With changes brought about by the global health crisis, the Diocese of Hong Kong announced that it will focus its pastoral work in the coming year on “parish renewal”.
Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong said the decision was made in the light of the changes taking place in society and in the Church, especially during the pandemic.
In his “Pastoral Letter for Advent,” the prelate stressed the need for “parish renewal” to address the demands of the times and to more effectively fulfil the Church’s mission.
“The global pandemic has clearly revealed to us the signs of the era,” wrote the cardinal.
“The digital culture has inevitably changed the concept of space and also people’s language and behavior, particularly amid the younger generation,” he said.
He admitted that the changes in society had an impact on the Church.
As a result of the pandemic, “the parish is no longer confined to a geographic space, but has become an environment for establishing rapport, through mutual servicing and liturgical rites among the local community.”
Cardinal Tong said that instead of “reminiscing about the past and awaiting the restoration of parish life to that of a bygone era,” it is “more desirable” to face the challenges by moving forward “dauntlessly” and “identify a possible new mode of existence for the parish.”
He cited the document on the “pastoral conversion of the parish,” which was released in July by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, for showing the path in the renewal process.
In his pastoral letter, the Hong Kong prelate said the parish should not be regarded as equivalent to a building or a series of organizations.
“It is rather a community which is constituted of different communities, ‘an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration’,” he said, citing the apostolic exhortation “Evangeli Gaudium.”
The cardinal said the parish “must be a place which gathers people together and seeks to promote and foster long-term interpersonal relationships, thereby nurturing a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
He said it should be “a people-oriented venue, promoting dialogue, solidarity and openness to all.”
If the parish “succeeds in firmly rooting itself in the heart of the community’s daily lives, it will become a place for overcoming loneliness, and will affect the lives of many,” wrote Cardinal Tong.
He urged priests in the diocese and members of parish councils to plan their pastoral direction in the next three years by embracing “the spirit of co-responsibility.”
Cardinal Tong called on the faithful to make every effort to get the parish deeply rooted in their daily life “through mutual care and concern for one another.”