Dear brothers, sisters and friends in Christ,
Christmas is the time of caring. If we implement the spirit of Christmas throughout the year, I am sure we will be doing our part to make our world better and more humane.
The Lord Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room for his parents in the inn. Nowadays, many people in Hong Kong are having great difficulty in finding a place to live.
We hope and pray that our government, wealthy people and business groups will strive to solve such an urgent problem as housing, which is a basic need and right of every family,
Recently, a two-year old girl in mainland China was run over by two cars. The two drivers and 18 people passed by without paying any attention to her. A garbage collector carried the little girl in her arms to a hospital where she died after a few days. This case is a warning call to us to get rid of our selfishness and to be more concerned for those in need.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta appealed to us: Let us spread love to all those whom we meet. Our small gestures of encouragement, our smile and our warm embrace, all give witness to the love of God.
Our diocese has extended the Year of the Laity for one more year, with emphasis on the participation of the laity in the ministry of the Church. We often ask ourselves what we should do in the Year of the Laity.
Recently, I reread the Letter to the Catholic Church in China, which was issued by our current Holy Father in 2007, to find the relevant instructions. I am happy to tell you that, in the final section of the papal letter, the Holy Father encourages the entire Church in China, including the laity in Hong Kong, to respond to the call to mission bravely and generously.
Thus, the Holy Father advises us to emphasise the Christian initiation of adults via an appropriate period of catechumenate and teaches us to promote family values.
He re-affirms that Catholics should be good disciples and give witness to the gospel as well as be good citizens who serve their society. Now let me share with you some important sentences from the papal letter.
“The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to bear witness to the gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the missionary ardour of her founder and teacher” (17.1).
“For 2,000 years Christ’s followers have carried out this mission” (17.2).
“Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous” (17.3).
Regarding Christian initiation of adults
“Pastors are called to devote particular care to their Christian initiation via an appropriate and serious period of catechumenate aimed at helping them and preparing them to lead the life of Jesus’ disciples” (16.1).
“Evangelisation is never purely intellectual communication, but rather includes experience of life, purification and transformation of the whole of existence and a journey in communion” (16.2).
“Many adults have not always been sufficiently initiated into the complete truth of Christian life… It therefore seems necessary and urgent to offer them a solid and thorough Christian formation in the shape of a post-baptismal catechumenate” (16.3).
Regarding the lay faithful and the family
“In the most difficult periods of the recent history of the Catholic Church in China, the lay faithful, both as individuals and families, and as members of spiritual and apostolic movements, have shown total fidelity to the gospel, even paying a personal price for their faithfulness to Christ… You are called, today too, to incarnate the gospel in your lives and to bear witness to it by means of generous and effective service for the good of the people and for the development of the country: and you will accomplish this mission by living as honest citizens” (15.1).
“Since the future of humanity passes by way of the family, I consider it indispensable and urgent that lay people should promote family values and safeguard the needs of the family” (15.2).
If we can apply the instruction of the Holy Father’s letterin our diocese, parish, family and individual lives, then it will not be difficult to realise the three goals of the Year of the Laity: to make ourselves holy, to sanctify others and to transform the world.
Merry Christmas! I will remember you as I celebrate Mass on Christmas Eve.
+ John Tong
Bishop of Hong Kong