John Tong Hon

John Tong Hon (born 31 July 1939) is a Chinese prelate of the Catholic Church. A cardinal since 2012, he was auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong from 1996 to 2008, then coadjutor bishop of the diocese for a year, and Bishop of Hong Kong from 2009 to 2017. In January 2019, he became the apostolic administrator of the diocese, in a caretaker role, after the death of his successor, Michael Yeung.

His Eminence

John Tong Hon
Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong
John Tong Hon.jpg
ChurchCatholic Church
ProvinceGuangzhou (nominal)
Directly subject to the Holy See (in practice)
SeeHong Kong
Appointed30 January 2008 (as coadjutor bishop)
Installed15 April 2009
Term ended1 August 2017
PredecessorJoseph Zen, S.D.B.
SuccessorMichael Yeung
Other post(s)
Ordination6 January 1966
by Pope Paul VI
Consecration9 December 1996
by John Baptist Wu
Created cardinal18 February 2012
by Pope Benedict XVI
Personal details
Born (1939-07-31) 31 July 1939 (age 83)
DenominationRoman Catholic
ResidenceHong Kong
Previous post(s)
  • Vicar General of the Diocese of Hong Kong (1992–2008)
  • Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong (1996–2008)
  • Titular Bishop of Bossa (1996–2008)
  • Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong (2008–2009)
  • Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong (2019–2021)
Alma materChinese University of Hong Kong
Pontifical Urbaniana University
MottoDominus Pastor Meus
(English: The Lord is my Shepherd)
Coat of armsJohn Tong Hon's coat of arms
Ordination history of
John Tong Hon
Priestly ordination
Ordained byPope Paul VI
Date6 January 1966
PlaceSt. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorJohn Baptist Wu (Hong Kong)
Co-consecratorsPeter Shirayanagi (Tokyo)
Charles Asa Schleck (Adj. Sec. Sacr. Cong. Prop. Fide)
Date9 December 1996
PlaceCathedral of the Immaculate Conception, British Hong Kong
Elevated byPope Benedict XVI
Date18 February 2012
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by John Tong Hon as principal consecrator
Michael Yeung30 August 2014
Stephen Lee30 August 2014
Joseph Ha30 August 2014
Stephen Chow4 December 2021
Styles of
John Tong Hon
Coat of arms of John Tong Hon.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
John Tong Hon
Traditional Chinese湯漢[4]
Simplified Chinese汤汉


Early yearsEdit

Tong Hon was born on 31 July 1939 in Central, Hong Kong, In his youth, Tong Hon spent ten years living in Hua County, Guangdong, before returning to Hong Kong.[5] His father died in China in 1952, at the age of 42.[6]

Tong earned a master's degree in philosophy from the Chinese University of Hong Kong before earning both licentiate and a doctorate in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University.[4][6] He was ordained a priest on 6 January 1966.[7] In December 1992, he was appointed as vicar general of the Diocese of Hong Kong, together with Dominic Chan.[8][9] He served in this role until his appointment as coadjutor bishop in 2008.[10]


On 13 September 1996, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong.[4][7] He was named consultor to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2003, after 24 years of service with their Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong.[11][12] In March 2005, he visited Guangzhou on official business as a representative of the pope, along with other Hong Kong religious leaders; they were received at a banquet luncheon by Zhu Zhenzhong, chairman of the city's political consultative committee.[5]

On 30 January 2008, Pope Benedict XVI named him coadjutor bishop of the Hong Kong Diocese.[13][14] He had been named by the church as being in line for Zen's job as early as 2006; however, he stated he felt little excitement at the prospect of taking up the post.[15] He assumed the post of Bishop of Hong Kong on 15 April 2009 upon the retirement of Joseph Zen.[16]

In 2010 as part of his Christmas message, Tong Hon called on the Chinese government to free Liu Xiaobo, activist Zhao Lianhai and all those who are in jail for promoting human rights. He also urged Beijing to release all the clergy from the underground church who are behind bars for demanding greater religious freedom in China. In his message, he expressed four dreams or aspirations he has for the future of his diocese, namely evangelisation, vocations, the Universal Church and acting as a bridge with the mainland.[17]


On 18 February 2012 he was created Cardinal-Priest of Regina degli Apostoli alla Montagnola.[18][19] He lost his voting rights in papal elections upon his 80th birthday. Regarding his elevation, Cardinal Tong said, "I feel inadequate yet grateful" and called the appointment both "an honour and a responsibility".[6]

On 21 April 2012 Tong was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Inter Religious Dialogue. In October 2012 he served as one of three Presidents-General of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.[20][21] He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in his first and only 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis.[22]

In July 2014 Tong received three auxiliary bishops to assist him in the running of the diocese, Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, O.F.M., Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang and Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung. At the same time, Pope Francis asked Tong to remain Bishop of Hong Kong for three more years.[23]

In 2015, when he would normally have participated in the Synod of Bishops as Hong Kong's representative, he was told that the Vatican could not make an exception for him and he would not be able to participate because he was older than 75, the standard retirement age for bishops.[24]

His resignation was accepted on 1 August 2017.[25]

Apostolic Administrator of Hong KongEdit

On 5 January 2019, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples announced that Tong had been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Hong Kong, with the responsibility of governing it following the unexpected death of Bishop Michael Yeung.[26] On 17 May 2021 Pope Francis appointed Fr. Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong. He will take over from Cardinal John Tong Hon, who has served as the Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong since 5 January 2019.[27]


Holy See–China relationsEdit

Shortly after he was made a cardinal, Tong said that the diocese of Hong Kong would take up the role of "Bridge Church", and that the local church was helping the mainland church to have better formation, reconcile among themselves and achieve full communion with the Pope and the Catholic Church. He went on to call for prayers for "the reopening of the China-Vatican dialogue" and for "the graces bestowed upon the excommunicated, so that their early repentance could bring reconciliation in our Church and thus the wounds of our Church could be healed." Tong said that he is confident that "if Catholics in China were to enjoy full freedom of religious belief and activities, they would not only be able to contribute more fruitfully to the well-being of society, but would also earn for their Motherland a higher reputation in the international community."[6]

In August 2016 Tong Hon revealed that the Holy See and Beijing had reached an initial agreement on the appointment of Catholic bishops in mainland China in an effort to secure a breakthrough in bilateral ties. In an article published[28] in the latest edition of the weekly diocese publication Kung Kao Po, Tong Hon also dismissed criticism that Vatican officials may go against the Holy See's principles and that the dialogue may sacrifice the rights of clandestine churches on the mainland. Tong wrote that Beijing was now willing to reach an understanding with the Vatican on the appointment of bishops in the Catholic Church in mainland China and seek a mutually acceptable plan.[29]

Opposition to LGBT rightsEdit

Tong Hon issued a pastoral letter in November 2015 urging Catholics to vote against candidates in the district council elections if they had liberal views on gay rights - including support for protections against discrimination and the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. He said that certain social movements were "challenging and twisting" core values on marriage and family, and had "shaken society to its core".[30] In response to the letter, a number of students at the Catholic Caritas Institute of Higher Education in Tiu Keng Leng held a protest during a visit by Tong to a graduation ceremony.[31]

Several pan-democratic parties criticised Tong's remarks. People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said, "The current pope has been calling for respect for the LGBT community. I do not understand why Tong would make such a comment at a time when worldwide Catholics are becoming increasingly liberal in handling the issue." A spokesman for the Labour Party also said that Tong's views differed from the remarks made by Pope Francis.[30]

That same month Tong criticised the US Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Hong Kong: Three new auxiliary bishops ordained". O Clarim. Macau. 19 September 2014. Archived from the original on 8 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  2. ^ "New cardinals created by Benedict XVI". L'Osservatore Romano. Vatican City. 19 February 2012. Archived from the original on 8 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  3. ^ Mares, Courtney (4 December 2021). "Hong Kong bishop consecrated in Cathedral of Immaculate Conception". EWTN. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Chang, Chih-ming (30 January 2008). 教宗委任湯漢主教為香港教區助理主教. Radio Taiwan International News (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  5. ^ a b Leung, Yu (30 March 2005). 湯漢回故里 鄉情尤切切. Wen Wei Po (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d Lam, Annie (7 March 2012). "Card Tong: Pray for China-Vatican dialogue and for our role as a bridge-church". Asia News. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Bishop Tong, Hon John". Hong Kong Catholic Diocesan Archives. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  8. ^ "Leading Events in 1990s". Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 19 February 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  9. ^ "TONG HON Card. John". Holy See Press Office. Holy See. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  10. ^ "The Pope appoints Bishop John Tong Hon as Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong". Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office. Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 2 April 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Mons. John Tong Hon, Obispo auxiliar de Hong Kong, nombrado consultor de la Congregación para la Evangelización de los Pueblos". Fides (in Spanish). 28 July 2003. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  12. ^ "Hong Kong Auxiliary Bishop Appointed Consultor of Congregation for the Evagelization of Peoples". Zenit. 28 July 2003. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Coadjutor Named for Hong Kong". Zenit. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Pope Names Hong Kong Bishop". Associated Press. 30 January 2008. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  15. ^ Kiu, Fung (9 October 2006). 陳日君施以退為進伎倆. Ta Kung Pao (in Chinese). Retrieved 31 January 2008.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 15.04.2009" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  17. ^ "Mgr Tong urges Beijing to free Liu Xiaobo, Catholic clergymen and human rights activists". Asia News. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  18. ^ "Churches Assigned to New Cardinals". Zenit. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  19. ^ Otterman, Sharon (19 February 2012). "Dolan Among 22 New Cardinals As Trend Favors Vatican Insiders". New York Times. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  20. ^ "Greeting by Cardinal John Tong Hon, President General of the Synod of Bishops". Zenit. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Gets New Prefect". Zenit. 2 July 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  22. ^ "List of Cardinal Electors". Zenit. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  23. ^ "After six years as head of Hong Kong's Catholics, Cardinal John Tong keeps guiding faithful amid changing world". South China Morning Post. 2 November 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  24. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (2 September 2015). "Hong Kong Cardinal rejected from Synod for being 76". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  25. ^ "Pope names coadjutor to Hong Kong as Cardinal Tong retires as bishop". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. 1 August 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  26. ^ Wang, Paul (7 January 2019). "Card Tong appointed Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong". Asia News. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  27. ^ "Pope appoints Jesuit as new Bishop of Hong Kong - Vatican News". 17 May 2021. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  28. ^ The communion of the Church in China with the universal Church
  29. ^ Cheung, Tony; Lau, Stuart (5 August 2016). "Beijing, Vatican reach initial accord on appointment of bishops, Hong Kong cardinal says". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  30. ^ a b Cheung, Tony; Lau, Stuart (7 November 2015). "Catholic bishop of Hong Kong hits out at gay marriage and tells flock to consider the issue before voting". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  31. ^ Leung, Karen (24 November 2015). "Hong Kong LGBTQ & Gender Politics & Protest Students hold graduation ceremony protest against Cardinal's LGBT stance". Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  32. ^ Tomlin, Gregory (13 November 2015). "Chinese cardinal: U.S. Supreme Court overthrew democratic process in gay marriage case". Christian Examiner. Retrieved 1 August 2017.

External linksEdit

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Vicar General of the Diocese of Hong Kong
With: Dominic Chan (1992–2008)
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Peter Lei
Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong
Title next held by
Michael Yeung
Stephen Lee
Joseph Ha
Title last held by
Joseph Zen
Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong
Title next held by
Michael Yeung
Preceded by Bishop of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Francis Hsu
Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong
Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of Regina degli Apostoli alla Montagnola
Preceded by — TITULAR —
Bishop of Bossa
Succeeded by