taken as the guiding star of the five-day journey of the congress. Father John Mi, spiritual director of the Little Rock Scripture Study Programme in China, delivered a talk on Mary and Biblical Spirituality to encourage ongoing reflection on making God’s Word the way of life in living out the virtues of faith, hope and love. 
 
Biblical passages highlighting the words and deeds of the Mother of God were selected for lectio divina each day to deepen understanding and inspire actualisation of the theme of the congress.  
 
The congress held a Biblical Exchange Forum to showcase the many facets of biblical pastoral ministry with witnessing. The topics embraced the connection of the Word of God with the saints and the interpretation of scripture, including a brief presentation of the Catholic musical on St. Joseph Freinademetz (VD 48-49), Catechesis and Lectio Divina (VD 74, 86-87), the Lay Faithful (VD 84), Marriage and the Family (VD 85), the Young People (VD 104), the Suffering (VD 106), and Social Communication with Artistic Expressions (VD 112, 113). 
 
To facilitate mutual learning and ongoing collaboration, there were sessions for presentation of reports by participants from biblical associations and Chinese communities, who also experienced fellowship in the Diocese of Hong Kong through visits to five selected parishes.
 
Father Peter Lo, diocesan director of the Hong Kong Catholic Biblical Association (HKCBA), a founding member of the UCCBA, shared the joy of co-organising the congress, calling it a meaningful celebration of HKCBA’s 45th foundation anniversary. Thought-provoking perspectives of fulfilling ministries centred on the Word of God in different settings are beneficial for future planning.
 
The significance of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of publication of the Studium Biblicum Bible marked a new page of creatively bringing the Word of God to in fruitful mission by the participants of the congress and collaborators of the UCCBA.
 
The closing Mass was celebrated by Bishop Ha on November 26. Participants received a copy of the Chinese version of God’s Word Daily 2019 (courtesy of Claretian Publications) and Companion of the Word, written by Salesian Sister Maria Ko and published by the HKCBA. 
 
The commissioning ceremony signified the wish that the lives of the participants may be the “good soil” in which the divine sower plants the word,so that it may bear bountiful fruit in the biblical apostolate, “thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20).
 
Having been witnessing the growth of UCCBA since its first meeting in 1987, the association’s secretary, Cecilia Chui, expressed deep gratitude to bishops, biblical partners, consecrated persons and spiritual supporters around the globe who prayed for the Eleventh UCCBA Congress, including Monsignor Ante Jozic, representative of the Holy See in Hong Kong, and the Carrie Lam, the chief executive of the Hong Kong.  
The UCCBA was officially founded in 1990 with its second meeting in Hong Kong. Participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia and the USA adopted a resolution to found a united Chinese biblical association. Affiliated with the CBF, the association currently takes Chapter VI of Dei Verbum, Evangelii Gaudium and Gaudete et Exsultate as the roadmap for implementing biblical pastoral ministry. 
 
After 28 years, the UCCBA continues to broaden its networking with Chinese communities in different places and collaboration in biblical activities, as well as making use of electronic means to promote fruitful reading and sharing of the Word. 
 
The association and Radio Veritas Asia Mandarin Service will join hands to organise the Third International Chinese Hymn Composition Contest. The next UCCBA congress will take place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan at a time to be decided. 
 
 
Cecilia Chui