Christians from across the region joined a Chinese monk from the Trappist order, the Rev Nicholas Kao Se-tsean, who is believed to be one of the world's oldest Roman Catholic priests, as he celebrated a remarkable 110th birthday with family and friends in Hong Kong - reports Francis Wong for Ecumenical News International (ENI).
Fr Kao concelebrated a special Mass on 15 January 2007 at the Lady of Joy Abbey (Hong Kong), the place where he has lived and prayed. About 100 Catholics from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and Malaysia, places where he had served, shared the monk's joy.
Friends of Fr Kao who visit him at the monastery say that whenever he is asked for the secret to his long life he simply says: "Forgo anger, tobacco, intoxication and gluttony in favour of exercise, humility, charity, prayer and patience."
Among those at Fr Kao's 110th birthday were his great-nephews, as well as Catholics who he has baptised.
The Hong Kong Standard newspaper in 2005 described Fr Kao as "a thin, gentle and good-humoured man with a full, flowing white beard who walks with the aid of a three-legged cane and peers at the world through large tortoise shell-rimmed spectacles".
Fr Kao was born in Fujian province, eastern China, on 15 January 1897. After his ordination as a priest in 1933, he served the local cathedral for a while, then embarked on missionary activity in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand for the following 40 years.
He joined a Trappist monastery in 1972 and started living as a monk. He prays seven times a day and used to work in a small farm in the community. Fr Kao once said that "What I can do was so little. [So] I pray... God can change the situation."
According to Hong Kong media reports, the Guinness Book of World Records states that the longest living priest was Alvaro Fernandez (1880-1998) in Spain.
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]