04/12/2008, 00.00
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Cardinal Zen: from the 150 years of the PIME, an impulse to evangelise the world

by Gianni Criveller
Also present at the Mass in the cathedral, the bishop of Macao and of Teramo, in addition to more than 1,200 faithful. Reviewing the stages of the Church's growth in Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen emphasises the urgency of raising up evangelisers in the territory for China and for the world.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - More than 1,200 people took part yesterday evening in the celebration at the cathedral for the 150 year anniversary of the PIME in Hong Kong.  The Mass was presided over by Cardinal Joseph Zen, and was followed by a round table discussion of the urgent evangelisation needs of the territory, China, and the world.

After the ceremony on April 10, held at the PIME House, and reserved for authorities and friends, the celebration moved to the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built by Timoleone Raimondi, the first bishop of the PIME in Hong Kong, which this year commemorates the 120th anniversary of its inauguration.

More than 100 priests participated in the Mass of thanksgiving.  Together with Cardinal Zen, there were also his coadjutor bishop, John Tong, Josè Lai, bishop of Macao, and the bishop of Teramo, Michele Seccia, who came to Hong Kong to celebrate the 100th birthday, and 75 years of mission, of Fr Quirino de Ascaniis, a member of his diocese.  The cathedral was crowded with faithful, who wanted to express their closeness, affection, and thanksgiving to the missionaries of the PIME. Fr Carlo Tei, who this year celebrates his 50th year as a priest, read in Cantonese the 'protest' of Giovanni Mazzucconi, the prayer that each missionary of the PIME reads on the eve of his departure for the missions, in which he asks the Lord that he may be able to offer his entire life, to the point of martyrdom, for the proclamation the Gospel.

Cardinal Zen, taking his inspiration from the biblical readings, emphasised the motives that drive missionaries to leave their own land in order to evangelise the world.  The Cardinal recalled that among the Italian missionaries there has always been a special fondness for China.  "It is the Lord", John said to Peter, pointing out the risen Christ (cf. John 21:1-14 ).  "It is for the Lord", the cardinal explained, "that missionaries have left their families, have risked their lives on dangerous voyages, have confronted sacrifices and sufferings, including prison and death.  It is the Lord who is the author of the work of evangelisation".

Missionary work is of the Lord because it is not generated by human initiative, but by a calling from above, as demonstrated by the experience and example of the apostle Paul, recounted in Acts 20:17-35.  Missionaries, like St. Paul, give their entire selves to follow their vocation and carry out the work of God.

The bishop of Hong Kong then thanked the PIME for "having believed in the local church", for having entrusted the leadership of the diocese to the local clergy, instead of holding onto its own structures or positions of ultimate responsibility.

After a buffet at the Caritas centre, adjacent to the cathedral, there followed a round table discussion presided over by Annie Lam, a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Culture and the director of UCAN.  More than 500 people took part in it.  Three missionaries of the PIME (Gianni Giampietro, Dino Doimo, Renzo Milanese) participated in a dialogue with three prestigious representatives of the local Church (Sr Beatrice Leung, Fr John Kwan, and prof. Anthony Lam).

The key element of the various remarks was evangelisation.  The proclamation of the Gospel is a work that the missionaries of the PIME have carried out for 150 years, and is now also a vocation in which the local church, and all the laity, are called to take part.

Fr Giampietro recalled how the PIME is a guest in Hong Kong, although for a period of time it had the responsibility of leading the church.  Now the mission must be continued by everyone, with no exceptions. Fr Doimo illustrated how Jesus formed his disciples in order to then send them out as apostles.  Thus the missionaries of the PIME are committed to forming Christian communities so that these may be communities of apostles.  There is, therefore, no contradiction between pastoral service and missionary activity: they are the two aspects of the same work, of which Jesus remains leader and teacher.

Fr Milanese recalled that social and educational services are part of the mission of the church, and that the PIME remains at the service of the diocese, following the instructions of the bishop and exercising a "prophetic role".

Sr Beatrice Leung made a comparison between the Church of Taiwan and that of Hong Kong, since 1950 until today.  For Sr Leung, the church of Hong Kong has had the fortune of having an authoritative, unified guide that has coordinated all of its activity and service, without fragmentation and partisan interest.  Furthermore, the church of Hong Kong, unlike that of Taiwan, grew and matured in connection with the territory, a true local Church, not feeling itself like "a Chinese church in exile".  All of this is to the credit of the PIME, Sr Leung said, while criticising the institute for not having created a Catholic university, although she acknowledged the great educational efforts made in the 1950's, in collaboration with the government at the time.

Fr Kwan emphasised the duty of the laity to be missionaries, even more so than the priests, who are often occupied with pastoral duties.

Prof. Anthony Lam, a researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre, emphasised that the PIME has made a great contribution to education, not by founding its own schools, but schools for the diocese.  He also recalled the missionary efforts of the PIME in the media, used for the work of evangelisation, by creating diocesan newspapers and other means of spreading the Gospel message.

Cardinal Zen concluded the roundtable discussion, and emphasised that every Church must mature, and to reach maturity there is the need for a solid foundation and for time.  The full maturity of a community is seen when it is capable of forming and sending out missionaries to proclaim the Gospel.  For this reason, he expressed the hope that the Christian communities of Hong Kong may produce missionaries in order to continue the work of evangelisation all over the world.

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