(left) Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai after his episcopal ordination in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Feb 5.

HONG KONG – Salesian Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai has called on Hong Kong’s Catholics to help improve China-Vatican relations.

China and the Vatican have a similar pyramid-like political system, but have different cultural and religious backgrounds, the archbishop said. The faithful serve as “a bridge to foster dialogue, mutual understanding and even agreement between them”, he said.

The new secretary of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples made these comments during a recent week-long visit to his birth place in Hong Kong.

He held a discussion with about 100 local Catholics on Feb 20 before attending a welcoming Mass at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, hosted by Hong Kong diocese.

Responding to a layman who asked, “What can Hong Kong Catholics do for China?” the archbishop cited the words of Pope John Paul II suggesting dialogue and the sharing of resources with mainland Catholics and encouraging forgiveness among them.

He said the Hong Kong faithful could contact both the government-approved and underground Church communities and help reconciliation.

Hong Kong Catholics can play such a role as they are not involved in the conflicts arising from being forced to obey an independent Church and do not feel a sense of betrayal resulting from political turmoil since the 1950s, he said.

Some concrete steps have been taken recently, he said such as Taiwan’s Fujen Catholic University enrolling priests and laypeople from the mainland.

“If in my post I could serve as a bridge, I would be happy to do so,” he declared.

One middle-aged mainland laywoman congratulated the archbishop on his appointment to the Vatican congregation and expressed her wish to see the normalisation of China-Vatican ties.

Archbishop Hon responded by saying that the Vatican should be cautious when negotiating with China.

“If the Vatican makes too many concessions just for normalisation or if opportunists hold sway in the talks, the very nature of the China Church could be distorted,” he said.

Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong welcomed the archbishop at the beginning of the evening Mass, concelebrated by nearly 70 priests.

More than 1,000 laypeople, including some from the mainland, attended the event.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai was appointed secretary of the Holy See’s Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples on Dec 23, while still a priest.

He was episcopally ordained at the Vatican on Feb 5.  -  UCANEWS.COM

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