2020 Pastoral Letter
To: Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters,
All lay faithful
- Sacred Heart Cathedral, Sibu
- St.Teresa’s Church, Sibu
- St.Mary’s of the Divine Mercy Church, Sibu
- St.Anthony’s Church, Sarikei
- St.Francis Xavier’s Church, Kanowit
- St.Alphonsus’ Church, Julau
- Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church, Mukah
- St.Bernard’s Church, Dalat
- St.Charles’ Church, Selangau
- Church of Christ the King, Bintangor
- Church of Mary Immaculate Conception, Kapit
- St.Herbert’s Church, Song
Dear Brothers and Sisters In Christ,
A decade of Creation Justice for the Diocese of Sibu from 2017 to 2026
With gratitude and praise in our hearts we give thanks to Almighty God for another year ahead of us. As we reach the threshold of 2020, we look back at all that we have accomplished as a Diocese since we embarked on a Decade of Creation Justice for our Diocese.
We have started with creating an awareness on justice for the whole of Creation with Evangelization In Union With Creation (Ego-Centered to Eco-Christ Centered) in 2017. The following year our theme was Let’s Begin From Home in the Joy of Love whereby we were all called to begin from our own family to love and care for all of Creation. Last year, we were called to exercise our Freedom –In hope that Creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God (cf. Romans 8:21). We were encouraged to ‘Rejoice and Be Glad’, by seeking and striving for holiness through the practice of the 8 Beatitudes. We learned to walk humbly with the Lord through acting justly and loving tenderly all those around us and the whole Creation.
As such, we have worked on the main Gospel values of Justice, Love and Freedom for the initial three years. For the remaining seven years, the emphasis of our Diocese will be on the 7 Sacraments of the Church in relation to ‘Creation Justice’. Therefore, for this year we will adopt the theme:
“Creation Justice: Water and Baptism – Gift to all Creation.”
We all know the importance and value of water in our lives. Without water, all living things will perish. As a matter of fact, our human body is made up of approximately 60% water. In the book of Genesis, we see how the Spirit of God hovered over the waters before God said “Let there be light”. Thus, water the spring of Creation, was there right from the very beginning.
However, we also see that due to climate crisis, often caused by human greed and indifference, many areas have become arid grounds or ‘mini-deserts’. Many sources of water which previously could be used for human and/or animal consumption has become contaminated. Water has become scarce. Those in the rural areas, the poor and marginalized are the ones most greatly affected as for them, even the rainfall which they used to collect for consumption and daily usage has been contaminated by airborne chemicals and pollutants.
Water also plays an important symbolic role in Catholicism. The use of water in baptism and during the Liturgy has a symbolic meaning, linking them to the grace and love of God. Water also signifies purification and cleansing. Baptism by water is a sacrament of initiation into the life of the children of God. Just as the waters of natural birth brings a newborn into the world, the waters of baptism brings the believers into New Life with God for we are cleansed from our sins and now have God living within us.
Hence, just as water brings life to all living things so also the water of Baptism brings New Life to all as adopted children of God through God’s grace. As such, as we journey together this year, let us be reminded of the great gift of water and baptism which God has bestowed upon us. As beloved children of God, let us be true and faithful stewards of His Creation and ensure that we work towards an ecological conversion from within ourselves.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to take this opportunity to thank each one of you for your continuing trust and support in me as your Bishop and towards all the priests in our Diocese. Although at times we may not seem to be united due to our differences in our thoughts and actions, nevertheless, we must not look at ‘Unity as Conformity’ but work towards ‘Unity in Diversity’. God has given each of us a variety of gifts in different measures and we are called to use them to the best of our abilities for the benefit of the whole of Creation as in Nature and its ‘Eco-Diversity’. Our oneness must encompass beyond our own family or Diocese or country but towards the bigger Creation family.
We entrust in full confidence all that we are planning and going to carry out for this year to our Heavenly Father and may He continue to shower us with His abundant mercy and love.
Your Humble Servant
Bishop Joseph Hii Teck Kwong
Diocese of Sibu
‘Ecclesia Christi Sponsa’
Date: 1st January, 2020