VATICAN CITY – The church in Sabah has come of age with the erection of the new ecclesiastical Province of Kota Kinabalu by Pope Benedict XVI on May 23.

The erection marks the separation of the three Sabah dioceses from the ecclesiastical Province of Kuching, raising the
Diocese of Kota Kinabalu to the status of Metropolitan Archdiocese with the Dioceses of Keningau and Sandakan as suffragan sees.

The Holy Father appointed Bishop John Lee Hiong Fun-Yit Yaw of Kota Kinabalu as first Metropolitan Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu.

The archbishop-elect was born in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) in 1933, the sixth child of the late catechist Thomas Lee Yen Chiang and Beatrice Ho Nyuk Kyau. He was ordained a priest in 1964 and consecrated a bishop in 1987.

According to canon law, the metropolitan, who is the archbishop of the diocese which he heads, presides over an ecclesiastical province; this office is connected with an episcopal see which has been determined or approved by the pope.

Catholics in the new Province of Kota Kinabalu number about 310,000, about 8.8 percent of the 3.5 million population.

The symbol of a metropolitan archbishop is the pallium, a woollen vestment worn over the shoulders, with which he is invested by the pope or a papal delegate.

An archdiocese differs from a diocese in that it is the primary see of an ecclesiastical province consisting of two or more dioceses.-  Catholic Sabah

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