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The Rt Rev Francis HSU Chen Ping

Doctor of Laws
honoris causa

The Public Orator Professor Leonard Kenneth Young, B.A., M.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, if one dared claim kinship with a bishop we would claim it of Francis Hsu Chen-ping, for in his scholarly nature and academic worth we recognize one of our own kind. This is perhaps not surprising when we recall that in his younger days he was Professor of English at the National Central University in Nanking and that, as a British Council Scholar, he took his B.Litt. at Merton, a place with some little reputation for bringing out the literature in men.

I need not remark on the highly effective use to which Francis Hsu has put this literary skill. As the eminently successful editor of the official Catholic Weekly between 1959 and 1964, and as editor and publisher of the Catholic Truth Society between 1961 and 1968, he has shown time and again that in the hands of a master the properties of the printed word are capable of the transmission of light. On the strength of his pen those vital books for the Mass have been lifted over the enfeebling barriers of language, and he has unloosened the tongues of men.

His awareness of the vital importance of communication has extended to all levels of human activity in this changing community. It is his signal achievement that as Director of the Catholic Centre in the 1960's he made it the nerve point for the non-pastoral activities of the Catholic movement in the Colony. It was to be expected that, after a period of study at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, he was consecrated bishop and made Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong in 1967, Apostolic Administrator in the following year; and that he should be installed as Bishop the year after. As the spiritual head of the largest diocese in Asia and one of the largest in the world, his great organizational powers and qualities of leadership have begun to find their real capacity for expression. He has emerged as one of the leaders in that movement of intense and exciting re-discovery of itself and its objectives which has spread through the Catholic Church in recent years. Through his example, Catholics in Hong Kong have found a new spiritual strength and lost their preoccupations. He has taught the lesson to many that solace to be effective must be immediate, and that it can flow freely outward without waiting on the channels of spiritual belief. He has shown, as well, that the helping hand must reach out far enough to shoulder the burdens of those who are dismally placed. Through his efforts, and those of his distinguished predecessors, concepts of social as well as spiritual welfare have permeated catholic activity in Hong Kong. It is no accident that the Roman Catholic Church here is responsible for 290 schools of various categories, with an enrolment of close on a quarter of a million students; that it operates six hospitals, the largest of which has 900 beds; and that the range of its activities includes the running of social centres, vocational training units, hostel accommodation for the needy, clinics, family services, and recreational facilities.

Since 1969, Church leaders under his guidance have applied themselves to a systematic study of the spiritual, social, and educational problems which beset Hong Kong. In particular, a Diocesan Convention working through eleven committees has studied, not only the relationship between the different religious orders and the separate churches, but also the role of the Church in education, mass media, and the social order. With his eye on the future he has sent local clergy for academic training abroad. He has impressed on these men, who a generation ago would be regarded as having found their vocation, the realization that further vocational training was required of them if they were to meet their community's needs.

His vision of the role of the Church in this decade of the angry seventies has led him to assume duties to further the purpose of the Church over the whole of Asia. In this connection he has shouldered the arduous responsibilities of Executive Secretary of the Conference for Asian Bishops, which has established its secretariat in Hong Kong. His growing international status is also reflected in his appointment, the first Asian bishop to be so honoured, as Vice-President for Asia of Caritas Internationalis.

Francis Hsu Chen-ping is a man perfectly at home in two cultures, who has shown his singular capacity to interpret and transmit the timeless message of the Church in terms at once comprehensible and acceptable to the Asian mind. He has shown, and continues to show, that practice is the foundation and the meaning of Christian belief. Thousands have been individually strengthened by the example of his spiritual faith. It is clear that the Colony has in its service a man of the highest achievements, which we wish you to recognize by conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

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