我們要明白，教會不只是關乎聖統制。根據梵蒂岡第二次屆大公會議的教導，「天主子民」的概念包括了平信徒、修會會士和神職人員，它是教會非常基本的特質。我們天主子民是受傅者，洗禮時便領受了基督徒的尊嚴（《教會憲章》，第 2 章）。對，受傅和尊嚴——作為天主子民的尊嚴，以基督為首成為一個身體。
要廣泛培育大家認識最近世界主教代表會議所採納「在聖神內交談」的方式，它會幫助建立一個聆聽和分享的群體。我們要學會成為懂得尊重和具備同理心的聆聽者，以及真誠的分享者，好能在群體內建立信任。 「愛情不可是虛偽的……應與喜樂的一同喜樂，與哭泣的一同哭泣。」（羅馬人書 12:9, 15）
Advent Pastoral Letter 2023
Becoming A Synodal People of God
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me…. To announce a year of favour from the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1a, 2a)
My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Advent comes a little later this year, but the season of anticipation and hope is here. Thanks be to God that we always have a solid reason for our hope. We anticipate with hope the promise of Emmanuel to continue unfolding before us as we journey together as a Church and a people.
It is important for us to understand that our Church is not just about the hierarchy. The concept of “the People of God,” including laity, religious and clergy, is very much an essential character of the Church according to the Second Vatican Council. We are the anointed People of God with the dignity received at our baptism (Lumen Gentium, Ch. 2). Yes, anointing and dignity — the dignity of being the people of God, forming as one body with Christ as its head.
Another dimension of our dignity is its connection to mission. By virtue of our baptism, we share the mission of God in the world. The mission is not so complex that it requires years of studies to comprehend. It is about God’s favour for all God’s loved ones, recalling the jubilee year of release from debts (Leviticus 25:1011; Isaiah 49:8). That is freedom from the slavery of sin that enables us to be who we are called to be — the people of God.
This is particularly meaningful as our world today is unmistakably immersed in hate, violence, and destruction. The hearts of many have become unsteady, confused, and some have even become vengeful. We need peace and hope. We need good news. In short, we need God!
Where to start for peace and hope? With ourselves so that our hearts and minds are converted and become true believers of the Good News. The favour of God is on us, the anointed ones of God. Applying this to the local context, we as people of God in Hong Kong can bring the Good News not only to the locals, but to the entire world through the digital media.
As a people of God, we are called to become a synodal Church. “Synodality” is our mission, witnessing to others what it means to be companions, called to journey together to our common destiny in God’s eternal love. In God’s love, we can have true peace. Synodality is, interestingly, both a mission and a means to communicate God’s favour to our society and the world.
Hence, in order to carry out our synodal mission, we must first be formed into a synodal people of God. In my last Advent Pastoral Letter, I announced the need for intellectual and spiritual formation for clergy and religious, and lay people — especially for our young people. And we will still rely on small faith communities and liturgy to support our learning and realisation as a synodal people.
Large-scale formation for the “Conversation in the Spirit” adopted by the recent assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be necessary to build a listening and sharing community. We must learn to be respectful and empathic listeners, as well as sincere sharers, to build trust within the community. “Let love be sincere…. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:9, 15)
However, we can almost be certain that our opinions will not always be converging. Tensions arising from conflicting divergences should be expected. So, how do we treat these tensions?
The better way is not to handle tensions quickly or haphazardly, for the danger of compromising the weaker parties is real. More importantly, learning how to hold tensions generated by divergences, while focusing on the convergences or commonalities for helping us to move forward together is more desirable.
We are called to be synodal people and witnesses of the love of God who journeys with us. By intentionally listening with empathy as companions to those suffering from hurts and pains, disillusionment, hopelessness, and marginalisation within the Church, and by providing some form of relief, we give witness and hope to them. We know that we cannot solve their problems. But we can share with them God’s favour through our companionship and journey with them.
Finally, Pope Francis recently announced 2024 as the Year of Prayer with a focus on the “Our Father.” Its objective is to prepare for the Jubilee Year for the Pilgrims of Hope in 2025. May the kingdom of God the Father with peace, justice, and charity be a growing reality in our efforts to become a synodal people of God. And may God’s favour of the Year of Prayer be with you all!
+ Cardinal Stephen Chow, S.J.
Bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong