Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Newly created Card. John Tong of Hong Kong has reiterated the "Bridge-church" role of the diocese of Hong Kong and has asked the faithful to pray for the reopening of China-Vatican dialogue.
The 72-year-old cardinal told his faithful that the concern for the Church in China is one of his four pastoral concerns. The other three are: evangelization, vocation promotion to the priesthood and religious life, and caring for the non-Chinese Catholics in the diocese.
Taking up the role of "Bridge Church", the local Church is helping the mainland Church to have better formation, reconcile among themselves and achieve full communion with the Holy Father and the Universal Church, the Hong Kong-born prelate noted.
The local Church will promote this mission for the Church in China "in a prudent and discreet manner", he told hundreds of Catholics, including mainland Chinese, who packed the cathedral here at a Mass on March 3 that celebrated his elevation to the College of Cardinals on Feb. 18.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, Bishop Jose Lai of Macau, officials from the Holy See and local priests from the diocese concelebrated. Pastors from the other Christian Churches in Hong Kong also participated in the liturgy.
Cardinal Tong recalled in 1986, Blessed Pope John Paul II decided to send envoys to negotiate with the Chinese government with vigor and patience, but this dialogue was halted once due to the Canonization of Chinese Martyrs in 2000. Now, the dialogue is again disrupted due to the two illicit episcopal ordinations in 2011, which had forced the Holy See to declare the excommunication of the two clerics involved in accordance with Canon Law. "We have to look forward to the future. Only with an open and sincere dialogue can the problems be solved and a win-win result be achieved," he said.
The cardinal called for prayers for "the reopening of the China-Vatican dialogue" and for "the graces bestowed upon the excommunicated, so that their early repentance could bring reconciliation in our Church and thus the wounds of our Church could be healed."
On March 2, he told the press that he had recently expressed to the Chinese officials the importance of exchange and dialogue. China is moving toward a greater economic freedom, but its religious policy is still strict, and he is optimistic for China to improve religious freedom, he said.
However, he is confident that "if Catholics in China were to enjoy full freedom of religious belief and activities, they would not only be able to contribute more fruitfully to the well-being of society, but would also earn for their Motherland a higher reputation in the international community."
Regarding his elevation, Cardinal Tong said, "I feel inadequate yet grateful" and the appointment is both "an honor and a responsibility". He said the diocese is committed "to establish a society respecting human dignity, with special care for the weak and the marginalized", as shown in the diocese's public statement issued on Feb. 19 (see here). This also expressed hope for the democratic development and social policies of the next government of Hong Kong.
On evangelization, he said both "quantity" of believers and "quality" of faith are important as the Church will prepare the local Catholics to better serve society and the Church.
Each year, there are more than 6 thousand baptisms, with half being adult baptisms. The population of Catholics in Hong Kong numbers 540 thousand, including 180 thousand non-Chinese Catholics.
The cardinal also encouraged all parishes to have at least one English Mass on Sundays to accommodate more non-Chinese Catholics.
* Annie Lam is a member of Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.