Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A thanksgiving mass celebrated in Hong Kong cathedral by Card. Joseph Zen and a conference on the current challenges to evangelisation in China, will draw to a close celebrations marking the 150 years of the presence of missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) this evening.
Already yesterday in the PIME House of Clear Water Bay, in the New Territories, there was a moment of prayer and “family party”. Before 150 guests, the historic moment was marked and a special stone unveiled recalling the 207 PIME missionaries who have set foot on local soil over the course of the past one and a half centuries. Cardinal Joseph Zen, coadjutor bishop Msgr. John Tong and the main ecclesial authorities of the diocese were present long with lay and religious representatives and local clergy.
The PIME missionaries, once known as the Missionaries of Milan, began their adventure in Hong Kong and China on April 10th 1858 with the arrival of Fr. Paolo Reina, from Saronno, the first missionary to set foot on Hong Kong soil.
From a handful of Catholics, the diocese has blossomed to count circa 350 thousand faithful, along with 100 thousand Philippine immigrants, as well as 4 thousand baptised each year.
During the chanting of the Te Deum prayer, Bishop John Tong thanked the PIME missionaries for having nurtured the largest Chinese diocese in the world: “You should be very proud of your work – he said – and we hope that you will continue to serve the Hong Kong church, and that here you feel at home”.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, expressed his admiration for Msgr. Enrico Valtorta and Msgr. Lorenzo Bianchi, the two missionary bishops of Hong Kong who he personally knew.
Fr. Sergio Ticozzi traced the stages of the PIME mission, underlining that the community in Hong Kong is very attentive to China and its people, both through the study of the territory and through presence on the ground.
The deacon of the mission Fr. Quirino De Ascaniis, who this year celebrates his 100th birthday and 75 years as a missionary, was also present. A native of Giulianova (Teramo), loved by all for his truly evangelical simplicity, the priest received a long message from the Cardinal Secretary of State Tracisio Bertone and a blessing from the Holy Father Benedict XVI, brought from Italy by the Bishop of Teramo, Msgr. Michele Seccia.
The Italian ambassador to Beijing, Riccardo Sessa, and the Italian consul in Hong Kong were also present at the event.
Lay figures who have long contributed generously to the PIME mission also took part, expressing their gratitude as Hong Kong Catholics for the priceless work of the missionaries, particularly in announcing the Gospel.
All guests were gifted a copy of the historic illustrated From Milan to Hong Kong, 150 years of Mission, written for the occasion.