Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests! (Lk 2:14)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As Christmas is approaching, it is time for us to share once again with one another the joy of the Birth of our Saviour. Seeing the Infant Jesus in a manger, clothed in the love and tenderness of Mary and Joseph, I cannot help but praise the Lord in unison with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests!” (Lk 2:14) These two verses are my prayer to the Lord to thank Him for guiding the Diocese of Hong Kong in its evangelizing mission this year and in the future.
In February this year, I was honoured to be appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Cardinal, and later in October as one of the Presidents at the Synod of Bishops. I received these appointments not because of my competence, but rather because of the love of the Holy Father for China and his appreciation of the vigour and vitality of our faithful as manifested in various ways in evangelization. Indeed, at present our diocese has more than 1,000 volunteer catechists and others actively involved in the propagation of the faith. Thanks to their efforts in the Year of the Laity (2010-2012), we have learnt to our great delight that 3,500 adults received the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at Easter Vigil this year. Now that our diocese has inaugurated the Year of Faith, we should strive to deepen our faith and spirituality even more, in response to the Holy Father’s call. While aiming at our full transformation in Christ, let us join hands with our brothers and sisters in the Lord in bearing witness to our faith in our daily lives. In this way, we will not only bring the Gospel and God’s love to the people around us, but will also glorify God’s name by word and deed.
As you are well aware, during this year our diocese has twice conveyed our expectations and our suggestions to the new government of the Hong Kong SAR. It was on February 19 and September 23 respectively. Besides calling for an implementation of universal suffrage in the election of the Chief Executive and of the legislature, we urged the authorities to improve the current policies on housing, health care, education and retirement security. On top of such an earnest appeal, we emphasized: “Stable marriage and harmonious family life are prerequisites to safeguarding the well-being of society.” Following the constant teaching of the Catholic Church (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601-1605; 1609-1617; 1643-1654), we wish to reaffirm that marriage is a mutual self-giving and lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, whereby they form a family and enrich themselves, through the complementarity of body, mind and spirit, and a partnership embracing their whole life. While marriage is intended for the benefit of husband and wife, it is also directed towards the procreation and upbringing of children.
We must bear in mind that an intact and harmonious family builds upon the practice of virtues ─ sincerity, love and understanding ─ on the part of every member of the family. This personal growth in virtues and the strengthening of family relations should reach out to the social, national and global levels. As a classical Chinese proverb so wisely puts it, the well-being of human society hinges on four goals, which are to be achieved one by one: “self-cultivation, regulating one’s family, rightly governing one’s state and bringing peace to the entire world.” If we follow this advice of our ancestors and act accordingly, we will be able to experience God’s profound love for us and enjoy true peace and harmony on earth.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Holy Family of Nazareth is a model of our families. Let us therefore come to the Infant Jesus in the manger, and pray to Him for the grace to imitate the Holy Family. By setting the Holy Family as the unique model of our family life, we will certainly grow spiritually in the Year of Faith, and be able to enhance our communion and solidarity with one another, to bear more fruits in evangelization, and to foster the core values of marriage and the family in Hong Kong. May the Kingdom of God and the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ be realized on earth soon.
Wishing all of you a joyful and peaceful Christmas and New Year.
+John Card. TONG
Bishop of Hong Kong