Yeung appointed Bishop of Hong Kong in tough political times

Prelate takes over the Hong Kong church amid increasing interference from Beijing
Yeung appointed Bishop of Hong Kong in tough political times

Bishop Michael Yeung meets the press on Nov. 14, 2016, the day after he was appointed as coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong by Pope Francis. ( reporter)

The new bishop of Hong Kong takes over at a time when there is increasing interference from Beijing and when the city's "one country, two systems" has come under threat. 

Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, 71, now heads the diocese following Pope Francis accepting the resignation of his predecessor Cardinal John Tong Hon.

The pope accepted Cardinal Tong's resignation from the pastoral care of Hong Kong Diocese with Coadjutor Bishop Yeung, succeeding him automatically, the Vatican announced on Aug. 1. Cardinal Tong, 78, had in accordance with the canon law requirement submitted his resignation letter when he turned 75 but was requested by Pope Francis to continue. Cardinal Tong being under the age of 80 is for two years eligible to elect a pope in a conclave. 

The appointment comes amid a tumultuous time for the Catholic Church in China and when Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" has come under threat from the powers in Beijing.

The ruling Communist Party is one year into a concerted program to "Sinicize" the church while at the same time Beijing is continuing with unprecedented negotiations with the Vatican intended to cover a range of issues but at present focused on the regularization of the appointment of bishops.

The Hong Kong church remains separate and unlike the official church in China answers to the pope. But there are fears that the Party's clear moves to take firmer control of Hong Kong's political and more recently its legal system will eventually spill over to the Catholic Church.

Hong Kong's newly appointed chief executive Carrie Lam, a practicing Catholic, initially pushed for a Party-run Catholic Church on her election platform but quickly withdrew it after widespread criticism including from Cardinal Tong.


Cardinal John Tong of Hon Kong delivered a spiritual lecture during the feast day of the Our Lady of Fatima on May 14. ( reporter)


Despite retiring as Hong Kong bishop, Cardinal Tong is expected to remain active in other ministries. When Cardinal Tong celebrated his last Mass as Bishop of Hong Kong at the cathedral on July 30, he told the congregation that he received a letter from Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, saying that his retirement is not the end of his mission to evangelize "but just an adjustment."

Cardinal Tong said that he would spend more time at the Holy Spirit Seminary but may still come back to the Diocesan Center, according to the Kung Kao Po, the Chinese diocesan weekly.

He will also "continue to serve the universal church, including being a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue," the Kung Kao Po reported.

Being a China Church expert, Cardinal Tong will remain the director of the Holy Spirit Study Center, which researches on church life in China, a post he has held since the center was created in 1979.

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"The local bishop — now Bishop Yeung — is automatically the chairman of the board. As for the director, it is decided by the board," Anthony Lam Sui-ki, executive secretary of the center told "So, at this moment, Cardinal Tong is still the director until there is any decision in the next board meeting chaired by Bishop Yeung early next year," he said.

There will be a special Mass for Bishop Yeung on Aug. 5.

Bishop Yeung was born in Shanghai Dec. 1, 1945 and was ordained a priest in Hong Kong in 1978. He has been chairman and CEO of Caritas Hong Kong for more than a decade.

Bishop Yeung was ordained as one of the three auxiliary bishops on Aug. 30, 2014 together with Joseph Ha Chi- shing and Stephen Lee Bun-sang. He was appointed Nov. 13, 2016 by Pope Francis as coadjutor bishop with automatic rights to succeed Cardinal Tong.

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