HONG KONG (SE): Bishop John Tong Hon was elevated to the rank of cardinal on February 18, at a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, together with 21 others from around the world.
He and Archbishop George Alencherry, the major archbishop of Ernakulam in Kerala, India, were the only two representatives from Asia.
However, Bishop Tong joined Paul Cardinal Shan Kuo-hsi, from Taiwan, and Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, as one of three living Chinese cardinals.
However, as Cardinal Zen has already turned 80-years-of-age and Cardinal Shan is 90, so, at 72, the newly-created Cardinal Tong is the only one of the three qualified to join a conclave for a new pope or serve in an official capacity as a cardinal.
In his homily at a thanksgiving Mass celebrated on February 19 with the new cardinals, Pope Benedict XVI told the new cardinals that they have already served with wisdom and generosity in difficult dioceses or positions, but are now being honoured as cardinals to honour the communities and nations from which they come.
“The scarlet bestowed upon us reminds us… not so much of the greatness of the wearer… but the profound mystery of the suffering Jesus, covered by his captors with a scarlet cloak, and thus presented before Pilate, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,” newly-created cardinal and former member of the Vatican study mission in Hong Kong, Fernando Cardinal Filoni, said on February 19.
After leaving Hong Kong, Cardinal Filoni was appointed to Baghdad, Iraq, where he remained throughout the United States of America-led invasion of 2003. He is currently the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in the Vatican.
The pope compared the creation of new cardinals with the image of the Rock of Peter. In response to St. Peter’s profession of faith, which is done in the name of all the apostles, Christ names his mission as being a visible foundation on which the spiritual edifice of the Church is built.
Pope Benedict noted that this is not a personal honour, but a statement that St. Peter would become something that in terms of his flesh and blood he was not.
The pope explained this concept in reference to Abraham. Quoting from the prophet, Isaiah, he said, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn… look to your father Abraham (51:1-2).
He then went on to speak of the Altar of the Chair, a Vatican treasure, which, Pope Benedict said, “Represents a vision of the essence of the Church and the place within the Church of the Petrine Magisterium.”
He pointed out that the Church does not exist for its own sake. “She is not the point of arrival, but she has to point upwards, beyond herself,” he explained.
“A selfish faith would be an unreal faith,” Pope Benedict continued. He said that it requires people to live according to the logic of gift. “True faith is illumined by love and leads towards love.”
He then spoke of the window in the apse above the chair, which he noted represents both the light of the Holy Spirit and the openness of the Church to reach outwards, towards the whole of creation.
Pope Benedict described this as the logic of Christ, which is also the logic of the new cardinals, representing absolute love and dedication for the world through faith.
‘The scarlet bestowed upon us reminds us… not so much of the greatness of the wearer… but the profound mystery of the suffering Jesus, covered by his captors with a scarlet cloak, and thus presented before Pilate, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death’