Discover the Diocese of Honolulu

The Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, officially in Latin Dioecesis Honoluluensis, is an ecclesiastical territory or particular church of the Catholic Church in the United States. Thediocese comprises the entire state of Hawai?i and the unincorporated Hawaiian Islands.

The diocese is suffragan to the Metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco and a part of the ecclesiastical province that includes the San Francisco archdiocese and the suffragan dioceses of Las VegasOaklandRenoSacramentoSalt Lake CitySan JoseSanta Rosaand Stockton. The patrons of the Diocese of Honolulu are the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Malia O Ka Malu or Our Lady Queen of PeaceSaint Damien of Moloka?i, andSaint Marianne of Moloka?i.

The diocese is governed by the Bishop of Honolulu. His canonical seat or cathedra is located at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. With his clergy, the bishop ministers to a culturally diverse population in the following languages: HawaiianEnglishIlokanoTagalog;SamoanTonganJapaneseKoreanSpanish; and Vietnamese. It is one of the most diverse and one of the largest dioceses in the United States, in terms of territorial area which spans statewide and includes unpopulated Hawaiian Islands.

Pope Gregory XVI had divided Oceania into two vicariates apostolic. The evangelization of the Vicariate Apostolic of Oriental Oceania (consisting of the prefectures apostolic of Tahiti, the Marquesas, and the Sandwich Islands) was entrusted to the Picpus Fathers, then recently established by Pierre Coudrin. The Vicariate Apostolic of Occidental Oceania was likewise entrusted to the Society of Mary, Marianists and Marists, founded in 1836 at Lyonby Jean-Claude-Marie Colin.

Shortly after the disappearance at sea of the Vicar Apostolic of Oriental Oceania, Msgr. Rouchouze and a company of missionaries on the Marie Joseph in 1843, the Vaticancanonically erected from its territories the Vicariate Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands.Similar vicariates apostolic were created for Tahiti and the Marquesas. Blessed Pius IXchanged its name in 1848 to the Vicariate Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands. Venerable Pope Pius XII elevated the vicariate apostolic to the dignity of a diocese on January 25, 1941, as it remains today.


The first Catholic mission to the Kingdom of Hawai?i was established by the creation of thePrefecture Apostolic of the Sandwich Islandsby Pope Leo XII and the appointment ofAlexis Bachelot as its first and only prefect, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a religious institutecalled the Picpus Fathers, founded by Pierre Coudrin during the French Revolution. The first Picpus Fathers departed from Bordeauxaboard the La Comète on November 21, 1826 and stopped in Valparaíso in Chile on February 8, 1827. The Picpus Fathers resumed their trip on February 25. They entered port at Honolulu Harbor on July 7. Having originally been refused entry by Protestant advisors to the king, the Picpus Fathers did not disembark from their ship until July 9, the Feast of Our Lady of Peace. Among the first Picpus Fathers were Abraham Armand and Alexis Bachelot of France, as well as Patrick Short of the United Kingdom. They were joined by six lay brothers. It has been claimed that Fathers Armand, Bachelot and Short concelebrated the first Mass in the Hawaiian Islands on Bastille Day, July 14, 1827, in honor of their religious institute's French heritage, but this is untrue, and an anachronism: concelebration of masses was not practiced at the time, and since France was being ruled by the restored Bourbon monarchy, "Bastille Day" would certainly not be marked as a national holiday. They performed the first baptism on November 30.

The Picpus Fathers were quick to plunge into the Hawaiian society. They learned the local language, went into the Native Hawaiiancommunity and began preaching to them. They distributed Hawaiian language Bibles and taught the lessons of Jesus from the gospels. Hundreds of Native Hawaiians chose to receive the sacraments of baptismconfirmation and Eucharist. Among the first converts were William Pitt Kalanimoku who was baptized aboard the French vessel L'Uranie by Abbe de Quelen which arrived in 1819, four months after the death of Kamehameha the Great. Also the royal governors of O?ahuBoki and Liliha. They would both become pivotal members of the Catholic underground.


Christian missionaries were influential in shaping the modern society of the kingdom after the deaths of Kamehameha I andKamehameha II. The missionaries, largely Congregationalists fromNew England, baptized the queen regent Ka?ahumanu and persuaded her to create religious policy favoring the suppression of the Catholic Church in Hawai?i. Kamehameha III agreed and enacted its expulsion from the kingdom. Fathers Bachelot and Short were forcibly boarded onto the brig Waverly by the chiefs loyal to Ka?ahumanu and they left Honolulu Harbor on December 24, 1831. They landed off the coast of California and worked in the California Missions near the present-day City of Los Angeles.

Native Hawaiian converts of the Catholic Church claimed to have been imprisoned, beaten and tortured after the physical expulsion of their missionary priests. The persecution was prescribed, according to the Bishop Museum, by the Protestant ministers claiming that such treatment was ordained by GodCommodore John Downes of the United States Navy frigate USS Potomac expressed American disappointment of the king's decision resulting in the brief end of physical harm for the converts.

In 1835, both the vicar apostolic (Rouchouze) and prefect apostolic (Bachelot) working from Valparaíso dispatched Columba Murphy, a religious brother from Ireland affiliated with the Picpus Fathers, to evaluate the situation in the Hawaiian Islands. While other Picpus Fathers were denied entry into the kingdom, the king permitted Murphy to disembark from his ship due to his investigative role and the fact that Murphy, a mere brother, could not minister the sacraments. On September 30, 1836, Arsenius Walsh, a Picpus Father, arrived in Honolulu to continue Murphy's work. Murphy had left earlier to report back to his superiors. The royal government refused Walsh's entry. However, the captain of the French Navy ship La Bonite persuaded the king to allow Walsh to stay. The royal government agreed to permit the Picpus Fathers to work freely in the Hawaiian Islands as long as they only attended to foreign Catholics, not Native Hawaiians.

On April 17, 1837, Fathers Bachelot and Short returned to Honolulu thinking the deal made with Father Walsh would apply to them. On April 30, the royal government forced them back onto their ship. The American and British Consuls compelled the king to allow Bachelot and Short to disembark. As a result, the captains of British Navy and French Navy vessels escorted Bachelot and Short into Honolulu. Short would leave the Hawaiian Islands again in October.

France, which claimed to be a defender of the Catholic Church, dispatched the French Navy frigate Artemise which sailed into Honolulu Harbor on July 10, 1839. Captain Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace was ordered by his government to:

Destroy the malevolent impression which you find established to the detriment of the French name; to rectify the erroneous opinion which has been created as to the power of France; and to make it well understood that it would be to the advantage of the chiefs of those islands of the Ocean to conduct themselves in such a manner as not to incur the wrath of France. You will exact, if necessary with all the force that is yours to use, complete reparation for the wrongs which have been committed, and you will not quit those places until you have left in all minds a solid and lasting impression.

Fearing an assault on his kingdom for the religious persecution, Kamehameha III issued the Edict of Toleration on June 17, 1839. A major disappointment for the Protestant ministers, Catholics became free to worship in the kingdom with the proclamation:

That the Catholic worship be declared free, throughout all the dominions subject to the king of the Sandwich Islands; the members of this religious faith shall enjoy in them the privileges granted to Protestants.

As an act of reconciliation, Kamehameha III donated land to the Catholic Church in Hawai?i for the construction of their first permanent church.


Shortly after the Laplace incident and the issuance of the Edict of Toleration, Msgr. Etienne Rouchouze, Vicar Apostolic of Oriental Oceania, moved to Honolulu from Valparaíso, Chile. The bishop disembarked from his ship at Honolulu Harbor in the company of three Picpus Fathers. One of them was the earlier exiled Louis Désiré Maigret. Their arrival officially signified the Catholic victory over persecution in the Hawaiian Islands and the beginning of a permanent Catholic Church in Hawai?i.

The first permanent church broke ground on the memorial feast of Our Lady of Peace on July 9, 1840. Our Lady of Peace had been the patroness of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary since the turmoil of the French Revolution. Fathers Armand, Bachelot and Short had consecrated the Hawaiian Islands under the protection of Our Lady of Peace when they first arrived. During the groundbreaking Mass, 280 Native Hawaiian catechumens received baptism and confirmation. For the rest of the year, devotees harvested large blocks of coral off the southern coastline of O?ahu to build what would become the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

On the various neighbor islands, Bishop Rouchouze commissioned the construction of other permanent churches to serve as parish missions. They also started building makeshift schools to teach in the Catholic traditions of academia. Aprinting press was brought into Honolulu for the production of Catholic literature including missals and hymnals written in the Hawaiian language.

In January 1842, an excited Bishop Rouchouze, pleased with the success of his work, decided to sail back to the Paris home of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in order to recruit more Picpus Fathers and religious brothers to serve in the growing Catholic Church in Hawai?i. Tragically, Bishop Rouchouze was lost at sea during his voyage back to the Hawaiian Islands. His vicar general took charge of the Vicariate Apostolic of Oriental Oceania while a search party was dispatched. Years later, the search was officially ended and Bishop Rouchouze was declared deceased.

Vicariate Apostolic

Through the period that began with the landing of Fathers Armand, Bachelot and Short to the proclamation of the Edict of Toleration and arrival of Bishop Rouchouze, the Hawaiian Islands were administered as a prefecture within the larger Vicariate Apostolic of Oriental Oceania. Created in 1833 by Pope Gregory XVI and governed from South America, its territories included the Marquesas and Tahiti. After the disappearance of Bishop Rouchouze, the three prefectures were elevated into independent vicariates apostolic. Each would be led by their own bishops.


The Vicariate Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands was established and on July 11, 1847, Blessed Pius IX appointed Louis Desiré Maigretas the succeeding prelate to the late Msgr. Rouchouze. The new vicar apostolic was consecrated in Chile as the titular bishop of Arathia and quickly attended to the needs of the fledgling Catholic Church in Hawai?i. The name of the see was changed in 1848 to the Vicariate Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands. Msgr. Maigret completed the construction of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. He also invited the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary to open proper Catholic schools. The priests and religious brothers of the Society of Mary(Marianists) were invited to do the same. Msgr. Maigret died on June 11, 1882 and was buried in a crypt below the sanctuary of the cathedral he built and loved.


Pope Leo XIII immediately elevated Bernard Hermann Koeckemann, a Picpus Father from Germany, as the second Vicar Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands. He was consecrated as the titular bishop of Olba. During his episcopate, Msgr. Koeckemann saw a wave of new Catholics from the exponentially growingplantation laborer population in the Hawaiian Islands. The Catholic Church in Hawai?i embraced new parishioners from the PhilippinesPolandPortugal andSpain among others. There were so many devout Portuguese members that churches often had to include Masses in which the sermon (for the rest of the Mass would have been in Latin) was delivered in the Portuguese language.

Msgr. Koeckemann also saw the rise of leprosy cases throughout the kingdom. He oversaw the work of Saint Damien of Moloka?i and Saint Marianne Cope as they served the ailing lepers residing in an isolated colony on the Makanalua peninsula on the island of Moloka?i. Both would have causes for canonization opened for them by their respective religious institutes.

On February 22, 1892, Msgr. Koeckemann died and was buried at the Honolulu Catholic Cemetery.


It took several months before Pope Leo XIII appointed someone to succeed Bishop Koeckemann. On June 3, 1892, the pope chose a Picpus Father from France,Gulstan Francis Ropert to become the third Vicar Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands. He was consecrated as titular bishop of Panopolis. It was during his reign that the Kingdom of Hawai?i was embroiled in revolution. American businessmen plotted to overthrow the peaceably reigning Queen of Hawai?i. United States Marines marched towards ?Iolani Palace, a neighbor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, and arrested Queen Lili?uokalani. A provisional government was proclaimed before arepublic was established. Msgr. Ropert received pleas by his Native Hawaiian followers to defend Lili?uokalani, being tried by a military court for treason against the newly created government. Unfortunately, there wasn't much Msgr. Ropert could do. He would become the sole bishop of a new Republic of Hawai?i.

Msgr. Ropert also was responsible for the spiritual needs of local families whose children were sent overseas to fight in the Spanish-American War. He also consoled Filipinos whose families were lost in the Philippine-American War. Later in his reign, the Hawaiian Islands became a territory of the United States becoming the first bishop of the Territory of Hawai?i. Msgr. Ropert died on January 4, 1903 and was buried in Honolulu Catholic Cemetery.


Again it would take several months before Pope Leo XIII appointed someone to succeed the episcopacy in the Hawaiian Islands. On April 8, 1903, the pope appointed a Picpus Father from Antwerp in BelgiumLibert Hubert John Louis Boeynaems to become the fourth Vicar Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands. He was consecrated titular bishop of Zeugma. During his reign, Msgr. Boeynaems observed many of his faithful being sent to fight in Europe during World War I. He also oversaw the increasing militarization of the Hawaiian Islands. The entire coastline of the island of O?ahu was fortified and several United States military bases were established, including: Fort ShafterPearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks. With the absence of an established military ordinariate in the United States, Msgr. Boeynaems ministered to Catholic service members. After a period of illness, Msgr. Boeynaems died on May 13, 1926, and was buried in Honolulu Catholic Cemetery.


When Msgr. Boeynaems became ill, Pope Pius XI elevated the first person to have grown up in the Hawaiian Islands to become a vicar apostolic. The pope appointedStephen Peter Alencastre, a Picpus Father born in Portugal who was brought as an infant to the Hawaiian Islands with his family to live. Msgr. Alencastre was raised and educated in Hawai?i, living on the various islands. He subsequently graduated from Saint Louis College and was accepted into the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts. He was ordained to the priesthood and educated in Europe by the Picpus Fathers, earning a doctorate in sacred theology. He was later appointed and consecrated as coadjutor vicar apostolic and titular bishop of Arabissus to assist the ailing Msgr. Boeynaems, suffering in hospital. Upon Msgr. Boeynaems' death, Msgr. Alencastre succeeded as the fifth and final Vicar Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands. Seeing a need for new locally trained priests, Msgr. Alencastre established Saint Stephen's Seminary in Kalihi Valley, named after his personal patron saint. He also oversaw the renovation of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, modernizing it in time for the centennial celebration of the Catholic Church in Hawai?i in 1927. He died aboard a ship en route from Los Angeles on November 9, 1940.


Msgr. Alencastre's premonition that the vicariate would be elevated to diocesan status was fulfilled earlier than expected. Upon his death, Venerable Pius XII decided that the Hawaiian Islands no longer needed a missionary church. Rather, its flourishing Catholic community was mature enough to be administered as a fully independent body of its own. The pope canonically erected the new Diocese of Honolulu on January 25, 1941.


After several months of consideration, the Pope looked outside of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary for a successor to the last vicar apostolic. Pope Pius XII appointed a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, James Joseph Sweeney as the first Bishop of Honolulu on May 20, 1941; Msgr. Sweeney was subsequently ordained to the episcopate on July 25, 1941 in the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Assumption in San Francisco, California.

Bishop Sweeney's first few months in episcopacy happened in the advent of a most tragic event in Hawai?i. On December 7, Japanese imperial forces bombed Pearl Harbor and scraped metropolitan Honolulu. Thousands of military and civilians died. Explosions were heard around downtown Honolulu and near the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. Bishop Sweeney shepherded the diocese throughout World War II.

Blessed John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, and Bishop Sweeney was a council father, one of a many prelates from the United States to attend the sessions. Inspired by the reforms agreed upon in Rome, he enacted major changes to the liturgy in the Diocese of Honolulu. One of his actions was to renovate the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in keeping with the newly promulgated Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Soon all parishes offered Mass primarily in the vernacular in place of Latin and altars were built facing the congregation instead of the sanctuary wall. Slowly, other languages were incorporated into the Mass including the Hawaiian language. Bishop Sweeney also invited the Marist Fathers and Brothers to staff several parishes on the islands of O?ahu and Kaua?i.

Bishop Sweeney fell ill and could not perform his duties with full vigor. His request for an auxiliary bishop was granted. Years later, Msgr. Sweeney died on his birthday on June 19, 1968. He was buried in Colma near San Francisco, where he spent his early years as a priest.


Pope Paul VI appointed John Joseph Scanlan, the diocese's auxiliary bishop and apostolic administrator as its second ordinary on March 6, 1968. A San Francisco archdiocesan priest from County Cork in Ireland, Msgr. Scanlan witnessed the growth of a young state of Hawai?i. He was maintained cordial relations with the Catholic Governor of Hawai?iJohn A. Burns even when the Hawai?i legislature passed a bill permitting abortion on demand and Governor Burns allowed the bill to become law without his signature. Scanlan was also remembered for his invitation of several religious institutes to establish themselves in the Hawaiian Islands. Among such groups were theSociety of Jesus, the Christian Brothers of Ireland, the Religious of the Virgin Mary, and the Dominican Sisters of Iloilo. The Jesuits primarily minister to the students of the University of Hawai?i at M?noa.

In 1977, Msgr. Scanlan served as the principal consecrator of Father Joseph Ferrario as auxiliary bishop. His age was beginning to affect his work. Feeling the pressures of being 75 years old, Msgr. Scanlan chose to retire on June 30, 1981. He died on January 31, 1997 at Nazareth House in San Rafael, a retirement home for priests and religious. His funeral was held at the metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption and later at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu. Bishop Scanlan, a father of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, had the honor of being buried beside Bishop Maigret, a father of the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, in a crypt under the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

Mgr Ferrario

Pope John Paul II appointed the diocese's auxiliary bishop Joseph Anthony Ferrario, a former Sulpican educator and diocesan priest, as the third Bishop of Honolulu on May 13, 1982.


Upon Msgr. Ferrario's announcement of his retirement, the Vatican had appointed Msgr. Francis DiLorenzo, auxiliary bishop of Scrantonas Apostolic Administrator of Honolulu. Later, on November 29, 1994, Pope John Paul II, appointed Msgr. DiLorenzo as the fourth Bishop of Honolulu. The Vatican later appointed Msgr. DiLorenzo as ordinary of the See of Richmond upon the announcement of the retirement of Richmond bishop Walter Francis Sullivan. Msgr. DiLorenzo assumed leadership of the Diocese of Richmond upon installation on May 24, 2004.

With the departure of Msgr. DiLorenzo, the diocesan college of consultors in accordance with the Code of Canon Law, on May 28, 2004, elected from their peers Father Thomas L. Gross as temporary diocesan administrator. He also served on the committee that screened candidates for the post of Bishop of Honolulu. On February 1, 2006, Father Marc R. Alexander became diocesan administrator.


Pope Benedict XVI appointed Clarence Richard Silva, the first native-born person in the episcopacy of the Hawaiian Islands to become a Bishop of Honolulu on May 17, 2005. He also became the second person of Portuguese ancestry in the episcopate since the Msgr. Stephen Peter Alencastre, SS.CC. Formerly the Vicar General of the Diocese of Oakland, Silva was ordained to the episcopate and installed as bishop at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena on July 21. Over 3,500 were in attendance, making it one of the largest events held by the Diocese of Honolulu in its history.

The principal consecrator was William Joseph Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco and newly appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ordination and installation ceremony was the last official ceremonial function as metropolitan bishop over the Province of San Francisco for Levada; other non-ceremonial functions would continue until his official departure from office. Also in attendance were Gabriel Montalvo HigueraArchbishop Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Anthony ApuronArchbishop of Aganaas well as personal friend, Deacon Larry Sousa of Norman Oklahoma. Although scheduled to attend the episcopal ordination, Roger Mahony, Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, was unable to be present due to unforeseen airplane problems at Los Angeles International Airport.

Special Anniversaries of Significance to the Diocese

Presbyterium and Permanent Diaconate

See, Catholic Clergy of Honolulu

High schools


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