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Lessons for Hong Kong from Manila conference

MANILA (Mabuhay) : The Asia-wide significance of a three-day conference on new evangelisation held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, The Philippines, from October 16 to 18, was highlighted by the presence of delegations from Brunei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kota Kinabalu, Taiwan and the United States of America.

Hong Kong was represented by Giovanni Pang Chun-yu, a member of both the Liturgy and Youth Commissions, and Jennie Chor Chan Chui-yuk, from the Catholic Life Community, who teamed up with one of the vicars general of the diocese, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming.

Six thousand or so people attended the conference, which was organised in response to the call of Pope Benedict XVI to promote a renewed evangelisation in countries where the Church has long been established.

The pope emeritus was seeking to shed more light on what it means to be a Christian in an increasingly secularised world and to find appropriate Church responses to this developing situation, which tends to eclipse the sense of God among people.

The three-pronged focus of the conference looked at personal encounter with God through new media and various forms of art; popular devotions, relationship with other religions and problems within the Church; as well as evangelisation.

Father Chan told Mabuhay that he was impressed with the spirit embodied in the conference and especially the experience of the liturgy. He related that during the Eucharistic celebrations the laity received communion first, followed by the deacons, priests and finally the bishops.

Also, while priests usually miss out on these things, the collection plate was passed around the sanctuary during an appeal for the victims of the earthquake in the Visayas.

“All of these elements show that the Church is there to serve people, not to be served,” he reflected.

Father Chan said that he was particularly impressed with a workshop led by Jesuit Father Catalino Arévalo on the beauty of devotions and their importance in developing the faith, adding that he thinks that the Church in Hong Kong could consider further development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He said he was also delighted to meet the archbishop of Manila, Luis Cardinal Tagle, whom he described as having a humble personality that appeals to people.

He added that his sincerity and humour on stage combine to show that he really is listening to what is being said.

However, he said that he thought the cardinal looked tired, as his shoulders were sagging, but that did not stop him from continuing to work. 

“His great love for God is shown in the minor things he did for others,” Father Chan reflected.

He added that Cardinal Tagle will be in Hong Kong for a five-day retreat with priests, which begins on November 3. He expects the visiting cardinal to celebrate a Mass in the city on that day.

During a commissioning Mass at the conclusion of the conference, Cardinal Tagle asked all participants to take out their mobile phones and text the theme of the conference, Behold, God makes all things new, to their best friends.

Pang recalled that this really surprised him, as usually at conferences, and especially at Mass, people are reminded to switch off their mobile phones or put them on silent mode.

However, at the gathering in Manila people were repeatedly reminded to bring their mobile phones to the commissioning Mass.

He called this just one example of the creativity the conference organisers displayed and their awareness of the importance of social media in spreading the faith.

Pang reflected that as a guest from Hong Kong, he was often greeted by both locals and international visitors, even though he did not know them.

“They reached out to us as brothers and sisters,” he said, explaining that left him feeling warm and welcome, something
that most parishes in Hong Kong should consider paying more attention to.

He said that the friendliness of the people struck him as a good example for everyone. “I will try to smile at people in my parish in future and see if they need any support,” he said.

Pang added that unlike what happens in Hong Kong where only a few celebrities share about their faith in public, celebrities in The Philippines from the acting, singing and broadcasting fields spoke from the heart quite easily about their Catholic faith.

“Many celebrities in Hong Kong would not dare to admit that they are Catholics,” he said.

As a host of an online religious programme and a journalist, Pang said that Catholic media should not just be about bible sharing, but also include concrete reflections on life and current affairs from a religious point of view.

On a different bent, Chor said that she found the workshops and the liturgies helped her to appreciate her faith more fully.

She explained that she came to a realisation that the liturgy is not just a presentation, but a dialogue with God in which he responds.

She recalled the beauty of one part of the commissioning ceremony in which the history of salvation was presented stage by stage, using illuminated icons.

She said that she was also intrigued that the present era was represented with a question mark and the delegates were challenged to both discern the question and try to respond to it.

Recalling that people of different ages, from childhood to middle-age, took part in a variety of liturgical dances in Manila, she said she got the feeling that the Church belongs to everyone.

She added that she believes that is a good example for the Chinese liturgies in Hong Kong to follow, as liturgical dance is mainly performed by young women and the choreography lacks variety.

She also found that there is a wide range of  instruments that can be used in liturgical music as well.

As a person responsible for the spiritual formation of professional people in her community, Chor said she would try to integrate elements of what she learned at the conference into her work.

 

She said that she was also intrigued that the present era was represented with a question mark and
the delegates were challenged to both discern the question and try to respond to it

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