Rev José Mario O Mandía
“I thank God, and I thank Pope Francis, for accepting my resignation, and for appointing a new Bishop for Macau,” a beaming Bishop José Lai Hung-seng told the faithful gathered at the Macau Cathedral last Saturday, January 23. “Today we have received the Lord’s merciful love and Pope Francis’ care, sending a good bishop to take up the bishop’s office: Bishop Stephen Lee Bun Sang,” he added.
Just two weeks back, the Mass was originally planned as a thanksgiving for the 440th anniversary of Macau’s establishment as a Diocese, but the events of January 16 changed all that. It also became the occasion for the installation of a new Ordinary for Macau, Bishop Stephen Lee Bun Sang, who was one of three auxiliary bishops of Hong Kong. As of press time, it has not yet been determined whether someone will substitute him in his previous post.
Before the Mass began, outgoing Bishop Lai welcomed incoming Bishop Lee at the entrance of the Cathedral of Macau. As they entered, Bishop Lee blessed the faithful with holy water.
At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Lai spoke about how moved he was that God chose a small place like Macau to be a jump-off point in the last 400 years for spreading the faith to lands of the Far East. The diocese was founded in 1576, three years before Manila became a diocese. His words were redolent of words of Saint Paul: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (I Cor 27-29).
Bishop Lai said that Macau was experiencing the Year of Mercy in a special way. Later in the homily, he said that God’s mercy is abundant, never calculating. He reminded the faithful that Macau has beautiful churches, but “the real temple is the heart of each one. Each one of us should become a living temple of God, each one has a mission to evangelize, because it is for this that we have been baptized.”
The outgoing bishop also said that Macau is “not only for evangelization but also a bridge for interaction, for exchange of cultures between East and West.” It is a multicultural society, where everyone accepts each other’s differences.
Speaking of the incoming bishop, Bishop Lai said that he was gifted with “holiness, learning and wisdom,” and assured the faithful that he will continue to carry out the call of Macau to be both a people on a mission and a point of interchange between East and West.
“You have read or heard about him in the news. He has been here many times,” Bishop Lai said, explaining that Bishop Lee used to take care of activities of the Opus Dei Prelature not only in Hong Kong but also in Macau and is not a stranger to the city.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the new Bishop spoke a few words in Chinese, English, and to the delight of the faithful, also in Portuguese. He said that he was moved at the reception accorded to him, and thanked the people of Macau for their warm welcome. He said that he would like to “see you in your respective parishes,” when there will be more time to speak with each one.
Bishop Lee also thanked the diocese of Hong Kong, represented by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi Sing and some priests and faithful; he cited the presence of his relatives and friends from Tak Sun School where he used to be supervisor.
The incoming bishop said that his episcopal motto is Ut omnes unum sint (John 17:21) – “that all may be one.” This means union with the Blessed Trinity, union with the Pope, unity in the family, union with China, and unity in the diocese. Bishop Lee also thanked Bishop Lai and invoked Our Lady of Fatima to bless the diocese.