Catholic Church holds off choosing interim leader for Hong Kong after death of Reverend Michael Yeung Ming-cheung
- Diocese administrators had been expected to elect acting bishop until replacement chosen by the Vatican
A new leader of Hong Kong’s Catholic Church will only be chosen after the funeral next Friday of predecessor Reverend Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, auxiliary bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing has said.
Yeung, who was appointed bishop for the local diocese in August 2017, died at the age of 73 on Thursday from liver failure.
A board of eight senior members of the church administration met on Friday morning to discuss the future. They had been expected to elect an acting bishop as interim leader until a replacement was chosen by the Vatican.
But Ha emerged from the meeting at 11.30am saying the post was still vacant.
“We will first focus our minds on Bishop Yeung’s funeral arrangements,” Ha said.
His death was sudden, he added.
Church canon law allows for the post to be left vacant for eight days after the death of a bishop.
“I will take care of the administration of the diocese for eight days,” Ha said.
“After the funeral we will convene a meeting as soon as possible, and will announce the results to society and our church.”
There would be no disruption to church operations as it was only a short period, he said.
Asked if he would like to become the next bishop, Ha said it was not up to him to decide.
“It does not depend on one’s intentions. As long as I am in this position, I will try my best to offer what I have to the church of Hong Kong.”
He also said the political stances of candidates should not factor into the church’s decision.
“Everyone has their political stance, I do not see it having much impact,” he said.
“I will obey the decision of the Pope.”
Ha has in the past attended Hong Kong’s annual June 4 vigil in memory of those killed in 1989’s Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.
Many churches, meanwhile, held a requiem mass for Yeung on Friday night.
At the one in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mid-Levels, vicar general Dominic Chan Chi-ming spoke of the days working with the late bishop who he met twice a week.
“In recent months, Bishop Yeung suffered from back pain but he stayed strong and persevered,” Chan said. “He especially cared about youngsters and the disadvantaged ones. He had mentioned multiple times the three Ls – the least, the last and the lost of society.”
The vicar general said Yeung kept praying in his final days and drew a cross on his hands in response to Chan’s prayer just before he died.
Ng Siu-hong, a district councillor in the constituency where the cathedral is located, was among the believers who went to pay their respects.
“It is very unfortunate. He was very caring for the disadvantaged in society,” said Ng, who hoped politics would be kept out when a successor was being chosen.
Another follower, surnamed Chan, said: “He was very friendly and I am sad at his sudden death. He will always be in my prayers.”
The church earlier announced that Yeung’s funeral mass would be held at the cathedral on January 11.
His body will be buried at St Michael’s Catholic Cemetery in Happy Valley the same day. Ha will officiate at the burial rites.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung