HONG KONG (SE): As he gathered with the priests, deacons, people and religious of his diocese at the Chrism Mass on the morning of April 13, Holy Thursday, the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, invited the priests and deacons to renew the vows of their ordination.
With retirement on the cards by the end of July for Cardinal Tong, it was the last occasion on which he would stand among his people at Easter as a sign of the unity of the diocese and to bless the oils that will be used during the year for the administration of the sacraments.
By the end of July he will step aside to allow his coadjutor, Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, to take over the reins as the head of the diocese.
Cardinal Tong addressed the gathering on the important role the priest plays among the people of a Christian community, saying that he represents a Church that is sent to serve others, as the anointed one that Isaiah speaks of who is sent to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to those in prison.
And he serves the people of God by bringing the word of God and the sacraments to them in their living out of their vocation to the royal priesthood of baptism.
He described the priest as the one who is anointed with the oil of gladness and sent to serve, which he does in giving time, energy and joy to offering himself to the poor and oppressed and also at the altar of the Lord, the fruit of which is abundant.
The cardinal then stressed that the same Lord continues to call workers into his vineyard and reminded the people that there is a big challenge in the diocese to create a culture of vocation, especially among the young people.
In urging the people to pray, he reminisced on his own childhood in Guangzhou and how he was inspired by the missionary priests he knew there. He remembered that it was a time of war and the priests were not selective about who they reached out to, enemy and friend, soldier and civilian alike.
Cardinal Tong added that young people need this type of inspiration too and we need to develop a culture of vocation where they can be inspired.
In urging that this become a special intention during the prayer of the Church in Hong Kong over this Easter period, the cardinal said that priests touch people’s hearts and help them to get closer to God.
He also prayed for the new administration in Hong Kong, asking that it will listen to all voices in the city and work to protect the freedom of religion and speech, as well as respect the Church in its legislation.
As he concluded his last talk with the people at the special Mass of Holy Thursday, he simply asked them, “Pray for me.”