Pope Francis’ response to a request for a symbolic mooncake donation to prisoners in Hong Kong has generated excitement and a flood of cash donations since it was published in early September.
The Asian church news portal ucanews.com reported that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired archbishop of Hong Kong, issued the request to Pope Francis in August. He noted that the new pope was well known for his charity and regard for the poor as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, “so I guessed he would also be interested in donating mooncakes to prisoners here.”
Mooncakes are a traditional pastry eaten during the commemoration of one of China’s traditional festivals, the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival, which this year falls on Sept. 19. For the past three years, Cardinal Zen has headed an effort to distribute mooncakes to prisoners in jails throughout Hong Kong, reported ucanews.com.
Shortly after Cardinal Zen issued his request, Pope Francis sent a card on which he wrote in Italian: “Dear Faithful, I gladly join with you to donate mooncakes to our brothers and sisters in the prisons of Hong Kong. Jesus will recognize us at the door of heaven. Happy Moon Festival! I cordially bless you, PP Francesco.”
Cardinal Zen translated the message and printed it on the back of a photo taken in June when he concelebrated Mass with the pope. The cards have been issued to every mooncake donor.
An early September appeal that featured the photo and message generated more than 170,000 Hong Kong dollars ($22,000) in donations for the purchase of the seasonal delicacy, which Cardinal Zen said is very near the target amount for the purchase of more than 10,000 mooncakes.
Volunteers have been enlisted to deliver the mooncakes to the government’s distribution station to be sent out to the prisons, correctional facilities, rehabilitation centers and addiction treatment centers in Hong Kong ahead of the festival. – CNS