ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Updated: August 31, 2015 05:53 PM GMT
Cardinal John Tong Hon preaches at an event held for the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China on May 21. (UCAN file photo)
The head of the largest Chinese Catholic diocese in the world will be absent from the World Synod of Bishops in October because he has been deemed to be too old.
Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong was not invited to participate in this year's synod, which will focus on the family, because he is older than 75.
“Now I know that I am not going to the synod," the 76-year-old cardinal told ucanews.com in a late August interview.
The cardinal said he was told by a Vatican representative that the Vatican "does not want to make any exceptions" regarding age.
Cardinal Tong said he was unaware if another representative from Hong Kong was chosen in his place. He knew only that he was “disqualified by age,” he said, laughing.
“They will find somebody … if they need somebody,” the cardinal said.
Synod participants in general are elected by local bishops’ conferences. Owing to historical reasons, Hong Kong, a former British colony and the largest Chinese diocese in the world with a Catholic population of 560,000, remains a mission area and does not have its own bishops’ conference.
Some Hong Kong Catholics expressed disappointment that the diocese may not be represented at the synod.
“It is a pity that no one from Hong Kong is going,” Francis Law, a member of a Chinese Facebook page called “Catholic Parents”, told ucanews.com.
Law said Hong Kong Catholics could contribute to discussions at the synod, expressing concerns about recent developments on same-sex unions around the world, particularly in the United States, which legalized same-sex marriage in June.
“These kinds of voices needs to be brought to the Synod,” said Law, who is a member of the Diocesan Youth Commission.
Cardinal Tong did participate in last year's Synod on the Family, which paved the way for this year's installment.
The cardinal said he agreed family and marriage are the most fundamental issues facing the Church and believes the synod fathers will find ways to resolve outstanding issues along the ideals of the pope’s broad vision and embracing attitude.