About Us


The Diocese of Sandakan is a newly established diocese in Sabah. Like the Diocese of Keningau, the newly established Diocese of Sandakan is formed by the parishes drawn from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. These parishes are St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish of Sandakan, St Martin Parish of Telupid, St Dominic Parish of Lahad Datu and Holy Trinity Parish of Tawau. Since the origin of the Diocese of Keningau and Sandakan are from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, they share a common historical background that can be traced back to the early Nineteenth Century, when the missonary priests from Mill Hill England set foot in North Borneo following the voyage of the colonial explorers. The significant events which marked the pathway of the important history are as follows:-

1855, September 4     

Erection of the Prefecture Apostolic of Labuan and Borneo

Prefect Apostolic: Don carlos Cauteron (1885-1879)

1857, April 16            

Official establishment of the Mission in Labuan


Prefect Apostolic: Thomas Jackson mhm (1880-1895)


Administrator: Anthony Haidegger mhm (1895-1897)


Prefect Apostolic: Edmund Dunn mhm (1897-1927)

1927, February 7        

Erection of the Prefecture Apostolate of North Borneo                                                               Prefect Apostolic: August Watcher mhm (1927-1945)



Administrator: Arnold Verhoven mhm (1945-1947)


Prefect Apostolic: James Buis mhm (1947- 1952)

1952, February 14      

Erection of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jesselton                                                                                      Vicar Apostolic: James Buis (1952-1970)


Vicar Apostolic: Peter Chung Hoan Ting (1970-1975)


Vicar Apostolic: Simon Fung Kui Hong (1975-1976)

1976, July 25             

Vicariate of Jesselton became the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu.                                                          First Bishop: Rt Rev Simon Fung Kui Hong (1976-1985)


Diocesan Administrator: John Lee Yit Yaw (1985-1987) 


Second Bishop: Rt Rev John Lee Yit Yaw (1987-)

1992, December 17

Erection of the Diocese of Keningau with territory taken from the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu, making it a suffragan of metropolitan Archdiocese of Kuching.

First Bishop: Rt Rev. Cornelius Piong (1976-present)

2007, July 16              

Erection of the Diocese of Sandakan with territory taken from the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu, making it a suffragan of the      metropolitan Archdiocese of Kuching. Fr Julius Dusin Gitom is appointed as the first bishop.

2008, May 23

Erection of the Ecclesiastical Province of Kota Kinabalu, raising the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu to an archdiocese, with Keningau and  Sandakan as suffragan sees; Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop John Lee as the first metropolitan archbishop of the province.

Significant event leading to the actual establishment of the Diocese of Sandakan was the fact finding mission of the Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See, His Grace Salvatore Pennachio to the eastern parishes of Sabah in particular to St. Mary’s Sandakan, St Dominic’s Lahad Datu and Holy Trinity’s Tawau, in May, 2006. The main purpose of the mission was to assess the viability of establishing a new diocese.

 Several months after the visit, the good news was finally announced that the Sandakan Diocese is to be established, constituting St. Mary’s Sandakan, St Dominic’s Lahad Datu, Holy Trinity’s Tawau and St Martin’s Telupid with the former being the centre of the new diocese. The inauguration of the new Diocese was held on October 15, 2007 where the Episcopal Ordination of Rev Fr Julius Dusin Gitom as Bishop of the newly established Diocese was conducted simultaneously. The solemn and historic occasion was presided by His Grace Salvatore Pennachio and attended by several Bishops, Priests and large crowd of parishioners from all over Sabah.