2000-10-31 00:00:00

Accounts of Chinese martyrs moved Hong Kong Catholics to tears at a celebration Oct. 29 commemorating the recent canonization of 120 martyrs of China.

Despite Beijing´s "advice" to keep any celebration low-key, Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hong of Hong Kong earlier told UCA News, the diocese went ahead with the scheduled Mass and forum that he said had a "religious tone."

More than 120 priests concelebrated the liturgy Oct. 29, officiated by Cardinal John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung of Hong Kong assisted by Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, Bishop Tong and Trappist Abbot Clement Kong.

Cardinal Wu told the more than 1,200 Catholics who packed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that the Chinese martyr-saints bore witness to Christ even at the cost of their lives and are models for all Catholics.

This is in line with the Confucian ideal of "Giving up one´s life for the Good," considered the summit of Confucian teaching, according to the booklet published for the liturgy.

Father Francis Li Yu-ming gave testimony in his homily of the martyrdom of his grandfather and uncle, who are not among the 120 new Chinese saints but were among the 2,418 Catholics killed in Shanxi province in 1900. Of those killed, 26 Franciscans and laypeople were canonized Oct. 1.

Although mainland officials strongly condemned the canonization, Father Li thanked the Chinese government for generating publicity that aroused curiosity among the public as to what canonization is, who the martyrs were, why they were being canonized and why their canonization was being opposed.

"As long as we make what we hear today part of our lives, we will be able to give satisfactory answers to these questions," the diocesan priest said.

Diocesan music director Allison So Ming-tsuen composed a hymn to honor the Chinese saints. It was sung in Cantonese and Mandarin.

The relics of 14 Chinese martyrs, including 12 of the newly canonized saints, were placed in front of the altar for veneration. The relics were later placed at a side altar dedicated to the Passion of Jesus.

Some Catholics cried during the homily and the relic veneration.

Pieces of clothing of the seven newly canonized Franciscan Missionaries of Mary nuns were sent for veneration to the diocese by the Rome-based general motherhouse of their congregation.

Families of the seven nuns from Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands attended the Oct. 1 canonization at the Vatican and are proud of the nuns´ sacrifices for their faith in Shanxi province, a Franciscan nun told UCA News.

Relics of the other seven martyrs, mostly bone pieces, have been kept at the bishop´s house for years, Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai, director of the Diocesan Liturgy Commission, told UCA News.

At the Oct. 29 forum, representatives of Dominicans, Religious and secular Franciscans, Jesuits, members of the Paris Foreign Mission Society and Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and Salesians told some 300 participants that many of the martyred missioners were aware of the risk before going to China.

They also said many could have escaped the persecutions but chose to stay with the Church. During the martyrs´ last hours, they remained calm and peaceful, doing normal activities such as preparing meals and playing games, the forum was told.

Paris Foreign Mission Society Father Bruno Lepeu noted that confrere Father Auguste Chapdelaine, killed in 1856, is a key figure in Beijing´s allegation that some of the saints "raped and looted," and assisted imperialists in China.

Father Lepeu stressed that the martyr had no political motive in his missionary work in Guangxi, southern China, even though his case was used as a pretext by imperialist powers to start the Second Opium War. The French martyr is still much respected by the people of Guangxi, Father Lepeu said.

Meanwhile, Zheng Guoxiong, deputy director of China´s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, asserted Oct. 29 that the canonization was not purely a religious matter.

The pro-Beijing daily "Wen Wei Po" reported Oct. 30 that some people are using the canonization as a pretext to interfere in China´s internal affairs.


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