Pope Francis appoints three new bishops in Hong Kong

(Photo: REUTERS / Bobby Yip)Cardinal Joseph Zen (C), an outspoken critic of Beijing, along with other protesters takes part in a demonstration to demand religious freedom in China outside the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong July 11, 2012. The Vatican on Tuesday condemned the appointment of a Chinese Catholic bishop without its approval, hours after a source said one of Rome's own newly-ordained bishops had been detained in a seminary in China. The Chinese characters on his placard reads "protest against restriction."

The Vatican has appointed three new auxiliary bishops in Hong Kong who will continue work on the tense diplomatic relations between the Holy See and mainland China.

Pope Francis on Friday announced the selection of Joseph Ha Chi-shing, Stephen Lee Bun-sang and Michael Yeung Ming-cheung as auxiliary bishops in Hong Kong.

They will help Cardinal John Ton Hung run the Diocese of Hong Kong, which plays a critical role in bridging the gap between the Vatican and China.

In China all churches are controlled whereas in Hong Kong they autonomy.

Rev. Bruno Lepeu, superior of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, said he was pleased about the new appointments, considering that Ha and Lee are knowledgeable in the dynamics of Holy See-China relations.

"Ha and Lee are very familiar with China Church affairs," Lepeu told ucanews.org.

A member of the Order of Friars Minors, Ha will meld well into the diocese, Rev. Chan Moon-hung the local president of the Franciscan order said.

"Father Ha is a very suitable candidate as an assistant with his virtue and his strength in interpersonal relations and spirituality," Chan Moon-hung told ucanews.com.

A member of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Yeung has held different administrative and pastoral roles in Hong Kong, including director of Caritas Hong Kong.

A canon law specialist and regional vicar of East Asia for Opus Dei, Lee is an advocate specializing in marriage annulment cases, at the diocesan tribunal of Hong Kong.

The appointments come as Cardinal Hon has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, but the Pope him to remain in the diocese until he appoints a replacement.

Hong Kong has two cardinals and three bishops in the former British colony where there are an estimated 374,000 Chinese Catholics and about 189,000 foreign Catholics.

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