Monsignor Ante Jozic, Representative of the Holy See study mission in Hong Kong
Pedro Daniel Oliveira
Convinced that the Diocese of Macau will prosper and flourish in many ways, Monsignor Ante Jozic claims the appointment of Bishop Stephen Lee to succeed Bishop José Lai was a wise decision, partially because of his affinity with Portugal. Speaking to O CLARM, the representative of the Holy See Study Mission in Hong Kong speaks about the challenge of modern times regarding the mission of the clergy and the importance of the family as the cornerstone of society.
The Diocese of Macau has D Stephen Lee Bun-sang as its new Bishop since last 23rd of January. What do you think will be the main priority in his pastoral work?
He is a very good canonist. Likewise he is good in pastoral work and in the administration of Church affairs, among many things. We hope this Bishop will be a blessing of God for the Diocese, not only for clergy and religious people. His pastoral work can also [benefit] lay people and young people. I really believe that the Diocese of Macau will prosper and flourish in many senses. I think this appointment is God’s gift to this Diocese.
Since there were no other options within the Diocese of Macau for Bishop D. José Lai’s successor, was the appointment of a Bishop from Hong Kong the right choice?
The clergy of Macau is very small. You have only 11 diocesan priests and most of them are about 70 years of age in average, but certainly the Church always looks for the best choice. I think the Diocese of Macau will grow and prosper. Then one day when it has its own vocations, its own seminarians and its own priests, it will certainly also have its own bishops. Hong Kong and Macau are united. They are very close. Many priests in Macau also came from Hong Kong. I think this is very normal.
Should the Portuguese community be worried because Bishop D. Stephen Lee is not yet fluent in Portuguese?
I don’t think so. The Portuguese community should not be worried because Bishop Lee has many familiar things with Portugal. He studied in Spain and has very close relations with his Portuguese friends. As he also said in his speech (after being officially proclaimed Bishop of Macau), he will support all things in this Diocese and also of the Portuguese community. He will not only learn the language, but also each member of this Diocese will be witness of his openness, his understanding, which includes the Portuguese community.
The Diocese of Macau also celebrated its 440th anniversary on the 23rd of January. It is the oldest Diocese in the Far East in modern times. How do you see this occasion?
This occasion is very important for the Diocese of Macau and for the whole Catholic Church. Not only to remember the roots and the beginning, but also to bring something important to this time and also to the future in order to encourage young people to believe and to follow the faith of our ancestors, as well to continue [sowing] the same seed in missionary and social work. Pope Francis has said many times that we need to share our love with those who are in need, especially the marginalized ones. I think this is the occasion to remember the whole work that the Diocese has done in the past and to go ahead and make new prosperity within it.
In the past, Macau played a very important role in the evangelization in the Far East. What role do you think can it have now?
Macau was the center (of missionary work) in those days for the Far East. Its Diocese has this richness from the past. Although now it is a small Diocese, it was always the symbol of unity, of inspiration and especially of unity with all others. Bringing the Gospel to the Far East was not easy at that time. This Diocese is not only the oldest (of the modern times): it is also the mother Diocese of many others in the Far East. The Diocese of Macau should be respected, should be helped and should be supported. This appointment (of Bishop Stephen Lee) is certainly also the same sense given by the Holy See.
What are the challenges ahead?
The challenges for the new Bishop and for the Diocese of Macau are many. This city lives in a different time and therefore situations and the environment are not the same anymore. It is needed to challenge this new time. The people of the Diocese of Macau will need to grow in unity, in spirituality and especially with love for one another.
Secularism and materialism have obviously affected the growth of the Catholic Church also in this part of the world. What can be done to counteract the effects?
For sure this is not only a problem of Macau. This is a problem of the whole world. The Church is invited to represent spirituality today. Having all in mind these consumerism problems we have faced, with the new Bishop and the new programs, I believe the Diocese of Macau will be inspired to do something on this field. However being small, the Diocese of Macau can become a big structure with seeds to bring more fruits. Being integrated into the territory, we witness (social) changes and several difficulties. I believe that there will be a time for unity and for changing people’s lives, not only focused on money, but also on the spiritual level.
Last year the Church held the Ordinary Synod on the Family. We are also seeing here a breakdown of family life. Would you like to comment on this?
The family is the base of each society. Even when speaking in term of the Church, families are small churches. It is time to refresh our faith, especially the faith of young families with children, not only in terms of the material future of one society, or the Church, but also as a blessing for each person and each family. Even for families in difficulties, I think in this Jubilee Year, and the time dedicated to reflection on the Family in last Synod of the Bishops, we are living in times that help us to refresh our family, to share more love and friendship among wives and husbands, among parents and children, because only then will our society move forward to the better future.
Monsignor Ante Jozic (Left) and Bishop Emeritus José Lai Hung-Seng