HONG KONG — Hong Kong Catholics mourned the loss of their bishop with a Mass on Thursday night amid a low-key struggle among clergy over reconciliation between the Vatican and Beijing.
Bishop Michael Yeung died last week from liver failure after less than two years as the head of the diocese of around 400,000 Catholics in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
More than 1,000 parishioners gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to attend Mass and pass by Yeung’s open casket.
Yeung’s predecessor, Cardinal John Tong, was brought out of retirement by the Vatican to serve as interim administrator. Yeung’s auxiliary, Bishop Joseph Ha, is the highest-ranking serving bishop in the diocese, and known to be critical of the Chinese government.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, a vocal opponent of attempts by Beijing and the Vatican at rapprochement, presided at the Mass.
The Holy See has in recent months stepped up efforts at rapprochement with China’s Communist leadership, which demands the right to appoint bishops and requires that Catholics worship only in Communist Party-recognized congregations.
Pope Francis on Monday praised the provisional agreement between the Holy See and Beijing reached last September on bishop appointments, calling it the “result of a lengthy and thoughtful institutional dialogue.”
Some of the church’s local leaders in Hong Kong, notably Ha and Tong’s predecessor, Cardinal Zen, remain politically active moral forces who champion democracy and other causes, both religious and secular. Beyond serving the flock, the diocese runs many grade schools and high schools that are popular with lay parents.