CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Hong Kong bids farewell to its bishop

HONG KONG (SE): Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong has been called to his eternal repose. He was 73-years-old. The bishop, had been admitted to Canossa Hospital on December 27 for cirrhosis of the liver, however his condition deteriorated by January 2 as his liver failed, and he passed on the afternoon of January 3 at 1.30pm.
 
Bishop Yeung was born to a Catholic family in Shanghai on 1 December 1945 and was only four-years-old when his family moved to Hong Kong. He completed his primary and secondary education and worked with an import-export company for a time before entering the seminary in 1972. 
 
He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 June 1978 and was ordained auxiliary bishop on 30 August 2014.  On 13 November 2016, Pope Francis named him coadjutor bishop of the diocese and he succeeded John Cardinal Tong Hon on 1 August 2017.
 
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Urban University, in Rome, Italy, in 1978, going on to obtain a master’s degree in Social Communications at Syracuse University, in the United States, and studied for a second master’s degree in Education at Harvard University from 1989 to 1990. 
 
He was also awarded an honorary Doctor of the University by the Australian Catholic University in 2005, and an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences from The Open University of Hong Kong in 2004.
 
The bishop also taught Theology and Philosophy, Holy Spirit Seminary College from 1986, and was the Magistral Chaplain of The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order Of Saint John Of Jerusalem, Of Rhodes and Of Malta, from 2012.
 
Bishop Yeung had been fighting health issues and priests of the diocese particularly remember him falling down and bruising his face a few minutes before celebrating the Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 7 at the cathedral on Caine Road. Yet he went on to officiate the liturgy, displaying his strong character.  
 
The bishop will be remembered for his determination to “go forth.” He proved to be a fighter till the end. Deliberating on his Episcopal Coat of Arms, he had said, “As hard as we have tried, and in spite of our achievement, we must go forth. We are not always sure where the road will lead us and there will be many trials and challenges, but the Lord will always be walking with us. After his Last Supper, the Lord Jesus told his disciples: ‘Arise, let us go forth from here!’ (John 14:31).” These are the words of his episcopal motto inscribed on his coat-of-arms in Latin and Chinese. 
 
He had dedicated much of his service to Caritas-Hong and at the time of his passing, he was the presiding officer, having previously taken on the mantle of the organisation’s chief executive since August 2013, after the death of the organisation’s then-president, the long-serving Father Francesco Lerda of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, and director of Education Services in the years prior, going back to 1990.
 
When Bishop Yeung spoke of issues facing the diocese one could sense his role marked by concern for his flock’s immediate needs. He spoke of his love of Chinese culture and history as very much in his blood, leading to relations that emphasise the positives rather than what divides. 
 
The bishop put great emphasis on the diocese being inclusive in its pastoral outreach, embracing people of all ages in its life, giving particular stress to the young, whom he said must be included in all consultation and planning, as well as those in their sunset years whom he noted have much to give, but are often ignored. 
 
In an interview with Christopher White of the Catholic periodical, Crux, in October 2017, he said, “Hong Kong is a society full of challenges, at the same time, it is also a fractured society. We have different people, different voices and opinions, and I always hope there’s an opportunity we can sit down and really talk and listen. This is not going to be achieved overnight.”
 
In his Advent message for 2017, Bishop Yeung declared 2018 as the diocesan Year of Youth—in line with Pope Francis’ convoking the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. He exhorted the young people of Hong Kong saying, “You, the young people, are our hope,” adding, “Thank you for your initiative and your enthusiastic, courageous and creative response to the call of the Church in so many different ways.” 
 
He told the young people gathered for the annual Holympics sports day organised by the Diocesan English Youth in September 2018: “I need you more than you need me! You are not just the future, but you are the present of the Church.” He then announced he would extend the Year of Youth into 2019.
 
In his final Christmas message in 2018, the bishop continued to sound out his pastoral theme of embracing and journeying with others, especially the elderly and the young. He said, “I know that many people in Hong Kong, especially the young and the elderly, are faced with grave hardships and challenges. The Church must ‘accompany’ them in their practical ordinary living,” adding, “Everyone is called to holiness, to be saints, in the very ordinariness of daily living… Be lovingly attentive to the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable.”
 
While his episcopate lasted just over 17 months, it was marked by many significant events, among them the controversy surrounding the disqualification by the Hong Kong government of four duly-elected pro-democracy legislators for the way in which they made their oaths of office; the youth exchange programme with Hong Kong’s sister diocese of Essen, in Germany; the diocesan Year of Youth; the hosting of the Taizé Pilgrimage of Trust from 8 to 12 August 2018; and most recently, the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China on the appointment of bishops.
 
Bishop Yeung told Crux, “You know the population of China…it is 1.4 billion. If just one per cent of the whole population becomes Catholic, it will be more than Europe.” 
 
He told the interviewer, “You are a sojourner. But am I not also a sojourner? I am only staying a little bit longer than you here in Hong Kong. We need help from one another.” And his sojourn in came to an end on the afternoon of January 3. 
 
On the occasion of his installation as the eighth bishop of Hong Kong on 5 August 2017 he revealed something of his aspirations for Hong Kong saying, “It would be a sad day for Hong Kong if it were true to say that people here cared only for economic growth. Hong Kong’s well-being calls for a wide range of values to be fostered, including education and appropriate action to strive for integral human development” (Sunday Examiner, 5 August 2017). 
 
The Diocese of Hong Kong will bid its final farewells to Bishop Yeung, with a Vigil Mass to be celebrated on Thursday, January 10, to be celebrated by Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, at 8.00pm at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Caine Road, followed by a funeral Mass at 10.00am on January 11, celebrated by John Cardinal Tong Hon, also at the cathedral. Burial will follow at St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery, Happy Valley, officiated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing. 

More from this section