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Dialogue and culture are top priority Cardinal Tong insists


HONG KONG (SE): The appeal from the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Fernando Cardinal Filoni, to the authorities in Beijing to reopen a dialogue with the Holy See highlights an extremely important issue, the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, told Vatican Insider on October 28 in Rome.

Cardinal Tong said that it is necessary to continue pushing dialogue. “In situations such as this dialogue is more needed than ever,” he told Gerard O’Connell.

He stressed that the lone voice of the Chinese Church at the synod, which came in written form from 90-year-old Bishop Lucas Li Jingeng, from Fengxiang, does not add up to a representation from a Church of significant size in Asia.

He added that the birdcage bishop in Shanghai, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who the authorities will not allow to exercise his role as a bishop, is another example of the great need for dialogue between the authorities in the world’s most populous nation and the governing centre of one of the world’s biggest religions.

However, he added that the need for dialogue is much wider than China.

Cardinal Tong explained that he believes that the Church must dialogue on four particular issues, culture,, poverty and the Chinese government.

He said that at the recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome great attention was paid to culture, specifically the culture of the people.

“As you know, 400 years ago Matteo Ricci was successful in bringing our Christian faith into China, because he understood that in the Chinese culture friendship is greatly appreciated and so he wrote a book on Friendship (De Amicitia),” Cardinal Tong said.

He added that Father Ricci used his insights into the people’s culture to build friendships and find a way of introducing the message of Christianity into society.

“I think we still have to pay attention to our culture. Chinese traditional culture and teaching is still valid for today’s Chinese societies like Hong Kong,” he reflected.

He added that classical Chinese teaching closely matches biblical teaching, so our preaching should be able to be couched within Chinese cultural mores and values, which would resonate more clearly with the people.

He pointed out that dialogue with culture, religions and poverty has been a long standing policy of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and also a value supported by nearly all Asian bishops.

Cardinal Tong said that the stress on language is another important thing to come out of the synod, as the Church has to communicate with a secularised society and needs a language that is comprehensible to people, especially the young.

“I understand that this is a problem in China too,” he commented.

Nevertheless, he pointed to what he called the positive side of secularisation as being the challenge to identify what is common in everyday life.

He said that the Church must talk to people about the things they are interested in, just as Father Ricci did 400 years ago.

“When it comes to preaching in church, we can use this kind of language and help (people) see the positive aspects of these important, secular things, so that it can lead them to God and to gospel values, through their practical, everyday lives,” Cardinal Tong concluded.


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