VATICAN CITY, (C.M. Paul) – In a gesture of solidarity with the newly ordained archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai of Hong Kong, a large number of his family and friends were present at Episcopal ordination ceremony presided over by Pope Bendict XVI. The 3 hour long ceremony in Latin was held at Rome’s St Peter’s basilica, 5 February.
Some 200 member Chinese delegation that arrived in Rome included government officials, relations, members of the Salesian Family and alumni as well as his brother and two sisters.
“We are simply proud and happy for Savio who has been blessed with the privilege of serving worldwide Church,” says his youngest sister Catherine Hon from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia accompanied by her daughter Adeline Khu who read the fist reading at the Mass, in Chinese. Possibly, it could be the very first time that scripture reading in Chinese reading took place at a major liturgical event in St Peter’s Basilica.
She quickly adds, “my brother Savio has been feeling the growing pressure of the new responsibility, from the very first day of the announcement last December.”
Along side in the long queue awaiting security clearance to enter the basilica was archbishop Savio’s older sister Chiuhsu Hon and husband from Taipei (Taiwan). They had lined up in piazza san Pietro along the right wing of Bernini’s monumental colonnade before 8 am. The basilica was opened for the pilgrims only at 9 am for the solemn ceremonies commencing at 10 am.
“China is a driving factor today which no one can ignore,” says Savio’s elder brother James Hon commenting on the significance of a local Chinese being ordained archbishop in the Vatican soon after the recent controversial ordination of state sponsored bishops against the Vatican disapproval.
“Whatever you do, it is the people that should matter, whether it be in politics or religion,” insists former aviation engineer Mr. Hon living in Singapore alluding to the China-Vatican impasse in the one-upmanship game.
“Once you can handle people well, a lot can be done,” adds Hon accompanied by his wife Alice. Though he is consultant by profession, he prefers calling himself a “facilitator.”
In his homily exhorting the five archbishops being ordained, the Pope emphasized certain aspects of the Episcopal ministry through a metaphor that “the Pastor should not be like a bamboo bending in the wind, but a servant of the spirit of his times”… Reacting to that, there was a faint voce heard from behind, “sometimes it is better to bend than break,” driving home a message in China-Vatican diplomacy.
There was a thunderous applause when archbishop Savio’s mentor cardinal Joseph Zen embraced him after the ordination.
From archbishop Savio’s Salesian Family there was the Rector Major with his Vicar, five Salesian cardinals (Bertone, Amato, Frina, Maradiaga, Zen) Vicar of the Salesian Sisters, Chinese coordinator of the lay Institute Don Bosco Volunteers and several priests, religious and alumni.
President of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People’s Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias was there to give the secretary of his Congregation a welcome embrace. Fluent in at least 17 languages, cardinal Dias though suffering from sciatic nerve problem walked up to archbishop Savio supporting himself on a black walking stick and with an aide at his side.
After the consecration ceremony, archbishop Savio and well wishers met at Collegio Urbano for a brief felicitation.