The city's Catholic diocese has renewed its call for more "earnest dialogue" between officials and political parties amid heightening debate over how Hong Kong should achieve universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.
The diocese said the move was needed as tension had not eased since it appealed to the city a year ago for talks and "responsible actions" to build a truly democratic, fair and accountable government.
Fung Yat-ming, supervisor of the diocese's Social Communications Office, declined to say whether the city's 368,000 Catholics should take part in the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement.
"The diocese would not call for Catholics to take part, nor stop them from taking part in Occupy Central, because we can all [follow our] conscience and the catechism … and we are accountable to the Lord," Fung said yesterday.
"There has been dialogue but it's been too slow - the clock's ticking. Therefore our call is firstly, for them to [get together] for talks more quickly; and secondly … please don't forget about various livelihood issues such as housing."
The diocese's stance was in contrast to that of the city's Anglican Archbishop the Most Reverend Paul Kwong, who caused a row a month ago by saying during a sermon that Christians should keep quiet, just as "Jesus remained silent" in the face of crucifixion.
Dr Chan Sze-chi, a senior lecturer at Baptist University's religion and philosophy department, said the Catholic call highlighted the need for Protestant churches to reflect on how they should react to Hong Kong's social issues and guide their flock.
"The Catholic diocese's stance is not a tough one at all … It's possible for Christian churches to say something similar," Chan said. "But the Christian community in Hong Kong lacks a leader [and a] living, teaching authority."
Fung, when asked to define what made a "truly democratic" political system, told reporters to refer to the diocese's statement in July last year.
In that 2,000-character Chinese statement, the diocese called for the chief executive to be directly elected by the one person, one vote method in 2017 after going through a "truly democratic" nominating process. It said it believed any system that deprived Hongkongers of a reasonable chance to elect their representatives in government was an infringement upon basic civil rights.
Fung's remarks yesterday echoed two auxiliary bishops newly appointed by the Vatican last month, who emphasised that the church supported civil disobedience when it was for the common good.