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Study shows rise in Catholics

But gap widens in ratio of priest to lay persons

  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • February 1, 2012
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A new study has shown that the Catholic population has grown in recent years, while the ratio of priests to laity has also increased.

The study conducted by the Diocesan Building and Development Commission compiled data from the Hong Kong Catholic Church Directory from its beginnings in 1954 through 2010 and found the sharpest rise in Catholic population in the last decade.

That study showed that the proportion of Catholics living in the New Territories recorded a continuous increase, while the Kowloon Peninsula Catholic population fell and Hong Kong island’s population remained level.

Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar general of Hong Kong and the commission’s ex officio member, said the analysis would serve as a reference for pastoral development, adding that three new churches have been planned for the New Territories to meet the growing need.

As of 2010, baptized local Catholics amounted to 350,000, representing five percent of Hong Kong’s seven million residents.

If including Catholics among non-permanent residents, notably Filipino domestic helpers and other foreign nationals, the total Catholic population was 530,000.

Meanwhile, the number of parishes has fallen from its peak of 62 in 1995 to 51 in 2010, but the number of churches and chapels has grown, the data showed.

The number of priests to lay Catholics also widened from 1 per 500 in 1971 to 1 per 1,200 in 2010.

While paid catechists decreased to 40 in 2010, the number of voluntary catechists has exceeded 1,400 since 2005, which the commission described as “a welcome sign of maturity of the diocese.”

On educational service, the commission found there was a “significant and persistent” decline in the percentage of Catholic students in the 278 Catholic schools – from 33 percent in 1958 to 8 percent in 2010. The downward trend began in 1970s.

The Church’s social welfare services have also shown an increasing diversity in recent years, according to the study.

About 2.5 million people were served per year in 2009 and 2010 by Catholic hospitals, clinics, hostels, the Caritas’ service centers, homes for the aged and girls, and centers for handicapped and the youth.

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