Not Auxiliary Bishop Ha, but retired Cardinal Tong, will intervene after the death of Bishop Yeung into diocesan ministry - Tong is considered the co-architect of the disputed September agreement between China and the Holy See
Vatican City (kath.net/KAP) Pope Francis has temporarily recalled 79-year-old Cardinal John Tong Hon (photo) from his retirement to the top of the diocese of Hong Kong. This was reported by the Vatican press service Asianews. Tong, who led the diocese from 2009 to 2017, until further notice replaces bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, who died on Thursday at age 73. The Vatican itself did not announce the appointment. In any case, the custom is considered unusual because there is a suffragan bishop in Hong Kong. In the event of the death or resignation of the diocesan Bishop, this would normally be the responsibility of an interim diocesan leader.
Tong is considered the co-architect of September's controversial agreement between China and the Holy See on bishop appointments. Tong's predecessor Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun (86) is a determined opponent of rapprochement because he fears disadvantages for the Catholic underground Church in China.
The press service Asianews reiterated fears that Tong's appointment as Apostolic Administrator for Hong Kong would be in China's favor. According to other voices Tong was a neutral choice for a transitional period. This leaves Hong Kong Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing (59) a possible candidate for proper succession.
Auxiliary Bishop Ha, unlike Tong, is considered critical of the regime. He was involved, according to AsiaNews, for imprisoned Chinese bishops, vigils for the massacre at Tiananmen Square and for more democracy.
Pope Francis had again defended the signing of the Interim Agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China on the appointment of bishops in China at the New Year's reception for the Diplomatic Corps on Monday. The agreement was the result of "a long and deliberate institutional dialogue that has succeeded in defining some stable elements of cooperation between the Apostolic See and the civil authorities". The official bishops, without a papal mandate, have now been reinstated in full ecclesial communion and "invited to work generously for the reconciliation of Chinese Catholics and for a new momentum in evangelization". A visible sign of this was the participation of two bishops of China in the Youth Synod. "It is to be hoped that the continuation of the contacts with regard to the implementation of the Closed Provisional Arrangement will help to resolve the outstanding issues and ensure the spaces necessary for the true enjoyment of religious freedom," said Pope Francis.
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org