Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – At the age of 99, the dean of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Fr. Quirino De Ascaniis, celebrated this December together with the Church in Hong Kong the 75th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. During his mission he witnessed first hand, events which gave birth to modern China.
The anniversary was celebrated by Hong Kong’s bishop, card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, and auxiliary Msgr. John Tong, with a thanksgiving mass and reception at the local Caritas: together with him another 38 religious.
Fr. De Ascaniis was born in Giulianova, in the province of Teramo, on August 5th 1908. In 1929, he entered PIME, three years later he was ordained a priest: he left for the diocese of Hong Kong on September 8th 1933, on a tall ship of three masts, called Conte Rosso.
On reaching his destination he dedicated himself to his pastoral work and the evangelisation of the Chinese people [at the time the territory was geographically and legally under the domain of the Chinese and not Britain ed] until the Japan-China war broke out.
Arrested in 1941 by Chinese troops along with other foreign religious, he was freed by the Japanese a year later. Once free, he persevered with his pastoral work which however, is once again interrupted by the seizure of power by Maoist troops.
In 1951 he is imprisoned together with the then bishop, Msgr. Bianchi (PIME), and other confreres. On their release they are forced to remain within the limits of British territory of Hong Kong. Since then Fr. De Ascaniis has dedicated himself to the area of Saikung and to the Church of the Rosari, where he was parish priest for decades. During the course of his missionary work, only twice did he return to Italy, for short periods.
Fifteen years ago, marking the 60 anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, he wrote a letter to Fr. Giampiero Bruni (a member of PIME board of directors in the early ‘90’s): “It is not by my doing that I have reached this age, it is a gift from God, for which I am most grateful. I confess that I feel the weight of the years and I long for heavenly rest, which is eternal … but I remain firmly at the service of God’s will, because there, in God’s will, lies my happiness”.
(In the photo, card. Zen embraces Fr.De Ascaniis during ceremonies marking the anniversary of his priestly ordination)