(Sept. 20. 2013)
More than 10,000 prisoners in Hong Kong will receive mooncakes on China's Moon Festival, which this year falls on September 19, thanks also to the interest of Pope Francis in them.
He not only endorsed this year's Catholic initiative to provide mooncakes to the prisoners, he also gave a symbolic sum of money and, importantly too, encouraged the Catholic faithful in Hong Kong to donate to the initiative.
The pope came to know about the project thanks to Cardinal Joseph Zen, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong. He told me that he wrote to Pope Francis after World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro and described the project to him because he knows the Argentinian Pope is keen on charitable works and wants to be as close as possible to those on the peripheries of life, such as prisoners.
'Mooncakes' are a traditional pastry eaten during the commemoration of one of China's principal festivals, the mid-autumn Moon Festival. This event brings families together to celebrate the beautiful fact that we all see the same moon.
The cardinal, who has been a regular visitor to prisoners in Hong Kong's jails for many years, recalled how he first started the project several years ago to bring some joy to the prisoners on this festival day, which is celebrated by families in China, Vietnam, Taiwan as well as Hong Kong.
The pope responded with generosity and even sent a handwritten note in which he expressed gratitude to everyone who donated to this year's initiative. His hand written note in Italian, said:
"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."