The Church there is booming and needshelp:
The Hong Kong Catholic Church will recruit more married men to reach out to the needy as it encourages more young people to join the priesthood, a top leader of its 389,000-strong diocese has said.
While the move aligns with Pope Francis’s appeal earlier this year to bring in married men to address the problems of a shortage of priests, local church leaders said their push was inspired by a different reason.
Vicar General Reverend Dominic Chan Chi-ming also said the church in Hong Kong was not short of priests. However, in recent years only a few people have been ordained annually, while the number of followers has grown relatively quickly.
According to the diocese, the number of Catholics in the city surged by 60 per cent from 242,500 in 1997 to 389,000 last year. But during that period, the number of priests declined by 10 per cent, from 326 to about 290 last year. And the ranks of Catholic brothers and sisters also fell.
“In terms of sacraments, we wouldn’t say we are short of priests,” Chan said. “We need to look at our followers who are very active, compared with those in Taiwan.”
The Catholic Church requires its priests to remain celibate. But since the late 1960s, married men have been ordained as “permanent deacons” in Europe and the Americas to help priests in their ministry.
Chan said while Hong Kong was the first Asian diocese to ordain permanent deacons in 1997, the move stemmed from the church wanting to perform more outreach and not leaving the task to priests alone.
“Without deacons, the priests had to do everything, just like Father Franco Mella had to take to the streets,” Chan explained, in a reference to the long-time activist who has fought for the rights of mainland families in the city.
“Priests were ordained to host sacraments … while the deacons are servants for the weak.”