Papal Nuncio visits Cambridge for Lunar New Year Mass

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Papal Nuncio visits Cambridge for Lunar New Year Mass

The historic Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church in Cambridge recently hosted a significant event as His Excellency Archbishop Savio Hon SDB, Papal Nuncio to Malta and Libya, conducted a Lunar New Year Thanksgiving Mass, uniting the Hong Kong community in a vibrant celebration of faith and cultural heritage. Elizabeth Lam and Dominic Chung report.

The beautiful and historic Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church in Cambridge played host again to the Papal Nuncio to Malta and Libya, His Excellency Archbishop Savio Hon SDB. As is his practice for at least the past decade, Archbishop Savio visits the Hong Kong communities in some UK cities during the Lunar New Year season. He last visited Cambridge on January 29, 2023. He had carried such fond memory of Cambridge in general and the liturgical arrangement of OLEM, that he specifically asked the Cantonese Community within the East Anglia Diocese to make appropriate arrangement for his pastoral visit once again.

The small planning team could not go public with his intention for some days because protocol and etiquette dictate that Archbishop Savio must first consult with the Diocesan Ordinary, His Grace, Bishop Peter.

Finally, the day of February 24 dawned, the 15th day of the Lunar New Year – akin to the Octave of Christmas and Easter – and the whole Cantonese Community, together with the OLEM family rejoiced in glorifying and thanking God for the opportunity of celebrating a solemn, New Year Thanksgiving Mass in Cantonese. A young Hong Kong born organ scholar came up from the London Oratory to accompany the Mass, thanks to the encouragement of Nigel Kerry, Director of Music.

Even though we were in Lent, with dispensation, the liturgical colour was in red which the Archbishop explained that, not only was it on cultural ground, it more importantly symbolised the Fire of the Holy Spirit. It also represented the blood shed by martyrs; on his pectoral cross a fragment of a relic of a Martyr of China is embedded.

We chanted the Gloria and the crescendo hit the roof (in Cantonese:  天主在天受光榮).

During his lively homily, Archbishop Savio reminded us that we are not the only person on earth whom God has made in His image and to be mindful that we are all part of the body of Christ.

He playfully drove home the key point that when Jesus Christ knocks on the door of our hearts, though we might be tempted to rhetorically ask “who is there?”, we must not however doubt that it is Christ who is knocking. He can and does appear, and appeal to us in myriad forms. Getting to know thyself is important but getting to know Jesus is crucial. That way, we will never fall prey to the devil.

The Archbishop reminded us that because we are one Body in Christ, we must not be tempted to divide the Church along language or geographic lines. Throughout the celebration, he pointedly used English, Cantonese (the dialect common in Hong Kong) and Mandarin in the Proper part of the Mass.

After the Mass, we retired to the Parish Centre where old friends and new acquaintances wished each other a happy new year of the Dragon over traditional treats and drinks. We can now safely say that the Cantonese Community have made an “old friend” in His Excellency.

As we parted company with each other and went on our own sweet ways, ringing joyously in our ears was the verse of a song with which the Archbishop ended his homily: “Many things about tomorrow I do not seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand!”

With optimism and trust in God, here is to the Year of the Dragon.