Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong died in hospital on Thursday at the age of 73, after suffering liver failure due to cirrhosis.
He had been admitted to Canossa (Caritas) Hospital on December 27, and died the afternoon of January 3.
A board of eight senior members of Hong Kong’s Church administration met on January 4 to discuss the diocese’ future leadership, and decided to hold off on choosing an acting bishop as interim leader of the diocese until after Yeung’s funeral, the South China Morning News reports.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong reportedly told the media that the diocese was particularly saddened by Bishop Yeung’s death, because his condition had been described as stable only a few hours before his death, though he had evidently been facing health problems for several years.
The bishop’s funeral Mass will be said on January 11.
Bishop Yeung was born on December 1, 1945 in Shanghai, and ordained a priest of the Hong Kong diocese in 1978 after studying at a pontifical Roman university.
He then earned a master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University in 1982, and later a master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 1990.
Since August 2003 he had served as the head of Caritas Hong Kong, and was vicar general from 2009.
He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong in 2014, and coadjutor bishop in 2016. He succeeded Cardinal John Tong Hon on August 1, 2017.
From the very first homily after his installation, Bishop Yeung talked about serving the poor, the sick, and the needy, because, in his words, “the well-being of society requires the fostering of genuine ecology and unceasing efforts to bring about integral human development,” and said that “the Chinese government has generally encouraged the religious sector to participate more in social and charitable services.”
The Caritas Institute of Higher Education, of which Yeung was chair, held a Requiem Mass for the bishop’s soul on January 4. The school is seeking to be recognized as a university and change its name to “St Francis University,” the organization announced in 2014.
As a special administrative region, Hong Kong has a large degree of autonomy from mainland China, with its own political and economic system. The territory was a British colony from 1842 until 1997.
There are some 581,000 Catholics in Hong Kong, or about eight percent of the population.
Bishop Yeung previously told CNA in an interview that the Catholic Church “mustn’t compete with the communist party for power and authority in this world. The Lord Jesus never told the disciples to compete with the Roman empire…the Church has, however, her role to play. She is called to have a good attitude to dialogue, and at the same time she is called to tell the truth, and to speak out against social injustice, when the latter happens.”
Yeung’s death comes at a time of rapprochement between the Vatican and the Chinese government. Last month, two bishops of the Vatican-approved underground Catholic Church in China agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the communist-supported Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, in the wake of a September 2018 deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government.