HONG KONG, JAN. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today named the auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong to be the diocese’s coadjutor.
Bishop John Tong Hon, 68, is thus set to succeed Cardinal Joseph Zen, 76, when he retires. The usual retirement age for bishops is 75. Both prelates were appointed to Hong Kong in 1996.
Bishop Tong, an expert on the Catholic Church in China, said in a statement today that he would try to promote “unity among the different groups of the Catholic Church in China and constructive dialogue among the concerned parties.”
The bishop said Hong Kong “has been playing an indispensable role of being a bridge Church to China.”
“Following the guidelines of the recent letter of our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, to the Church in China, we will do our utmost to carry on our efforts,” he said. “It is my great expectation that the Chinese government will guarantee full religious freedom for Catholics on the mainland, so that they can make greater contributions to society, and in this way our motherland would also enhance its international status.”
This is the first episcopal appointment for Hong Kong since its handover to China in1997.
John Tong was born in Hong Kong in 1939, and received his priestly formation in Macau, Hong Kong and Rome. He was ordained a priest by Pope Paul VI in 1966.
The Holy See’s communiqué on the appointment said there are some 344,000 Catholics in Hong Kong, served by 283 priests, eight permanent deacons and 811 religious.
The diocese will organize a Mass on Feb. 10 to invoke God’s blessing on Bishop Tong as coadjutor.