Bishop Lam fell ill in March and was later diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. He had been hospitalized since May, according to Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng, his successor.
Bishop Lam led the diocese, created in 1576 as the first Catholic diocese in the Far East, through Macau’s political transition from Portuguese to Chinese rule in 1999. Portugal administered the enclave for more than 400 years.
His funeral is scheduled for July 31.
Fr Joao Evangelista Lau Him-sang, cathedral parish priest, described the late bishop as ” a bridge between the Church and Chinese society” in Macau and other places.
Before and after the 1999 handover, Bishop Lam, who was fluent in Chinese and Portuguese, participated widely in civil affairs and helped the Chinese community in Macau deepen its understanding of the Catholic Church, the priest recalled.
He also served as a bridge with the Church in China and helped the Beijing government, which adopted an open-door policy in the late 1970s, understand more about the Church, Father Lau said.
Under the leadership of Bishop Lam, Macau diocese has served refugees from East Timor, also a former Portuguese colony, and Filipino workers as well as local Chinese Catholics, and also evangelized new migrants from mainland China.
Bishop Lam, ordained coadjutor bishop of Macau in 1987, succeeded Portuguese-born Bishop Arquiminio Rodrigues da Costa as the diocese’s 22nd bishop the next year.
That same year he was appointed a member of the Macau Basic Law Drafting Committee, which prepared the mini-constitution of the enclave that joined neighboring Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China on Dec. 20, 1999.
Pope John Paul II accepted Bishop Lam’s resignation in 2003, when he turned 75, the age at which canon law requires a bishop to request retirement. Bishop Lai, born in Macau, was appointed the diocese’s second Chinese bishop.
Bishop Lam, born in Hong Kong in 1928, moved to Macau when he was four years old. He graduated from St. Joseph’s Seminary here and was ordained a priest in 1953, after which he managed a parish and taught in a Catholic school and the seminary.
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