The 2020 Easter Pastoral Letter Facing the epidemic with faith, hope and love
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, “Peace be with you!” (Luke 24:36) This is a blessing that the Risen Jesus Christ grants to all of us.
The deadly coronavirus is spreading across the world, apparently not showing any signs of easing up. It is worrisome to all nations.
The Catholics in Hong Kong, as other residents here, are much concerned about the pandemic and its impact on the people’s lives in the diocese and worldwide. Acting in accordance to the local government’s call, in a bid to prevent individuals from being infected, we have reduced social gatherings and religious celebrations at the parish level and diocese-wide.
The Church has witnessed the production of many companies and institutions in society has sharply dropped, threatening the livelihood of tens of thousands of their employees. People worry not only about their own health, but also about the well-being of their relatives and friends. Furthermore, the news and information of more infections and deaths locally and globally, and tightened supplies of anti-epidemic products, especially facemasks and sanitizers, have further made people panic-stricken and stressful. A sense of anxiety and helplessness generally affects the people. As a result of social distancing and lockdowns of communities and countries in face of the pandemic, people become isolated, lonely and anxious. Pope Francis repeatedly calls on all Christians to unite, bridge gaps and pray in solidarity to fight the coronavirus and comfort the sick. He urges all believers to invoke our Almighty God to grant people mercy and strength to get through this crisis. The Holy Father earnestly asked all the faithful to pray the Our Father in one’s own language on March 25 at noon (Rome time), along with Christians of all confessions. It is one of the ways we Christians can offer to the world to fight this pandemic. We take this initiative to uplift those who are in despair and desolation. United in prayers, we share information and resources, and more importantly, break the isolation. We meditate on how the Crucified Jesus loves in pain and suffering, and humbly learn from Him to live in faith and hope. Many churches across the world, including Hong Kong, have suspended public Masses and liturgy to avoid gatherings and prolonged contacts amid an intensely escalated pandemic. The faithful can only join the Masses online and partake in spiritual communion with the Lord. Already our diocese has celebrated Sunday Masses online for over a month. I have felt the pain of the faithful for suggesting an unusual way for them to communicate with the Lord. Given the fact that the infected cases in Hong Kong have surged exponentially since the middle of March, it is feared that another outbreak of the epidemic would overload our medical system in Hong Kong, which is already reaching its limits. Henceforth, the diocese has decided to suspend all public Masses at parishes throughout Holy Week (April 5-12) this year. The diocese will continue the suspension of public Sunday Masses and those on weekdays, until further notice. I have been very reluctant to make such a decision, but I had to do so, in view of the intensity and severity of the needs of the medical situation. However, our churches and chapels will remain open for parishioners to pray privately at various times during the Holy Week. An Easter candle will be placed in a prominent position inside the church from Easter Sunday onward. This is to remind the faithful of the redemption achieved by the death and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ for all of us. We hope that all the faithful will follow the light of Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, throughout their lives, and will strive to become the lights of the world by words and deeds, particularly by helping those people in need in this epidemic situation. From the Gospel of Easter Sunday (Luke 24: 1-12), we see that early on that morning after Jesus’ burial, Mary Magdalene and some women rushed with spices to the tomb of Jesus to pay their respects to the body of their Lord. They were heartbroken, but the Risen Jesus suddenly appeared before them, granted them peace and sent them to tell the disciples the Good News of His resurrection. The Gospel according to St. Luke (24:13-35) also tells us that the Risen Lord accompanied the two disciples, who were disappointed and sad, from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus enlightened them, transforming their disappointment into hope, and sadness into joy. Dear Brothers and sisters: Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ is also present in Hong Kong. He not only consoles and comforts us, as frightened people, with His Word, but also walks with us, nourishing us through our spiritual reception of His Holy Body. Let us follow His example, live our Christian life, and bear witness to the Gospel with words and deeds. Happy Easter to all of you!
+ John Cardinal Tong Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong March 25, 2020, Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord