Cardinal John Hon reflects on his 75th birthday

An age at which bishops usually retire, Cardinal Tong has been asked by Pope Francis to stay in his position for three more years.

China
Aug 14 2014, 1:16 PM
Cardinal John Hon reflects on his 75th birthday
Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong.

At his 75th birthday celebrations on July 31, Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong expressed his appreciation and gratitude for his next three years as the leader of the diocese.

An age at which bishops usually retire, Cardinal Tong has been asked by Pope Francis to stay in his position for three more years.

Cardinal Tong said that when he began primary school in exile from his hometown of Hong Kong, he never dreamed that one day he would have the opportunity to travel to so many places and meet so many wonderful people, as well as to serve the people as a priest.

At a simple luncheon with the priests of the diocese held at the cathedral presbytery, a reflective Cardinal Tong told of his early life in Guangdong and flight back to Hong Kong just as the borders were being sealed in 1951.

He recalled asking for leave during his seminary days to rethink his vocation to spend time working, as he really had doubts as to whether he was doing the right thing or not.

However, he returned to the seminary and was sent to Rome to study, eventually being ordained in January 1966.

As a young priest freshly returned from the city of the Second Vatican Council, he was made dean of theology at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Aberdeen and immediately saw that many changes needed to be made in the spirit of the great council.

“I received a lot of criticism for the new seminary programme,” he reminisced. “And then I suffered a third time in the 1980s when China was opening up to the outside world.”

He explained that this brought on another difficult period in his life.

“I was asked to start the Holy Spirit Study Centre,” he said, describing it as a place of study and research on the Church and the situation of Catholics in China.

He explained that he joined together with some people from Protestant Churches and made visits to the mainland, meeting with people from the Churches that were associated with the government Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Protestant Three-Self Movement.

“Back in Hong Kong, people criticised me for having any contact with the official Church and some members of the Catholic Patriotic Association,” he explained.

He told the priests present that these three difficult times in his life made him highly aware of his need for support from others, especially his brother priests, as well as the need to really believe in promise of Jesus, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Source: Sunday Examiner

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