Overweight priests are urged to shed their bad habits

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 12:00am

Hong Kong's Catholic priests and nuns have been handed a health warning by the church - it is time to lose weight.

The diocese has launched a health campaign after a survey found that many of its employees were overweight, stressed or suffering from heart disease.

Church leaders say they have been too busy working to take care of their health.

Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, Vicar-General of the Hong Kong Diocese, said a lack of exercise and heavy workloads were to blame for the problem.

'The vast majority of priests in Hong Kong [are] either too fat, too stressed or have problems with their hearts,' Father Chan said.

'But [aside from] being too busy with parish work, and far too [involved in] socialising with parishioners, they have themselves to blame for not doing enough exercise.'

The diocese has set up a taskforce, headed by retired secretary for transport Nicholas Ng Wing-fui, to oversee retirement services for priests and nuns and consider how to improve health and welfare.

In a reversal of roles at a church seminar last month, the clerics were lectured on how to improve their health, including adopting a better diet and taking regular exercise.

The church's chefs have also been told to change their menus to improve the physical well-being of the clergy.

The head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, who used to be a keen hiker, has complained in the past that his heavy workload has prevented him exercising. The bishop, 71, has high blood pressure, which forced him to drop wine from his menu.

Father Chan said that since the average age of the more than 300 priests was 61, there was a need to raise awareness about keeping fit.