Pastoral Letter of Cardinal John Tong
Electoral Reform and the Well-Being of Hong Kong Society

Pastoral Letter of Cardinal John Tong

Electoral Reform and the Well-Being of Hong Kong Society
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
(Rom 12:12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Peace of the Lord be with you!

The well-being of Hong Kong society includes all the things, material and spiritual, that contribute to integral human development and the common good.

As I said in my Pastoral Letter of 15 August last year, electoral reform and universal suffrage are also our concerns as Christians because “a sound political system is intimately linked with the well-being of society.”1

The day is fast approaching when the Government’s controversial electoral reform package for the election of the Chief Executive will be put to the vote in the Legislative Council, with or without amendments.

There is wide-spread concern over the package and the current impasse. The community’s anxieties are aggravated by pressing livelihood and other social issues which the Diocese has, more than once, identified as also requiring urgent attention and action.2

At this critical moment, I find it especially necessary to entrust ourselves to God through prayer.  That is why two weeks ago I already invited the faithful to attend a solemn Evening Prayer for the well-being of Hong Kong society to be held at our Cathedral, Caine Road, at 8:00 pm on this coming Sunday (Trinity Sunday).  Once more I urge the faithful to join us on this occasion.  Indeed, in good times or bad we are called upon to pray always.  As St. Paul has taught us: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Rom 12:12).  Likewise, we have to give thanks to God, who is rich in mercy, for the hope given to us in Christ Jesus.  St. Paul has assured us: “the God of all comfort … comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1: 3-4).

Furthermore, the Diocese believes that through earnest dialogue and responsible action “it is possible to implement in Hong Kong an electoral model that is genuinely democratic, whereby we can break the present electoral reform deadlock, promote the common good, and further the people’s love of Hong Kong and of the country”3

In line with Gospel values, the Diocese has affirmed that that “justice cannot be achieved by confrontation or violence, but by mutual dialogue and the concerted, peaceful efforts of all parties concerned”4.

At the same time, the Diocese believes that there can be no true or sustainable peace and stability in society without justice.  Thus, on the matter of electoral reform, the Diocese has made it clear that the “ultimate aim” of universal suffrage as mandated by the Basic Law cannot be realized unless, among other things, the nominating committee is truly “broadly representative” and the procedures adopted are genuinely “democratic”.5   There should be no unreasonable or unjust restrictions to the choice of candidates.

In taking such a stance the Diocese is focusing on broad general principles rather than on the specifics of any particular model.  It has made it plain that “it is for individual members of the faithful to choose their own options … through prayers and personal reflections, in the light of the Gospel and in line with the social teaching of the Catholic Church”6.

As Pope Francis has emphasized recently, whilst Catholics are strongly encouraged to participate in politics, “the Church is not a political party”. 7  The Diocese accordingly sees its role quite differently from that of a political party.

Thus, in the prevailing circumstances, instead of asking Lawmakers to reject outright or “pocket first” any specific package as the case may be, the Diocese wishes to make three recommendations:

First, that positive encouragement be given to all concerned to work together to address the causes behind the polarized positions, including misunderstanding, misrepresentation and distrust.

Second, that a concerted effort be made to remedy the democratic deficit and other perceived deficiencies in the current electoral reform package.

Third, regardless of whether the package is passed or rejected, that our faithful continue to pray for and support fresh efforts to find constitutionally sound and morally just solutions that will contribute to the peace and well-being of Hong Kong society.

I therefore humbly ask you to join me in reflection and prayer, invoking God’s merciful help and blessing on the Hong Kong SAR at a critical juncture of its history.  I extend this invitation to all Christians and indeed to all people of good will who believe in the power of prayer.  Never underestimate the power of prayer!

Pray for wisdom and discernment, that we may see what is truly good for Hong Kong society, have the strength to pursue it and the courage to speak the truth with clarity and charity.

Pray that those in authority will always use their power in the service of all people but especially the powerless, the marginalized, the disenfranchised and those most in need.

Pray that the young, who are the future of Hong Kong, will not be feel cheated and betrayed by their elders or those in authority or be driven to despair and desperation by a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

Pray that when it comes to that crucial vote, our Lawmakers will act in accordance with their conscience and what they honestly and reasonably believe to be for the common good, and that their judgment be right and true.

Pray that whatever the outcome of the vote, there will still be hope for a better tomorrow.
May God bless you all!

+ John Card. TONG
30 May 2015

1  Para. 1, Section A of Pastoral Letter of 15 August 2014.

2  See, for example, Public Statements of Diocese of 19 February 2012 and 13 September 2012.

3 Para. 6 of Section A of Pastoral Letter of 15 August 2014.

4 Para. 3 of Section A, Pastoral Letter of 15 August 2014.

5 The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong Statement Regarding Universal Suffrage and Civil Disobedience; see also paras. 1, 4 , 5 and 6 of Section A of Pastoral Letter of 15 August 2014; see also Section B, ibid., which says:  “We fully agree that the building up of a truly democratic and accountable system of government will certainly enhance the legitimacy of the SAR Government and its effective governance”.

6 See opening 2nd para. of Pastoral Letter of 15 August 2014.

7  Papal Audience with members of Italy’s Christian Life Community and the Student Missionary League, 30 April 2015; see Sunday Examiner, 10 May 2015, p.1.

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