Hong Kong's Catholic priests are overworked and struggling to cope with the pressures of "the world's busiest diocese."
The Standard reports Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong chancellor Lawrence Lee said a shortage of priests and the heavy workload are putting "serious strains" on the clergy.
Fr Lee said the diocese's 300 priests were not enough to cater to the city's 250,000 Catholics - a number that increases by 2,500 every year.
"It is common for priests to deal with churchgoers as late as 11pm," Fr Lee said.
"Hong Kong has the world's busiest diocese due to being a financial hub, its proximity to the mainland and small size.
"Many people come to Hong Kong for business and pass through on their way to China, which means the local Church is full of vitality," he said.
Fr Lee added that the parishes are very active in the evening.
"As people leave their offices they come to church for meetings and activities. We can be taking calls at 11pm or meeting people after 8pm. This is common in poorer districts. They cannot handle the workload."
Another problem the diocese is facing is the ageing clergy.
The average age of priests is over 60 years with attempts to attract young blood over the last seven years unfruitful with only 10 priests recruited - with just four from Hong Kong.
Catholic clergy strained by rush of the faithful (The Standard 18/02/08)
(Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun pictured in thumbnail)