The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong (Chinese: 天主教香港教區; Latin: Dioecesis Sciiamchiamensis) is a Latin Rite ordinary diocese of the Catholic Church headed by Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung. Though the bishop is subject to the Roman Pontiff, he is not the vicar of the latter: he governs it in his own name. The diocese takes its name from the see city, the metropolitan area where the bishop resides. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong is a de jure suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Guangzhou. However, in practice it is an immediate subject of the Holy See.
There were about 384,000 local Catholics as of August 2015, and 160,000 Filipino Catholics in Hong Kong. They are served by 223 priests, 26 deacons, 68 brothers and 474 sisters. There are 51 parishes, comprising 40 churches, 31 chapels and 26 halls for religious service. As for education, there are 252 Catholic schools and kindergartens, having a total of over 149,626 pupils.
The organization of what would become the Diocese of Hong Kong began immediately after the establishment of Hong Kong as a British colony.
In 1841 Pope Gregory XVI created a Prefecture Apostolic comprising "Hong Kong with the surrounding six leagues" independent from the Diocese of Macau, but under the authority of the Bishop of Macau. The initial need for the establishment of the prefecture was the spiritual care of the British (Irish Catholic) soldiers stationed in the newly established colony.
Theodore Joset, a Swiss diocesan priest, became the first Prefect Apostolic.
The prefecture functioned much as a mission, but was intended, from its inception, to become a diocese eventually. In the first ten years, the missionaries built churches, schools, a seminary, and institutions for the sick, elderly, and orphans.
Following Joset's death in 1842, Anthony Feliciani became Prefect Apostolic of Hong Kong.
The foundation stone of the first church was laid in 1842. It was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in 1843, enlarged in 1858–59, burnt down on 18 October 1859, rebuilt and blessed on 18 March 1860. (This church was the predecessor of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Hong Kong, which was built in 1883 at its present site on Caine Road.)
In 1858, the first missionaries belonging to the Seminary of Foreign Missions of Milan (now PIME) arrived; they were designated to take over the administration of the mission in time.
In 1874 the Hong Kong Prefecture was raised to a Vicariate Apostolic, and entrusted to the Seminary of Foreign Missions of Milan (now PIME). While the prefecture had been run by missionary priests, a vicariate was the intermediary step before becoming a diocese, and required a bishop to run it. Since the territory was not yet a diocese, the bishops were called "titular bishop" of another place (where they had no ecclesiastical authority). The bishops were under the direct authority of the Pope, exercising their power in his name, rather than being vested with the office belonging to a diocese.
The first Vicar Apostolic was Giovanni Timoleon Raimondi, titular Bishop of Acanthus (consecrated 22 November 1874), who died at Mission House, Glenealy, Hong Kong, 27 September 1894. He was succeeded by Monsignor Louis Piazzoli (born 1849), titular Bishop of Clazomenæ, and Dominic Pozzoni (born 1851), titular Bishop of Tavia, elected 26 May 1905.
In 1880, the vicariate hosted the first synod of the fifth ecclesiastical region of the Catholic Church in China; it hosted a second synod in 1891, and a third in 1909.
In 1883, the foundation stone of a new cathedral was laid. This is the present Immaculate Conception Cathedral. It was inaugurated in 1888.
The vicariate continued to grow. In 1913 it included 12 European and 10 native priests and 14,195 Christians; there were 26 churches, 5 of them with resident priests; 40 schools for boys and 29 schools for girls; 12 Brothers of the Christian Schools; 35 Sisters of Canossa; 22 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres; and 54 native Sisters.
Besides Hong Kong Island, the vicariate included Lantau Island, its adjacent islands and the three continental districts of San-on (新安), Kwei-shing (歸善), and Haï-fung (海豐). Churches with resident priests were the cathedral (Glenealy), St. Joseph's (Garden Road), St. Francis (Wanchai), Church of the Sacred Heart (West Point), Church of St. Anthony (West Point). The Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris had a procurator, a sanitorium and a printing office at Hong Kong; there was also a Dominican procurator.
More missionaries arrived from many orders throughout the 1920s and 1930s, building more churches, schools, and hospitals.
During World War II, the Japanese occupation stopped almost all activities. Missionaries evacuated, and were variously interned, released, and expelled. After the war, reconstruction began immediately.
On 11 April 1946 Pope Pius XII established the episcopal hierarchy in China, raising all the apostolic vicariates to dioceses, Hong Kong among them, through an Apostolic Constitution in Latin sent to each Vicar Apostolic together with a letter from the Apostolic Internuncio, Anthony Riberi, in the summer of 1946. Since then, the Hong Kong Diocese is directly responsible to the pope. Enrico Valtorta became the first bishop of Hong Kong.
In 1949 refugees fleeing the Chinese communist regime began to pour into Hong Kong, including many Catholics and clergymen from all over China; diocesan activities were effectively restricted to the boundaries of the Colony. In 1952, the diocese opened seven new chapels for refugees.
On 18 August 1991, an Open Forum on "Elections 1991," jointly organized by the Council of Priests, the Justice and Peace Commission, the Central Council of Catholic Laity and the Catholic Institute for Religion and Society, was held in the nine constituencies of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories in order to encourage the faithful to take an active part in the direct elections to the Legislative Council on 15 September. Church organizations also made a similar appeal to the faithful and ordinary citizens through publications, questionnaires and advertisements in newspapers.
On 15 April 1993 the diocese was re-divided into nine deaneries. Council of Priests reorganized with all the deans included as ex officio members.
On 8 July 2004 the Legislative Council passed the Education (Amendment) Bill. Under the New Ordinance, which would be effective on 1 January 2005, every aided school would be required before 2010 to form an incorporated management committee (IMC) whose members should include elected representatives of teachers, parents of students and alumni, as well as other independent persons, with a view to promoting a school-based management. It was the concern of the Church that, as a sponsoring body, she would no longer be empowered in the future to supervise the schools under her sponsorship, nor be able to achieve her goals and objectives in Catholic education. On 5 June 2005, Bishop Zen announced that, if the Legislative Council pass the donation to support schools to create incorporated management committees on 8 July 2005, he would appeal against the decision to the court. After the Government decided to give up some main argued points, the Diocese decided to support the motion.
On 22 February 2006 Pope Benedict XVI announced that Bishop Joseph Zen would be raised to the College of Cardinals. He received his red biretta on 24 March 2006 after a day of reflection on 23 March. He received his cardinalatial ring on 25 March 2006, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.
Joseph Zen was an outspoken supporter of democracy and a staunch critic of the People's Republic of China. His views on government policies were often at odds with those of Hong Kong's former Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who is also a Catholic.
The first resident priest of the colony was Michael Navarro, a Spanish Franciscan, who arrived in January 1842.