ucanews.com reporterUpdated: January 19, 2016 03:00 AM GMT
Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau has tendered his resignation citing health reasons. (Photo Courtesy of O’Clarim)
Auxiliary Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Hong Kong Diocese will be installed as the Bishop of Macau on Jan. 23, the 440th anniversary of the diocese's establishment in the former Portuguese territory.
Pope Francis appointed Bishop Lee to replace Macau's Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng, who tendered his resignation for health reasons, according to a Jan. 16 announcement.
"These pontifical provisions express the pastoral care and the love of Pope Francis and of the Holy See toward the Church in China and, in a special way, toward the Diocese of Macau which has been for more than four centuries a bridge of culture and Catholic faith between the East and the West," the announcement said.
Bishop Lee told ucanews.com that he sees the pope's appointment as the will of God.
"I am happy to accept it. Though I will miss Hong Kong, I am willing to go any place that needs my service due to my faith," Bishop Lee said.
The 59-year-old was ordained a priest in 1988 and went on to become a canonist and a China Church expert.
He was appointed, along with Fathers Michael Yeung Ming-cheung and Joseph Ha Chi-shing, as an auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong in 2014. Before that, he was a regional vicar for Opus Dei in East Asia.
Opus Dei also has a community in Macau, where an Opus Dei priest runs the trilingual diocesan Catholic weekly O'Clarim in Chinese, English and Portuguese. The congregation also has a Chinese online weekly Spring for young people.
A Vatican representative (second right) announces Pope Francis' appointment of Auxiliary Bishop Stephen Lee of Hong Kong (third from right) as bishop of Macau. (Photo supplied)
Bishop Lai, who will turn 70 next month, was ordained a priest in 1972. He was appointed coadjutor bishop of Macau in 2001 and succeeded Bishop Domingos Lam in 2003.
After a period of time dedicated to rest and prayer, Bishop Lai will remain in contact with the Diocese as bishop emeritus, the announcement said.
"We were a bit surprised as Bishop Lai did not tell us he has the intention to retire," said Father John Baptist Lau, parish priest of the Nativity of Our Lady Cathedral of Macau.
Father Lau hoped the new prelate would bring a fresh outlook to the diocese.
"Given the stable development of the Hong Kong Diocese, Bishop Lee will have greater room to show his capability in Macau," said a mainland priest who has close connection with the Churches in Macau and Hong Kong.
Macau has around 29,000 Catholics, 60 percent of who are Chinese while the rest are Macanese (local born Portuguese) or non-Chinese, according to 2013 statistics.