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Byzantine liturgy in Chinese 'a success'

A Catholic first has been overwhelmingly well received, says priest

Father Olexander Kenez at the Divine Liturgy during the Chung Yeung festival Father Olexander Kenez at the Divine Liturgy during the Chung Yeung festival
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • October 7, 2011
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An inculturated Ukrainian Byzantine liturgy being celebrated in Hong Kong in Cantonese this week has been an amazing success, according to a visiting Australian priest who presiding over the ceremonies.

This is the first time in Christian history that the traditional liturgy of the Eastern Catholic Church has been celebrated “in the Cantonese language, with Cantonese songs, by Cantonese priests and in a Cantonese cultural setting,” said Father Olexander Kenez, chancellor of the Ukrainian Eparchy in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania.

Fr Kenez is in Hong Kong on  a three-week visit to preside over three Cantonese-Ukrainian liturgies and a series of lectures about the traditional rite and prayers of the Eastern Church. He returns to Melbourne on October 16.

Referring to a Divine Liturgy (Mass) at Mother of Good Counsel Church on October 2, he said it had not been sung in Cantonese before and “the response was beyond my expectations.”

“I thought only the two cantors would sing at the Mass, but everybody sang and prayed so naturally as if they have joined this liturgy for a thousand years,” he said.

“We are importing the Word of God, but not importing a foreign culture.” Though the liturgy and church setting particularly the Iconostas are not completely in the Ukrainian style, it’s important that local Catholics can pray together, the priest stressed.

Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai, chairman of Hong Kong diocese’s Liturgy Commission, said the commission wants to introduce “another lung” to local Catholics as the late popes described the Western and Eastern rites of the Catholic Church as “breathing with both lungs.”

The Byzantine liturgy has a stronger sense of community and God’s presence, said Fr Law, who translated the liturgy into Chinese.

Fr Kenez also celebrated a Divine Liturgy to pray for the dead on October 5, during the Chung Yeung festival, a day when some people clean grave sites.

It was followed by a prayer gathering, during which he invited all participants to write down the names of their dead relatives and friends. The names were read out one by one as in the Ukrainian rite.

Related reports:

Hong Kong liturgy expert looks back on 20-year journey

Orthodox church finds home in Catholic center

Shanghai’s Byzantine Church Reopens, Attracts Catholics And Others
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