Monthly Archives: November, 2017

KK prelate calls on faithful to transcend the mundane in Advent message

KOTA KINABALU – In his Advent message Archbishop John Wong calls on the faithful to transcend the mundane.

“Advent is a season to transcend ourselves from the mundane. It is an opportune time to ‘go inward,’ re-examining our Christian faith and the way we live it in today’s world,” he says.

The message, released on 18 Nov 2017,  touches on the ‘waiting’ aspect that characterises the Advent Season for the second coming of the One who is “the light that dispels the darkness of sin,” the “hope in the sea of misery,” and “our strength in the adversities of life.”

The prelate exhorts the people to focus on the essentials, not the superfluous, through faith by spending more time in prayer, reflection on the Word of God, frequenting the Eucharist, reconciling with God through confession, and making time to visit the lonely and needy.

This is because, he adds, “our faith in the incarnated God demands us to reach out to others, especially the lapsed, the lost, the least, the last and the lonely.”

He points out that living in apathy is “contradictory to our faith.”

Open-air papal Mass in Yangon draws 150,000

A sea of worshippers crowded into a football field on 29 November 2017 for an open-air Mass by Pope Francis, who is making the first papal visit to Myanmar, a trip so far framed by his sidestepping of the Rohingya crisis. / AFP PHOTO / Ye Aung THU

YANGON , Myanmar – Pope Francis celebrated a two-hour open-air Mass for at least 150,000 people in Yangon early on  29 Nov 2017, preaching forgiveness and praising the efforts of small churches across the country.

The service, the largest single crowd for an organised event in Myanmar, included about 150 cardinals, bishops and priests on stage. English, Burmese, Latin and Italian were used during Mass.

Pope Francis was dressed in green and gold vestments, while a huge choir of sisters and priests wore white attire with blue V’s embroidered on the front of their garments.

Before the Mass, the pope travelled through the crowd on the back of an open-sided, white pick-up truck with a clear front shield and overhead covering.

Pope Francis emphasised forgiveness and then singled out the work of Catholic Karuna Myanmar (Caritas) in providing help to “great numbers of men, women and children, regardless of religion or ethnic background” during his homily.

“I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible,” Pope Francis said in Italian, that was translated into Burmese for the congregation.

“The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom that, like that of the king in the first reading, is deeply flawed. We think that healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus. Jesus’ way is radically different. When hatred and rejection led him to his passion and death, he responded with forgiveness and compassion,” he said before taking time to praise the efforts of a church that is only 1 percent of the population in a country of 51 million.

“I know that the church in Myanmar is already doing much to bring the healing balm of God’s mercy to others, especially those most in need. There are clear signs that even with very limited means, many communities are proclaiming the Gospel to other tribal minorities, never forcing or coercing but always inviting and welcoming,” the pope said.

“Amid much poverty and difficulty, many of you offer practical assistance and solidarity to the poor and suffering. Through the daily ministrations of its bishops, priests, religious and catechists, and particularly through the praiseworthy work of Catholic Karuna Myanmar and the generous assistance provided by the Pontifical Mission Societies, the church in this country is helping great numbers of men, women and children, regardless of religion or ethnic background.”

Many attending the service were pilgrims who had travelled from the furthest corners of Myanmar as most of the country’s Catholics live in the outlying states of Kachin, Shan, Karen and Kayah.

Prior to the Mass, more than 120,000 Catholics and people from other religions packed into Kyaikkasan sports ground waving flags. They shouted “Papa Francis” when the pope’s vehicle entered the grounds and toured around the thousands of pilgrims.

Saw Zabinus, 60, a Catholic from Taungngu Diocese, in northern Shan State, said he had waited since 2 am, as he was excited to see the pope and attend the public Mass.

“His visit is a great help for minority Catholics to deepen our faith and have a good relationship with other religions,” Zabinus, told He said the visit by the pope was fostering peace in the country.

Peter, an 18-year-old Catholic youth from St Anthony’s Church in Yangon who worked as a volunteer at the Mass, said it was a special privilege. He said he couldn’t express his excitement and joy enough, especially when the pope toured in his vehicle ahead of the Mass.

“I am very happy that I got a chance to volunteer at the Mass. This opportunity is a once in my life event,” Peter told

Hkun Htun Aung, a Buddhist and civil engineer who helped in the construction of the stage for the papal Mass, said he was glad to have a chance to see Pope Francis and it was a good thing that a Catholic leader had visited the Buddhist-majority country.

“Christianity focuses on love and peace, and Buddhism also emphasises compassion and love, and the pope came to Myanmar to bring peace,” said Htun Aung, an ethnic Pa-oo from Pekhon town in Shan State where majority are Christians.

He added that there is a good relationship between Buddhists and Christians as Buddhists participate in Christian celebrations and Christians also come to Buddhist ceremonies. –

Old Shan Tao buildings all set to be demolished

Father Cosmas Lee (with dark glasses, front, 2nd from R), leads the prayer to begin the demolition of the old Shan Tao buildings, 28 Nov 2017.

KOTA KINABALU – The dilapidated buildings of former Shan Tao Primary School here are all set to be demolished to make way for the construction of the new Catholic Centre.

Father Cosmas Lee officiated the rite to begin the demolition work on 28 Nov 2017 in the presence of members of the Building Committee headed by Anthony Lee, Dr Jeffrey Soon of the Steering Committee, Tan Kian Guan of Perunding BSK Sdn Bhd, John Voo of JV Champion Sdn Bhd who will handle the demolition and earthworks, and Chan his project manager.

The demolition and earthworks are scheduled to be completed by January 2018.

The idea of building the Catholic Centre there was first mooted in 1996 when there was definite news that Shan Tao Primary School (founded in 1938 as Kung Ming Primary School, renamed as Shan Tao in 1963) would be relocating to Kapayan Ridge.

The new centre is necessary because the two buildings at the Catholic Diocesan Centre in Taman Hiburan Penampang have been declared unsafe after cracks were detected in several walls of the buildings.

The Catholic Diocesan Centre, built about 30 years ago, currently houses the Archbishop’s Office, the Archdiocesan Archives, the commission offices, Catholic Sabah, among others.

The new centre will have two office blocks: a two-storey block housing a conference room, archives and gallery; and the other a three-storey structure for the offices, meeting rooms, a chapel, Catholic Sabah, conference facilities for seminars and training.

The buildings are a fusion of new and old language with heavy use of coloured glass panes on the exterior, designed pro-bono by Daniel Koh of ADK Architect.

The launching of the building project officiated jointly by Archbishop John Wong and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was held at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre Karamunsing on 22 July 2017.

Fundraisers have started for the RM9.6 million building project but as with all building projects, donations are always welcome to offset ever-increasing costs of building materials.

Donations/cheques are to be payable to RTDKK – The Catholic Centre Building Fund,  Maybank Berhad, Lintas Branch A/C No 510198683591.  Official receipts will be issued for all donations.  For details please contact 088-712297 (Ms Angela Yen, Mdm Cecilia Funk, or Mdm Teresa Chin).

Pauline Family marks Founder’s Day quietly with Mass and fellowship

Members and friends of the Pauline Family pose with Fr Max after the Mass marking the 46th death anniversary of Bl James Alberione, 27 Nov 2017, Daughters of St Paul Convent Karamunsing.

KOTA KINABALU – Members of the Pauline Family marked their Founder’s Day quietly with Mass and fellowship at the Daughters of St Paul Convent here on 27 Nov 2017.

Father Max Hontor celebrated the Mass for the occasion with members of the Daughters of St Paul, Association of the Pauline Cooperators, and Institute of Our Lady of the Annunciation.  A simple fellowship was held after the Mass.

Born on 4 April 1884 in Italy, Bl James Alberione was ordained a priest on 29 June 1907.  Between  1914 and 1965, he founded five religious institutes, four secular institutes and one lay association – collectively known as the Pauline Family – who use the communications media for evangelisation.

Fr Alberione travelled around the world several times visiting his sons and daughters scattered on all the continents.

The secret of his vast apostolic activity lies in his interior life, which was directed to realising with always greater fullness the words of the Apostle Paul: “It is no longer I who live; it is Christ who lives in me.”

On 26 Nov 1971, at the age of 87, comforted by the visit and blessing of Pope Paul VI, Fr Alberione left this earth to return to the house of the Father.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II, in Rome, on the 27 April 2003 and his feast day falls on Nov 26.

Five things to look for during Francis’ trip to Myanmar, Bangladesh

Pope Francis arrives at the Yangon International Airport on 27 Nov 2017.  Credit: L’Osservatore Romano

YANGON, Myanmar – On Monday, 27 Nov 2017,  Pope Francis touched down in Yangon for what will likely be a politically charged and religiously significant six-day trip bringing him to both Myanmar and Bangladesh as the two countries face an escalating refugee crisis.

Pope Francis is in Myanmar and Bangladesh Nov 27-Dec 2, in what is now his third tour of Asia since his election in 2013. It is the first papal visit to Burma, the Holy See having established formal diplomatic relations with the country earlier this year.

His visit to Bangladesh, however, is the second time a Pope has visited, the first being St John Paul II in 1986. Bl Pope Paul VI made a brief stop in the territory in 1970, when it was still East Pakistan.

Throughout his six-day visit, Pope Francis will give 11 speeches total: five in Burma, consisting of three formal speeches and two homilies, and six in Bangladesh, counting five official speeches and one homily.

On the plane ride over, Francis told journalists he hopes it will be a fruitful visit. Here are a few key things for which to keep an eye out as things move forward.

The Pope’s meetings with Myanmarese civil and military authorities

This trip is one of the most diplomatically complicated international voyages Pope Francis has taken so far, so much so that Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke described the trip to journalists as being “very interesting diplomatically” in last week’s briefing on the visit.

Aside from the very small Catholic population in each country, political circumstances in Myanmar have been precarious for years, as they are in the midst of a transition from military leadership to diplomacy.

The country was formerly known as Burma but is now called Myanmar, and while the Vatican uses this name in their official diplomatic correspondence, ‘Myanmar’ is considered by the US government and many democracy activists to have been illegally imposed on the country by its military dictatorship.

Myanmar functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms began taking root in 2011. In November 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, were elected by an overwhelming majority, putting an end to a five-decade military dictatorship.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her party had also won the election in 1990, but the results weren’t recognised by the military government, and she was put under house arrest. However, despite her success in 2015, she is still barred from officially becoming president, and holds the title of “State Counsellor” and Foreign Minister, while a close associate is acting as president.

Despite emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, the military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.

A key element of the Pope’s visit to watch for, then, is his formal meetings with both Aung San Suu Kyi Nov 28, and his meeting with Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

The meeting with Min Aung Hlaing wasn’t initially on the Pope’s schedule; however, during a recent visit to Rome Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon recommended that a meeting with the military leader be added.

Pope Francis took the cardinal’s advice and scheduled the meeting for Nov 30 at the archbishop’s house in Yangon, where he is staying while in Burma. However, the meeting was bumped up, and took place on the first day of Francis’ visit, shortly after he landed.

Lasting a total of 15 minutes, including conversation via interpreters and an exchange of gifts, the private encounter was the Pope’s first official meeting of the trip. Several of Min Aung Hlaing’s deputies were present.

According to Burke, the two spoke of “the great responsibility of the country’s authorities in this moment of transition.”

Min Aung Hlaing said on Twitter that he told Pope Francis, “there’s no religious discrimination” in the country, and “there is the freedom of religion.”

That Francis bumped the trip to the first day of his visit, when nothing else was scheduled, is noteworthy, and will be important to keep in mind as he meets with  Aung San Suu Kyi, the president,  and civil authorities Nov 28. His words during the meeting are sure to carry a weighty significance.

The term ‘Rohingya’

With this political backdrop in mind, another thing to look out for is whether or not Pope Francis will use the term Rohingya to describe the largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

His visit comes amid an uptick in state-supported violence against the Rohingya, which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh in recent months.

However, despite widespread use of the term Rohingya in the international community, the term is controversial within Myanmar.

The Myanmarese government refuses to use the term, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since Burma gained independence in 1948.

Because of the touchy nature of the term, Cardinal Bo also suggested to the Pope that he refrain from using the word on the ground, arguing that extremists in the area are trying to rouse the population by using the term, making the risk of a new interreligious conflict ever-more present, with Christians in the crossfire.

According to Bo, the correct term to use is “Muslims of the Rakhine State.” He also stressed that other minorities in Myanmarese territory face persecution and displacement, including the Kachin, Kahn, and Shan peoples, yet their plight often goes unreported.

Burke said the recent worsening of the humanitarian situation in Myanmar will be a strong element of the Pope’s visit, and that Francis is coming “at a key time” in this sense.

However, while the situation of the Rohingya has escalated in over the past few months, Burke said it wasn’t the primary reason for the Pope’s visit. “The trip was going to happen anyway,” he said. Recent developments have now “drawn attention to it, but it was going to happen anyway.”

Burke himself used term “Rohingya” to describe the persecuted Muslim minority, saying “it’s not a forbidden term” in the Vatican, and the Pope himself has used it before. But Cardinal Bo made a suggestion that Francis “took into account,” he said, adding, “we’ll see together” whether or not Pope Francis uses the term during his visit.

Interreligious encounters

Throughout his visit, Pope Francis will have several moments of interreligious encounter, with Rohingya Muslims also participating. Combine this with that fact that Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country and Bangladesh majority Muslim, and these meetings will be of special interest.

Of importance is a private meeting of interreligious leaders scheduled to take place Nov 28 at the archbishop’s residence in Yangon, which wasn’t initially on the Pope’s slate, but was also added upon the suggestion of Cardinal Bo.

Though there is not yet a list of who will participate, Bo said around 15 leaders will be present representing Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, including the likely presence of a member of the Rohingya community.

On the same day Francis will also meet with members of the “Sangha,” the Supreme Council of Buddhist clergy in the country. Catholics in Myanmar are a small minority, making up just 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million.

Pope Francis will also meet with Rohingya Muslims during a Dec 1 interreligious encounter in Bangladesh where five testimonies are expected to be given. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians will all be present for the gathering.

In Bangladesh, 86 percent of the population practices Islam. The 375,000 Catholics there represent less than 0.2 of the total population.

Words to the Catholic community

As is by now well-known, Pope Francis has a special affinity for the peripheries. Both Burma and Bangladesh fall into this category ecclesiastically speaking, as well as economically. Bangladesh is among the poorest countries in the world, with nearly 30 percent of the population living under the poverty line.

Francis already boosted the profile of these nations by appointing the first-ever cardinals, giving Cardinal Bo a red hat in 2015, and elevating Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka in November 2016.

With Christians being a small minority in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Pope’s appointments were considered an encouragement for the small Catholic populations, and his visit is seen as a further sign of his closeness to a demographic that also faces discrimination in the area.

Christians in Myanmar also face blatant persecution, which some fear could increase if the Pope offends the government regarding the Rohingya.

Last year the United States Commission on Religious Freedom issued two separate reports on Myanmar, one of which focused on the plight of the Rohingya, and the second, titled “Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Myanmar,” highlighted the discrimination and persecution Christians face.

Encounters with youth

The Pope’s visits to both Myanmar and Bangladesh will be closed with meetings with the countries’ youth.

According to Burke, this was a decision the Pope himself made in order to show that they are an essential part of the Church, and that in each country, it is “a young Church with hope.”

In his meetings with youth, the Pope typically tosses his prepared remarks after listening to testimonies and speaks more freely and casually to the youth as he tries to enter into the raw reality faced by the local population, giving them a message of hope and some instructions for the future.

In messages sent to both countries ahead of his visit, Pope Francis said he was coming to spread the Gospel and to bring a message of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Though he will likely offer paternal advice to priests and religious, the meeting with youth is where his more pastoral side is most likely to come out stronger, and where he will likely go beyond the politics in order to offer a message of hope, peace and reconciliation for youth to carry forward into the future. – Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

FSPs organises second Pauline Family Day

A shot of those who sit down to enjoy their free cup of coffee or juice and cake during the Pauline Family Day at the Daughters of St Paul Convent, 26 Nov 2017.

KOTA KINABALU – The Daughters of St Paul (FSPs) organised the second Pauline Family Day at its convent compound at Jalan Sang Kancil here on 26 Nov 2017.

The media centre was opened on this one Sunday of the year (last Sunday of November) to serve the people who came to patronise the various food stalls set up by the Pauline Sisters and the Association of Pauline Cooperators.

Normally the media centre is closed on Sundays as the Sisters go out to the different parishes for book missions.

Aside from cooked food and pickles, there were also vegetables, fruits, plants and second-hand clothes for sale.

The patrons also enjoyed their free cup of coffee or juice and cake to mark the 46th death anniversary of their Founder, Bl James Alberione, who died on 26 Nov 1971.

The first Pauline Family Day was held on 27 Nov 2016 at the same premises.

Marian procession in Ranau draws over 3000 people

RANAU – The candlelight procession marking the closing of the centenary of the Fatima Apparitions at St Peter Claver (SPCR) here drew over 3ooo people on 25 Nov 2017.

After Sunset Mass, Father Nicholas Stephen crowned the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and garlanded her with a rosary, a scapular and a sash with KadazanDusun design before the procession.

Despite the unpredictable weather, the procession went around Ranau town area before returning to the church.  The procession closed with the offering of flowers to Mother Mary outside the church.

SPCR has become a popular pilgrimage site since the Year of Mercy in 2016 when it was one of the four ‘Holy Doors” in Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese under the pastoral leadership of Fr Stephen, Father Francis Tsen, and Father Florian Marcus.

KK prelate calls on parish pastoral leaders to pool resources together to reach out to less involved parishioners

Overview of the pastoral leaders gathering at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre Hall after Sunset Mass, 25 Nov 2017.

KOTA KINABALU – Kota Kinabalu prelate called on parish pastoral leaders to pool resources together to reach out to less involved parishioners on 25 Nov 2017.

Archbishop John Wong made the call during the annual gathering of heads and their assistants of the 70-odd groups, communities, and ministries of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Karamunsing and its sub-parish of Church of Mary Immaculate Bukit Padang.

In a brief speech, the prelate said the many groups of the parish (English, Chinese and BM) can be a source of strength when they pool their resources together in reaching out to the 70 percent of uninvolved parishioners.  The parish has around 2,000 families under its pastoral care.

Around 150 people attended the gathering after the Sunset Mass marking the Solemnity of Christ the King and the 36th Dedication Anniversary of the cathedral.

Abp Wong presided at the Mass, concelebrating with him were Abp Emeritus John Lee, Father Paul Lo, and Father Max Hontor.

Before the rite of dismissal, a video clip launching the 16 Days of Prayer for the Nation entitled Orange the World: Saying No to Violence against Women and Children produced jointly by the Malaysian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Malaysian Council of Churches, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, and the Good Shepherd Services was screened.

The 16 Days of Activism runs from Nov 25 through Dec 10.

Dontozidon launches Christmas musical album in aid of Nagasiba church building fund

PENAMPANG – St Paul Dontozidon here launched a Christmas musical album and pledge card in aid of the Nagasiba church building fund on 24 Nov 2017.

Archbishop John Wong launched the CD entitled Monohuod Kumaa Toinsanan (Give Back to Everyone) at the Ocean Treasure Restaurant Penampang.

Five hundred pieces were produced by AGRE Records with musical arrangement by Sri Kolopis Music.  Another 500 will be produced at a later date.

The album features 15 songs sung by St Paul Dontozidon Choir and soloists including Franciscan Sister Dora Obod.

Over 300 people including Fr Max Hontor attended the launching organised by the St Paul Nagasiba Fundraising Committee headed by Carfester J Mokujin.

The CD is available at RM25 at the Dontozidon parish office at 088-714359.

Updates from the Malaysian Catholic Youth Ministers

SIBU – The Malaysian Catholic Youth Ministers Committee (MCYMC) met in September 2017 at the Sibu Diocese Pastoral Centre.

After their meeting, they presented the following to the young Catholics of Malaysia:

1. All campus students and young working adults migrating from one (arch)diocese to another (arch)diocese are invited to “Check-in” with MCYMC via the ASAYO KL website: This will ensure that you will receive pastoral care no matter where you go in the country. We also invite international students who are studying in Malaysia to do the same.

2. In line with the invitation of the Holy Father in preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, every young person between the ages of 15 to 39 are invited to respond to the survey via the #talk2francisMY. You are also invited to respond to the questionnaire presented by the Synod of Bishops Secretariat. Submission for your responses ends December 2017.

“Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice?…  The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith, even your doubts and your criticism.” — Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Young People on the occasion of the presentation of the preparatory document of the 15th ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops.

3. The Biblical Commission and the Youth Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei met in a joint meeting to discuss the Bible and the young people. From the deliberations and sharings among the arch/ dioceses, there is a call to all young people to increase their usage of the Bible in their everyday life and ministries.

4. The Asian Youth Ministers met after the 7th Asian Youth Day in Jogjakarta, from 6-9 August 2017. During this meeting, Youth ministers reflected on Amoris Laetitia, where all were further invited to be more aware of what is happening in our families today whereby Christian values have slowly been forgotten and how these have affected our young people today.

5. The next Malaysian Catholic Campus Students Day will be held in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu in the year 2019. Look out for updates from your respective (Arch)Dioceses in the coming months.

6. World Youth Day 2019 Panama.  The WYD 2019 Malaysian coordinating office will be the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. However, pilgrims who are interested should contact their respective (arch)diocesan representatives/ coordinators as reflected in the poster that is currently in circulation. — Malaysian Catholic Youth Ministers’ Committee 2017, 24 Nov 2017, herald

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