Hong Kong gets eight new permanent deacons
Bishop Stephen Chow presided over the ordination. Cardinal Wu laid on his hands on the first in July 1997, a few days after Hong Kong returned to China. Now some 30 deacons are active in the city, an important sign for all of Asia, the continent with the lowest number of permanent deacons.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The Diocese of Hong Kong has eight new permanent deacons. Yesterday Bishop Stephen Chow Sau Yan ordained them in a solemn celebration held in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The new deacons join 22 other, mostly married men, who already carry out this ordained ministry in the Church of Hong Kong after it was reintroduced following the Second Vatican Council to support priests in the service of their brothers and sisters, like in the first Christian communities.
The Diocese of Hong Kong was the first in Asia to ordain permanent deacons when Card John Baptist Wu served as the local bishop in the 1990s, overcoming the initial resistance of most of the local clergy.
The ordination of the first permanent deacons took place in July 1997, a few days after Hong Kong, a British colony up to that time, was handed over to China.
Since those first steps, the situation has changed greatly. Today, the presence of permanent deacons in Hong Kong is viewed favourably by virtually everyone, as was clear last year when the first 25 years were celebrated.
Deacons carry out their ministry in parishes, but also in works of support for prisoners, the sick, and the homeless.
Of the first group, five have passed away while five others have retired because of advanced age, but in addition to the newly ordained other people have followed the training programme.
The eight new deacons are Gamaliel Cheng, Paul Lui, Thomas Lam, Vincent Chan, Paul Wat, Francis Tang, Stephen Yau, and Patrick Leung. All have come to the diaconate through experiences of service to the poor, each with their own story.
Liu was born into a non-Catholic family and came to the faith through Canossian nuns; Tang was a district councillor 20 years ago dealing with administrative issues; Leung was a karate champion who participated in international competitions; Chan served at the international airport; Yau has been going through a particularly painful experience, that of his wife's illness, but it was she who encouraged him to pursue his vocation.
Speaking about the deacons’ wives, Bishop Chow encouraged them to stand by and support their husbands through prayers; he also reassured them that the diocese will be close to them should the deacons encounter difficulties.
The presence of permanent deacons in Hong Kong is very significant in relation to the overall state of Asia’s Catholic Churches. According to the latest data in the Vatican Statistical Yearbook, only 281 of the 48,635 permanent deacons in the world are in Asia, the continent with the lowest number by far.
The experience of the permanent diaconate in Hong Kong is being closely monitored by churches in mainland China, which are struggling with an aging clergy and declining priestly vocations.
In 2016 the Council of Chinese Bishops – which is not recognised by the Holy See – held a special study meeting at the national seminary in Beijing to discuss the issue.
Some 50 people took part in the event, with representatives from 14 Chinese provinces like Hebei, Sichuan, Shandong, and Beijing. Also invited from Hong Kong were Father Dominic Chan Chi-Ming, chairman of the Diocesan Committee for the Permanent Diaconate, and Deacons Edwin Ng and Louis Wong.
Despite the gathering, there are still no permanent deacons in mainland China.
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