Catholic Church

Michael Yeung named new Hong Kong Catholic leader as John Tong retires

Bishop Tong says his successor is better than him in every way

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2017, 10:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2017, 11:24pm

Coadjutor bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung will become the new head of the Catholic diocese in Hong Kong after Pope Francis approved the retirement of Cardinal John Tong Hon a day after he turned 78.

Asked to comment on his retirement outside his office in Central on Tuesday morning, Tong said: “I am just very grateful. As Christians, priests or bishops, we always have to be grateful.”

The cardinal also said he had “full confidence” in Yeung and added: “He is better than me in every way ... I am sure he will do better and better.”

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Asked if he was worried about political turmoil in Hong Kong, Tong said: “Whether it’s in turmoil depends on how you see it. Everything is a challenge, and challenges help us to step forward.”

“I am not worried because we have the Lord above and the people below. Our city also has a good history and the support of our motherland,” Tong added.

The new bishop will attend a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. He will officiate at a eucharistic celebration on Saturday to mark the commencement of his ministry, followed by a cocktail reception with community leaders on Monday.

Yeung had been expected to succeed Tong, who has passed the retirement age of 75 and whose term will expire this year.

Born in Shanghai in 1945, Yeung has been auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong since 2014. He was ordained as a Hong Kong priest in 1978.

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In November, Pope Francis appointed Yeung coadjutor bishop of the diocese. His role is to help the bishop run the diocese.

Progressive Lawyers Group convener Kevin Yam Kin-fung, who is Catholic, used his Facebook page to urge his friends to pray for Yeung.

“Yeung is a capable and clever person, but I understand that he does not have a very good relationship with priests ... so he will need our prayers as he works on people and the life of believers,” he said.

Yeung has in the past weighed in on politics and was criticised for his controversial remarks comparing homosexuality to drug addiction when Cardinal Tong appealed to his flock to consider district council candidates’ views on gay rights during elections.

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Just before the pro-democracy Occupy protests of 2014, Yeung said the church would neither encourage nor stop Catholics from joining the protests, but would offer help to anyone arrested.

After the Mong Kok riot in February last year, Yeung told the Post that, rather than condemning anyone, “we are calling for calmness and a clear vision... on the causes of the clash”.

Tong was born in Hong Kong in July 1939. He was ordained a priest in 1966. Pope Benedict appointed Tong to replace Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun in 2009. He was named cardinal in 2012.

In 2010, Tong used his Christmas message to appeal for the release of jailed mainland rights activists Liu Xiaobo and Zhao Lianhai. Liu passed away last month.

Asked whether Tong had done a good job in the last eight years, Yam said: “He has done his job ... To be fair to him, he was not as outspoken as his predecessor, Cardinal Zen, but Tong has also spoken up for democracy in Hong Kong and Liu Xiaobo.”