The Christian community largely Protestant and Roman Catholic is estimated to number about 530 000. The Protestant and Roman Catholic churches maintain a spirit of fellowship, with the Hong Kong Christian Council and the Roman Catholic Diocese joining together on special occasions. In recent years, the Orthodox Church has established a Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia, which is based in Hong Kong.

Protestant Community

The presence of the Protestant community dates from 1841. About 300 000 Protestant Christians live in Hong Kong. The Protestant Church is made up of over 1 300 congregations in more than 50 denominations with many independent churches. The Baptists form the largest denomination, followed by the Lutherans. Other major denominations are Adventist, Anglican, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of Christ in China (representing the Presbyterian and Congregational traditions), Methodist, Pentecostal and Salvation Army. With their emphasis on youth work, many congregations have a high proportion of young people.

    Protestant organisations operate three post-secondary institutions: Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University and Lingnan University. They run 158 secondary schools, 206 primary schools, 273 kindergartens and 116 nurseries. They also operate 16 theological seminaries and Bible institutes, 16 Christian publishing houses and 69 Christian bookshops.

    They run seven hospitals with some 3 749 beds, 18 clinics and 59 social service organisations which provide a wide range of social services, including 227 community, family service and youth centres, 74 day care centres, 17 children's homes, 35 homes for the elderly, 106 centres for the elderly, two schools for the deaf and one for the blind, and 47 training centres for the mentally handicapped and disabled. There are also 15 camp sites. Five international hotel-type guest houses are managed by the YMCA and YWCA.

    More than 70 para-church agencies and various Christian action groups minister to the Protestant community and respond to current issues and concerns within Hong Kong society at large. The church supports emergency relief and development projects in developing countries. Two weekly newspapers, The Christian Weekly and The Christian Times, present news and comments from a Christian perspective.

    Two ecumenical bodies facilitate cooperative work among the Protestant churches in Hong Kong. The older one, dating from 1915, is the Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union with a membership of 275 congregations. The second cooperative body is the Hong Kong Christian Council, formed in 1954. Major mainline denominations and ecumenical services constitute the membership core of the council, which is committed to building closer relationships among all churches in Hong Kong as well as with churches in the Mainland and overseas. The council also encourages local Christians to play an active part in the development of Hong Kong society. It seeks to serve the wider community through its auxiliary agencies such as the Hong Kong Christian Service, Christian Industrial Committee, United Christian Hospital, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and Alice Ho Min Yee Nethersole Hospital and the Christian Family Service Centre. The council runs weekly 'Alternative Tours', which give visitors and residents an opportunity to see how the church serves the community.

Roman Catholic Community

The Roman Catholic Church has been present since Hong Kong's earliest days. The church was established as a mission prefecture in 1841 and as an apostolic vicariate in 1874. It became a diocese in 1946.

    In 2002, the church mourned the death of Cardinal John Baptist Cheng-chung Wu, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong for 27 years, having been ordained in July 1975. Cardinal Wu, who was aged 77, died on September 23. He was succeeded immediately by the Coadjutor Bishop, Joseph Ze-kiun Zen, as the Bishop of Hong Kong. Bishop Zen is assisted by two Vicars General, John Hon Tong, who is also Auxiliary Bishop, and Father Dominic Chan.

    Cardinal Wu the third Chinese to be elevated to the College of Cardinals was the third Chinese bishop of the diocese. The first was Francis Chen-peng Hsu, who was installed in 1969. Bishop Hsu was succeeded in 1973 by Peter Wang-kei Lei.

    About 230 000 people are Catholics. In addition, sizeable numbers of foreign nationals living or working in Hong Kong, especially Filipinos, are practising Catholics. The community is served by 309 priests, 60 brothers, and 525 sisters. There are 54 parishes and 27 centres and 32 halls. Most services and other religious activities are conducted in Chinese, with some churches providing services in English and Tagalog.

    The diocese has established its own administrative structure while maintaining traditional links with the Pope and other Catholic communities around the world. It uses the same scriptures and has similar ecclesial communions as in the universal church throughout the world, with which it maintains close fellowship. The assistant secretary-general of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference has his office in Hong Kong.

    Along with its apostolic work, the diocese is concerned with the well-being of all the people of Hong Kong. The 314 Catholic schools and kindergartens had 277 616 pupils in 2002. The Catholic Board of Education assists in this area. Medical and social services include six hospitals, 15 clinics, 14 social centres, 14 hostels, 12 homes for the aged, 17 homes for the handicapped and many self-help clubs and associations. Caritas is the official social welfare arm of the church in Hong Kong. Services are open to all people indeed, 95 per cent of those who have benefited from the wide range of services provided by the diocese are not Catholics.

    The diocese publishes two weekly newspapers, Kung Kao Po and The Sunday Examiner. The Diocesan Audio-Visual Centre produces tapes and films for use in schools and parishes and the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office acts as an overall information and public relations channel for the diocese.