HONG KONG (SE): “I thank each one of you for your presence, which reflects your appreciation of the important work that Pope Francis is carrying out to unite us all under the cross of Jesus,” the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, said in welcoming guests to a gala concert at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to mark the 80th birthday of the pope on December 18.
He thanked the performers of the Solomusica Chorus and Strings Orchestra for sharing their talent, not only in celebrating the birthday of the pope, but also in helping to prepare the community to welcome the Christ child at Christmas.
In wishing all a blessed Christmas, Cardinal Tong also wished many happy returns to the pope.
A cast, including conductor and baritone, Davide Damiani; sopranos, Alga Makarina, Gladys Long Ka-ho and Harmony Chen; organist, Francssca Ajossa; and A Cappella Choir; provided an evening featuring excerpts from the Mass by Haydn, and some traditional favourites of Christmas by J.F. Wade, S.F. Adams and L. Stipisici rounded out the performance.
The director of the programme, Andrea Bettinelli, from Strategic Planning, said that 1,200 people had shoehorned themselves into the cathedral for the live performance and in addition, 6,800 watched it on live stream through the Diocesan Audio Visual Centre channel.
“This is proof that music played with love and for a meaningful cause, can unite and touch the hearts of many,” he commented.
The director of the Holy See Study Centre in Hong Kong, Monsignor Ante Jozic, pointed out that one of the highlights of the evening was the coming together of artists of differing faiths in order to sing for the pope on the occasion of his birthday.
The actual day of the birth of Pope Francis is December 17. While it was mostly business as usual for him on his special day, he began with breakfast with eight homeless people from four different nationalities living around St. Peter’s Square.
The four Italians, one Moldovan, two Peruvians and one Romanian were invited to join him at his residence. More treats were to come, as he also sent a special dessert to the many soup kitchens around the city so their guests might enjoy something to remember the taste of his birthday.
The concert in Hong Kong, which was organised by the diocese in conjunction with the Holy See Study Mission, left the gathering with a taste of a different kind to remember Pope Francis by on his 80th birthday.
Many happy returns.