(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis in Saturday appointed a Hong Kong bishop to the diocese of Macau, a former Portuguese colony, now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. Auxiliary Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-sang of Hong Kong, a former British dependency, now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, is the new bishop of Macau. Bishop Sang takes over from Bishop José Lai Hung-seng, who has stepped down. A native of Macau, Bishop Lai has been heading Macau Diocese since June 30, 2003. Bishop Stephen Lee who was born in Hong Kong on 10 November 1956, speaks English and Spanish besides Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.
In 1951, Communist China, which is officially an atheist state, expelled foreign missionaries, severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican and by 1957 set up its own church - the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association - in defiance of the Rome-based Catholic Church headed by the Pope. However, both Hong Kong and Macau, that reverted to China in 1997 and 1999 respectively, enjoy a high degree of autonomy because of their Special Administrative Region status, and hence the Pope can appoint bishops in the two former colonies.