Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - It is in a spirit of "poverty" and "frugality" that Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop of Hong Kong, has addressed a letter to the faithful on the occasion of Christmas. Analyzing the global financial situation, which has deteriorated into a serious crisis, the cardinal calls upon believers to put aside sumptuous meals and expensive gifts - to which he is not opposed in principle - in order to live the deep meaning of the holiday.
The savior was born in a manger, warmed by his mother's embrace and by the faithfulness with which his father Joseph carried out the duty entrusted to him. According to the bishop of Hong Kong, "the spirit of poverty" and the "virtue of frugality" are the means by which to "defeat poverty" and face the current situation of crisis.
Here is the letter from Cardinal Zen to the faithful of his diocese:
Christmas pastoral letter from our bishop
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ
If I were to act in conformity with the market rescue policy of spending more, then I would encourage the faithful to be liberal in emptying their purses, buying expensive Christmas gifts and enjoying a sumptuous Christmas dinner with the family. But what I am going to say this Christmas is radically different, because I think what Christmas reveals is poverty and frugality. I do not oppose buying expensive gifts or indulging in sumptuous dinners, but this year, as we remember the Christ, who was born in a manger, let us reflect on what the root cause of the present financial tsunami is. Is it not over-consumption, greed for easy money, irresponsible financial management, refusal by government officials to answer to the people or to fulfill their responsibilities in financial market control?
Over-consumption: Many people spend money before they earn it and their expenses exceed their incomes.
Greed for easy money: It is difficult to tell the difference between investment and gambling. Ordinary citizens use their savings to buy shares, but of course, high returns always involve high risks.
Financial management is no longer a mechanism to underpin the real economy. Unscrupulous manipulators fabricate poisonous products. The government collaborates with business. The market is fast becoming extreme laissez-faire capitalism. Financial bubbles will burst sooner of later and suddenly, we discover that prosperity is an illusion. The financial system has collapsed and people have lost confidence, with everyone trying to save themselves.
In this situation the very rich can hold onto their devalued stock titles and wait for another chance to make money. But the real economy has already been damaged. Medium and small enterprises have already gone out of business. Ordinary people have already lost their jobs and cannot meet their home mortgage payments or even feed their families.
The message of Christmas is poverty and frugality.
Christ encourages us to forget ourselves, to have concern for our poor brothers and sisters and let everyone have a warm and serene Christmas. But Christ also gives us a radical secret to escape poverty permanently: It is the spirit of poverty, the virtue of frugality.
There was no place at the inn for Joseph and his pregnant wife, who already was near her time. The baby Jesus was born in a manger, but he still smiled at his mother. In his mother’s embrace he felt as though he had never left heaven. The tenderness and fidelity of Joseph gave the baby Jesus a sense of security, which was much stronger than the protection of thousands of royal guards. Warmth and affection are the greatest wealth.
St. Paul, in his letter to his beloved disciple, Titus, said, “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce Godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age” (Tit 2:11-12).
Man is more precious than wealth. The Saviour was born for everyone, for me, for you and for the least of our brethren.
Joseph Cardinal Zen