Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mgr John Tong, new coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong

Mgr John Tong On, 69, has been appointed as the new coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong. He had been the diocese’s auxiliary bishop since 1996. An intellectual with a sharp mind, he is a polyglot and well-versed in theology and cultural matters. Now he becomes the designated successor of 76-year-old Card Joseph Zen who has asked the Pope several times whether he could retire.

Monsignor Tong is Hong Kong-born and has been a close aide to Cardinal Zen for many years. He is an expert on the mainland Church, and currently runs the Holy Spirit Study Centre, a research institute whose primary task is to gather, store and analyse data about the Church in China and about Chinese culture.

In a statement released today to the diocese, reprinted here in its entirety, Bishop Tong talks about the “excellent job” Cardinal Zen has done and about the close relationship he has had with him.

After praising the important contribution foreign missionaries have made to the Church in Hong Kong, Bishop Tong noted how much the Church in the former British territory serves as a ‘bridge-Church’ towards the People’s Republic.

In ending his statement he said: “It is my great expectations that the Chinese government will guarantee full religious freedom for Catholics on the Mainland, so that they can make greater contributions to society, and in this way our motherland would also enhance its international status.”

Here is Monsignor Tong’s official statement:

When I received the appointment as Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong from the Holy Father, I felt at once inadequate and diffident. However, considering that the Holy Father had placed his trust in me, and that the Catholics of Hong Kong would be supporting me through prayer, I felt encouraged and so I accepted the appointment out of obedience and gratitude. Now I ask for your tolerance of my limitations.

Cardinal Joseph Zen has been doing an excellent job in leading the Diocese of Hong Kong. He is still in good health. I hope he will remain in office, the longer the better. I will be happy to continue working under his leadership.

Pope John Paul II said, “There are no strangers in the Church.” I hope that all of us, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, will continue to lend our support. Local clergy, foreign missionaries, local Catholics, as well as professional expatriates and overseas foreign workers, have worked together to build up a Church full of vitality. May all of us make even greater contributions to our Diocese and to our society.

Both evangelization and our witnessing through parishes, schools, medical care and social services have been active and fruitful. I pray that all these endeavours will develop even further. Over the years, the workload of the Diocese of Hong Kong has increased. However, there is a shortage of local priests, deacons, men and women religious. Please pray for the promotion of vocations, including the challenging vocation of Christian marriage.

Our Diocese and the people of Hong Kong have enjoyed a long tradition of working closely together for society and the common good. We have been keeping positive and stable contact with different Christian denominations and with other religions. May these harmonious relations grow deeper and stronger.

Our Diocese has been playing an indispensable role of being a Bridge Church to China. We have always been promoting unity among the different groups of the Catholic Church in China and constructive dialogue among the concerned parties. Following the guidance of the recent letter of Our Holy Father Benedict XVI to the Church in China, we will do our utmost to carry on our efforts. It is my great expectations that the Chinese government will guarantee full religious freedom for Catholics on the Mainland, so that they can make greater contributions to society, and in this way our motherland would also enhance its international status.

+John Tong

Coadjutor Bishop

Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong

30 January 2008
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