Card Tong appointed Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong
by Paul Wang

The cardinal was bishop of Hong Kong from 2009 to 2017. The decision has caused some controversy over Mgr Joseph Ha’s role. His not being chosen as apostolic administrator means that he is a possible candidate for the post of ordinary bishop. Pope Francis sent his condolences to the Diocese over the passing of Mgr Yeung.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Card John Tong Hon has been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Hong Kong "with the responsibility of governing it during its vacancy and until further notice" by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, under whose authority the diocese has been placed.

Card Tong, 79, is bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, having led the Diocese from 2009 to 2017. The cardinal is among the architects of dialogue with China and among the most positive supporters of the Sino-Vatican agreement. The appointment of an apostolic administrator became necessary following the death of Mgr Michael Yeung Ming-cheung on 3 January.

Several faithful wonder why the Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong, Mgr Joseph Ha Chi-shing, was not appointed. In their view, the choice of Card Tong and the exclusion of Mgr Ha is due to the desire of the Vatican and the Diocese to avoid frictions with China. Mgr Ha is known for his support for the release of jailed Chinese bishops, vigils in memory of those killed in Tiananmen, and support for the territory’s demands for democracy.

In reality, according to some priests, Card Tong was picked because of the need for a “neutral” apostolic administrator, someone who is not among the possible candidates for the ordinary episcopate of Hong Kong. This means that Mgr Ha is a possible candidate for such a post.

On Saturday, together with the appointment of the new apostolic administrator, Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolences to Hong Kong for the death of Mgr Yeung.

The telegram, signed by the Secretary of State, Card Pietro Parolin, expresses unity with the diocese "in prayerful thanksgiving for Bishop Yung’s years of priestly and episcopal ministry”. It goes on to say that “His Holiness commends his soul to our heavenly Father’s merciful love.

“To all who mourn the bishop's passing, Pope Francis cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge consolation and strength in the Risen Lord."