07/14/2014, 00.00
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Hong Kong's bishops-elect back civil disobedience, cautious about China Vatican dialogue

by Victoria Ma
Catholics in Hong Kong and mainland China welcomed papal appointments with joy. A Catholic from northern China hopes to see the Holy See choose new bishops for the Chinese Church. The three new bishops will be ordained on 30 August. Card Tong's episcopal mandate has been extended for another three years.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Catholics in Hong Kong cheered for Pope Francis' appointment of three new auxiliary bishops for the diocese, and prayed for its new leadership at July 13 Sunday Masses here. The ordinations of the three bishops-elect will take place on Aug. 30 at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception of the diocese.

Pope Francis extended Cardinal John Tong Hon's tenure as bishop of Hong Kong for a further three years, until 2017, as Cardinal Tong will reach the age of 75 on July 31 this month.

The newly appointed auxiliary bishops of Hong Kong are Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, 68, Shanghai-born diocesan clergy of Hong Kong; Stephen Lee Bun-sang, 57, regional vicar of Opus Dei Prelature; and Joseph Ha Chi-sing, 55, a Franciscan. Both Lee and Ha are Hong Kong-born.

A Catholic leader in northern China expressed congratulations to the Hong Kong diocese for the new appointments, describing it "God's will, a blessing for both the Churches in Hong Kong and mainland".

A mainland reader on China's Catholic Online commented that he fully supported the papal appointments for Hong Kong, and it is also desired that the Pope will appoint more bishops in China, an urgent need for Church development there.

At a press conference convened by the diocese on July 12, local press focused their attention on the three new bishops' views on civil disobedience, local Catholics' participation in political protests like Occupy Central, a political campaign that fights for full democracy but already dubbed illegal by Hong Kong government.

The auxiliary bishops-elect have voiced their support for the public's right to engage in civil disobedience protests, but only in the right circumstances.

Bishop-elect Ha said civil disobedience is allowed when authorities fail to act in the common good. Ha took part in the July 1 prayer rally and the march that drew 510,000 people to join to call for democracy and civil rights in Hong Kong.

Ha said the Church does not hope the Occupy Central will happen. However, if it does, and if participating Catholics are arrested, he thinks the Church should help them.

Bishop-elect Yeung said that the Hong Kong government would postpone the submission of the report on electoral reform to Beijing, of which its consultation lasted for five months. This will allow more time for dialogue in society, he said.

From Vatican's daily bulletin of July 11, two of the three bishops-elect's background was cited as experienced in China affairs. Bishop-elect Ha was a consultor of the Commission for the Catholic Church in China. Bishop-elect Lee's doctorate thesis in 1990 was mentioned, about the Church-state relations of People's Republic of China.

Bishop-elect Lee said that China and Vatican are taking an active attitude in dialogue. Catholics in Hong Kong are praying that both are in dialogue with sincerity, honesty and trust, hoping that they can find common points, he said. Both sides hope to do good for their Chinese people and their believers. He said he is optimistic about the progress of their relationship.

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