CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Monsignor Jozic bids farewell to Hong Kong

HONG KONG (SE): For the Catholic Church, he was the de facto representative of the pope to mainland China. Monsignor Ante Jozic, who spent a tempestuous decade in the city of Hong Kong seeking to bridge the great Sino-Vatican divide, has to his credit accomplished a giant leap forward, helping to engineer the signing of the provisional agreement between Beijing and the Holy See in late September last year.
Having seen this through, he was made an archbishop by the Holy See and named the apostolic nuncio to the Republic of Ivory Coast, West Africa on February 2.  
Monsignor Jozic succeeded Monsignor Eugene Nugent as the head of Holy See Study Mission in Hong Kong in 2009. Given the peculiar situation in China during his 10 years in the office, he seldom gave interviews to the media. 
With his tenure coming to its close, the archbishop-elect hosted the Sunday Examiner and the Kung Kao Po for a friendly chat. 
Following are excerpts from the two-hour long chat at his residence on February 12:
On his decade-long service in Hong Kong
I loved Hong Kong from the very beginning, since I came here in 2009 and took over when Monsignor Eugene Nugent was appointed papal nuncio in Madagascar. During the past 10 years, I have worked with four collaborators to study various issues in China deeply and with attention. 
The region has 149 dioceses, including the two dioceses of Hong and Macau. Our role is a complex one because the situation in each diocese is different. There are varied issues to deal with where we cannot afford to make a mistake or offend the people concerned. 
The Church in Hong Kong is very well organised and prosperous in social, educational and charitable works. It is indeed helping people to discover the words of Jesus and hence, the Church is growing.
This role of the Church in Hong Kong started a long time ago, thanks to the diocese, various religious congregations and Catholic schools here. In this regard, the Hong Kong diocese should be a model for every other diocese around the world. 
For the Church in China, this diocese plays the role of a bridge, organising many activities and providing formation programmes for many priests and sisters from the mainland. I was very happy to be here and to work for Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. 
The faith is strong and the Church is growing in this part of the world. 
On his relationship with Cardinal John Tong and late Bishop Michael Yeung
The death of Bishop Michael was a surprise. But as his health was deteriorating, our office was in touch with Rome and (Fernando) Cardinal Filoni regarding the steps to be taken if the bishop died. This is our normal procedure everywhere. 
Even at that time, we were thinking of the availability of the two cardinals (Cardinal John Tong Hon and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun) who could be appointed as administrators. 
Hence, when the news arrived of Bishop Michael’s death on January 3, Rome appointed Cardinal Tong as apostolic administrator. But they needed one more day to pass on the decree. 
I have seen a lot of rumours in the media that the appointment was politically influenced, which is not true. If the diocesan College of Consulters had already elected a diocesan administrator, Rome would not have overruled that decision. 
Cardinal Tong has always been at the service of the Holy See over the past 10 years and he is also a member of various commissions under the Holy See. He accepted the decision of the Holy See.
I admired Bishop Michael for his hard work and utmost care on even minute issues. Till the end, he was not cancelling any of his appointments, Masses, preparing his homilies, attending to the issues of Caritas, being the chaplain of the Order of Malta. 
It had been heavy for him especially when he was sick. Yet he would say, “I want to do this…!” He had the Diocese of Hong Kong in his hands. To his brother who lives in Canada and wanted to come to Hong Kong to spend some time with the bishop, he said: “Don’t come, I am not free. I have no time for you!”
On the appointment of a new bishop for Hong Kong
The process of finding a new bishop started long before the death of Bishop Michael. In fact, during his ad-limina visit, Bishop Michael reminded the Holy Father that earlier, there were two auxiliary bishops to assist the bishop, but that now he had only one. Therefore, the process was already on. 
Whoever is appointed as the bishop of Hong Kong will be good for the local and universal Church and in good relationship with the local clergy and the faithful; persons who are learned in Canon Law and theology—moral and doctrinal. We may not find the perfect candidate, but we look for the most suitable candidate. 
The civil authority has no role in the appointment of bishops here. As per the practice, we inform the civil authorities one day prior regarding the appointment , however, we are not seeking any authorisation. 
Now my office has finished our work and has passed it on to the Holy See. It has to go through the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and to the Holy Father. Hopefully, by Easter we will have some information in this regard. 
Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, will ordain Monsignor Jozic an archbishop on May 1 in his native diocese of Split in Croatia. 
(A complete version of the interview will appear in the subsequent issues of the Sunday Examiner

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