KUCHING – The Archdiocese of Kuching celebrated the 80th birthday of Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung on 7 September.
Joining in the celebration was also Fr Noel Hanrahan who will celebrate his 80th birthday in December this year. Fr Hanrahan is a Mill Hill Missionary who had served for many years in Kuching, particularly in St Peter’s College. Currently, he is attached to the Knock Shrine in Ireland. He came to Kuching specially for the celebration.
The joyous occasion started off with Mass presided by the Archbishop Emeritus at St Joseph’s Cathedral. Concelebrating was the Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Archbishop John Ha, five Bishops and 23 priests from Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and China.
Among the priests was Fr Peter Liu, the parish priest of the home parish of the Archbishop Emeritus in China. Fr Liu came for the celebration together with the Archbishop Emeritus’ nephew, nieces and a grandniece who is a Religious Sister.
The Apostolic Delegate preached the homily, highlighting the Letter of St Paul to the Romans where St Paul exhorted the Roman Christians to love their neighbour as they love themselves. Archbishop Pennacchio reminded the faithful that in this year dedicated to St Paul, we are called to have St Paul as our model.
Linking the command to love one another to the office of a bishop, the Archbishop said, “In the hierarchy of the Church, bishops are entrusted with being a good shepherd; they are to bear witness and be the instrument of mercy of Christ to others. They are, thus, to lead by example the meaning of the love of neighbour.”
He added that as bishops are the keeper of the Church’s teaching, they are to instruct the people on the truth and the great salvific mystery of Christ.
Archbishop Pennacchio further stressed that in today’s challenging world, the Bishop’s role as a prophet becomes more important and urgent, because the lure of consumerism and secularisation has pushed the Gospel values to the periphery of a person’s life, as the message is no longer comfortable for many people.
“As the Prophet Ezekiel who was called to be the watchman, to sound the trumpet as a warning to evil doers, so too the clergy has an equal task,” he added.
For that, he congratulated Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung for being an exemplary witness of Christ to others. “For the past many years, he has lived up faithfully to the call of being the good shepherd and lived out his entire life to serve the flock under his care,” he said.
The Apostolic Delegate also reminded the faithful of the importance of the Eucharist as the central focus of the Christian faith.
“Our beloved Pope Benedict XVI during one of his angelus sessions said priests and the community without the Eucharistic Celebration will have no meaning as the Eucharist is the pillar of the Church,” he pointed out.
Earlier on, Archbishop Pennacchio also read out the Apostolic Blessing and assured the Archbishop Emeritus of his oneness in prayer and commended him to Blessed Mother Mary on this special occasion.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop Emeritus in his thanksgiving note pledged his obedience and allegiance to the Church authority. He also affirmed his continuing service to the Church for as long as God allows.
Indeed, despite being retired from active ministry for the past five years, he is still actively involved in giving seminars, retreats and doing God’s work for the benefit of the faithful.
Later at a thanksgiving dinner specially hosted to capacity at the Christian Ecumenical Centre, Archbishop John Ha in his brief address pointed out that the huge turnout for the Mass and dinner was a living testimony of the people’s love and affection for the Archbishop Emeritus.
The Archbishop Emeritus also went on stage to introduce some of his family members who had come from China for the celebration before proceeding to cut his birthday cake together with Fr Hanrahan, Archbishop Pennacchio and Archbishop Ha.
Coincidentally, 7 September was also the birthday of the Apostolic Delegate himself.