By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
An hour before midnight the 30th of June, security laws went into effect in Hong Kong. The timing is significant. With the strike of midnight, Hong Kong would celebrate the 23rd anniversary of its independence from British rule. With the security law now in effect, China seeks to curb dissent, terrorism, and foreign interference both on the mainland and in Hong Kong.
Unity is Church's priority
In view of this occurrence, the Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong, Cardinal Tong’s message is that of a shepherd. Unity is uppermost in his mind. The diocesan newspaper Kung Kao Po quotes Cardinal Tong as saying on 28 June that his first priority is “to maintain unity in the Church”. He made reference to Jesus’s own prayer for unity the night before His death: Jesus “prayed to the Heavenly Father at the Last Supper that ‘they may be one’ (John 17:11).” Cardinal Tong shares the hope that the nation regardless of the stance of individuals “can stand united”.
In an earlier interview, the Cardinal touched on the topic of religious freedom. In that regard, he expressed the belief that “the law on national security will not negatively impact on religious freedom”. His basis this belief on the fact that “Article 32 of the Basic Law guarantees the freedom of religious belief and freedom to preach, conduct and participate in religious activities in public”.
In addition, he stated that the Church should still be able to participate in the nation’s “social affairs”. He appealed to Article 141 of the Basic Law that “stipulates that the local government shall not interfere in the internal affairs of religious organisations or restrict religious activities, and they may continue to run schools and social services”.
Relationship with Holy See
Cardinal Tong also explained that the relationship between the Diocese of Hong Kong and the Holy See “may be a concern for many people”. However, the Cardinal explained that this “link” must “be viewed as an internal matter of the Catholic Church”, rather than as a “collusion with foreign forces”.
Touching on the relationship between China itself and the Holy See, Cardinal Tong emphasised that “there have been friendly exchanges between China and the Holy See, and our Church focuses on the spiritual dimension and the pastoral care of parishioners.”