Blessings to all families and people in need
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord
The prayer of Advent has enriched our lives and opened our hearts for the celebration of Christmas.
Christmas reminds us of the coming of Jesus Christ into history and, as a pilgrim Church we await the second coming of the Prince of Peace, sharing “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties” of the people (Gaudium et Spes, 1), and bringing them the light of life.
My two previous pastoral letters at Christmas and Easter were on the theme of family and this one is no exception.
At such important Church festivities families pray together and take part in the liturgies celebrating the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, which are moments of grace for the family, where they “proclaim the good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Luke 2:10).
My four pastoral priorities; evangelisation, promoting vocation and concern for non-Chinese Catholics, as well as acting as a “Bridge Church” to the Church in China, can be viewed from the dimension of concern for the family.
We thank God for the effort of our 1,000 volunteer catechists, together with others, for their contribution to the evangelisation dimension of the diocese, which in recent years has seen more than 3,500 adults receiving the Sacraments of Initiation (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) annually in our Hong Kong Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
However, we still need to put in more effort to improve the quality of evangelisation by enabling everyone to bring the Gospel message to all families.
Evangelisation begins with the family and the family is the cradle of priestly and religious vocation.
Let us hope that more parents will encourage their children to deepen their faith, nurture a culture of vocation and nourish the seeds of vocation so they will sprout and grow.
Pope Francis has proclaimed this year as The Year of Consecrated Life to run from November 30, the beginning of Advent, to 2 February 2016.
During this year, I hope that you will appreciate and learn more about religious and priestly life, as well as actively promote vocation among young Catholics.
Christmas celebrations will bring joy and peace, not only to our families, but also to our relatives and friends living abroad and those who have left home and are working in Hong Kong, as well as those families that are separated, living both in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Also, I think of displaced families, especially Christians in the Middle East and war-torn countries.
Let us all pray they may experience family reunion, harmony and peace.
During this Christmas season, I hope all Catholics will attend to the needy, by visiting elderly people living alone or caring for friends who are lonely to share with them the joy and hope of Christmas.
In fulfilling our mission as a Bridge Church, I reported on the situation of families from the Church in China to the Synod on Family Life held last October at the Vatican.
Catholic families, like others, in mainland China see their young members move from the countryside to work, study or do business in cities. They usually go home only once or twice a year, weakening their relationship with both the family and the Church.
In China, a pastoral ministry among married people and families is just beginning. Many Catholic couples have not received any formation for the Sacrament of Marriage, pre-marital or after-marriage care.
In recent years, I am happy to see that Catholic groups in the Hong Kong and Macau dioceses have invited the faithful from the mainland to share their experiences and raise more awareness of family values.
Recently, some members of families in Hong Kong have become hostile towards one another because of differences in opinion regarding public issues.
I sincerely hope that they can reconcile with those among whom they are not at peace.
Many leaders in the Universal Church have expressed concern for Hong Kong and sent their blessing and prayer for the peace and prosperity of the Church and society.
Finally, I thank God and Pope Francis for appointing three new auxiliary bishops in July, which has increased the strength of the diocese. Now, our pastoral work can be launched with broader and deeper dimensions.
Also, I would like to thank all my brothers and sisters in the diocese who have offered their service to the Church. Please continue to pray for the Holy Father, our diocese and Hong Kong society, as well as for the Church in China.
May I wish you all a Happy Christmas!
+ John Cardinal Tong
December 8, 2014
Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception