Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Synod on the New Evangelization has just started, but already the difficult situation of secularization, lack of certainties and the spiritual quest is being seen not only a challenge, but a good opportunity for Christian witness. This was underlined by Card. John Tong, Bishop of Hong Kong, introducing the work of the Synod in the first session, held on 8 October. The Cardinal is one of the three presidents of the assembly, chosen by Benedict XVI. He recalled the missionary task of the Church in Hong Kong, which receives every year about three thousand candidates for baptism, with similar numbers in Macau and China, thanks to the help and the testimony of many lay people.
Here is the full text of Card. Tong's intervention:
Dear Holy Father, On behalf of the Synod Fathers and participants, I would like to extend our heartfelt greetings and deep gratitude to you for inviting us to this Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith is really an urgent topic, because many people in the world still do not know Our Lord Jesus Christ, and many of the baptized have given up the practice of their faith. Fifty years ago, the Second Vatican Council encouraged us to launch out into the deep (Lk 5:4). Today, in a similar way, we must take the Early Church community (Acts 2:42-47) as our model of evangelization. The members of that community possessed three qualities which can be expressed in three Greek words: didache, koinonia and diakonia. Didache means doctrine, which is not just a theory, but rather a personal taking on of the incarnate, crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Koinonia means communion on different levels: fundamentally with God; and then with all the members of the Church; and further with the people of the whole world, particularly with the poor. Diakonia means service of which Jesus instructs us not to be served but to serve and even to the total gift of self, leading to the cross. (cf. Mt 20:28)
These three qualities have been manifested in Hong Kong, Macao and Mainland China. In Hong Kong, before the return of the sovereignty of the city to China in 1997, many families faced crises caused by fear of living under the Communist regime. The term "crisis" in the Chinese language is made up of two characters "danger" and "opportunity." Thus, facing the crisis of insecurity, even non-practicing Catholics returned to the Church for spiritual support. And many faithful attended catechesis, Bible and theology courses to deepen their own faith and to be evangelizers. Today our diocese has more than a thousand well-trained volunteer-catechists. This year more than three thousand adults received baptism at the Easter Vigil. Macao, our neighboring diocese, has made similar efforts and has seen an increase in the number of baptisms in recent years. In northern China, a parish priest in the countryside shared with me his experience of evangelization. After much prayer, he decided to divide the parishioners into two groups with different missions. He gave the newly baptized the mission to bring their non-Catholic friends and relatives to learn the catechesis, and to the long-time Catholics the mission of teaching the catechism to the catechumens. During the teaching, this priest prayed fervently in the church.
Eventually, the parish witnessed more than a thousand baptisms a year. Among the characteristics of didache, koinonia and diakonia as exemplified in the Early Church and reflected in the testimonies given above, didache seems to me the most important, because God works through us as His witnesses. Nowadays, facing a materialistic culture in the world, and the problem of many fallen-away Catholics in the Church, we must be zealous witnesses of our faith. We must also pay attention to the youth, as the Holy Father frequently reminds us: "Let the young people be evangelizers of the youth". God's salvific plan is amazing. I am sure that, with faith, hope and love, we will succeed in our mission of evangelization. Dear Holy Father, the Synod Fathers and participants, thank you for your kind attention. Looking forward to hearing your testimonies.