Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong died Jan. 3 at the age of 73 after suffering liver failure due to cirrhosis.
The bishop had only been in office since Aug. 5, 2017, taking over from Cardinal John Tong Hon.
“He told us to love the church and all people all the time,” Tong told the faithful after Yeung passed away at the city’s Canossa Hospital.
Yeung was born in Shanghai in 1945 but moved to Hong Kong – then a British colony – four years later. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1978.
Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, is governed under a Basic Law which gives it more freedom than the mainland. The Church in the city is run without government interference, and the Diocese of Hong Kong’s bishops are chosen by the Vatican.
The Catholic Church in Hong Kong has nearly 400,000 members, but makes up only about 5 percent of the population. However, it has played a prominent role in the territory since British rule, providing a social safety net through its educational, housing, healthcare, and other social service systems.
Yeung was seen as friendlier to the mainland authorities than either of his living predecessors, Tong and 86-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.
Zen has been a fierce critic of the ongoing diplomatic talks between the Vatican and Beijing, and has condemned an agreement between the two sides on the appointment of bishops signed in September.
Yeung is the first Bishop of Hong Kong to die in office since Cardinal John Wu Cheng-chung in 2002, and his term was the shortest since Bishop Peter Lei Wang-kei, who died of a heart attack July 23, 1974, just seven months after being appointed.
Yeung’s funeral is scheduled for Jan. 11.