CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Cardinal Tong named apostolic administrator

HONG KONG (SE): John Cardinal Tong Hon, the former bishop of Hong Kong, said his appointment as apostolic administrator showed the concern of the Holy See for diocese in this transitional period, since an apostolic administrator has similar powers to those of a bishop of the diocese and this gives more time for the Vatican to make a wise decision on the appointment of a new bishop. 
 
On the afternoon of January 5, the diocesan Curia received a notice from the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples under the Holy See, announcing the appointment of Cardinal Tong as apostolic administrator under Canon 368, 371(2) and 381(2) of the Code of Canon Law, with the responsibility of governing it during the vacancy of a bishop until further notice from the congregation.
 
After the diocese announced the appointment on the afternoon of January 7 to parishes and the media, Cardinal Tong and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing spoke to members of the press at the Catholic Diocese Centre the same day.
 
Bishop Ha clarified that the announcement had been delayed by two days due to the busy of Mass service schedules on Saturday and Sunday, and the arrangements for a memorial service for late Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung.
 
While admitting that the appointment came as a shock for both Cardinal Tong and himself, he said he believes the Holy See was showing its concern and noted that an apostolic administrator has greater authority than a diocesan administrator elected by the Board of Diocesan Consultors, which had been the original plan of the diocese to fill the temporary episcopal vacancy.
 
He explained that an apostolic administrator has the same authority as a bishop, who can make personnel assignments, approve construction projects and ordain priests. “In this way, the Hong Kong diocese does not need the support of bishops of other dioceses,” he said.
 
Cardinal Tong, the former bishop of Hong Kong who retired in 2017, said the while he was surprised by the appointment, he accepted out of obedience to the Holy Father and the Holy See. 
 
“I do not know the reason behind the appointment but I guess it is because I have some experience in the diocesan administration,” he said. 
 
He pointed out that he has some 25 years’ of experience in diocesan administration “going back to when I was named vicar general in 1992, through to my becoming an auxiliary bishop in 1996, then becoming coadjutor (2008), then after that, bishop (2009 to mid-2017)…” 
 
Cardinal Tong feels that it is good for the diocese to have an apostolic administrator so that the Holy See can have more time to choose a new bishop. 
 
When asked if the duties of an apostolic administrator might too heavy at the age of 79, he said it might not be difficult for him because the Catholic Church in Hong Kong is a mature one and he has confidence in the teamwork of the Church.
 
When quizzed about the possible influence on the appointment of the new bishop by the government in China, the cardinal stressed that the preference of Beijing or the Sino-Vatican relationship is not related to the appointment. 
 
“Regarding whether the new bishop will be accepted by the government in China... that is not our main concern because, as we always said, the Church is mainly concerned about our religious matters not politics,” he said.
 
Cardinal Tong hoped and prayed that a new bishop would be appointed as soon as possible. 
 
He said the Holy See may not need to consult him on the choice of a new bishop. However, he believes a good consecrated person should be humble, far-sighted and willing to understand the situations of all people. In the interim, he aims to promote unity within the diocese.

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