Daily Archives:February 15th, 2018

Our bishops tell Pope Francis: We are encouraged by your leadership

Pope walks to his seat at the meeting with the Malaysian, Singapore and Brunei prelates on 8 Feb 2018 at the Vatican.

KUALA LUMPUR – The archbishops and bishops from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei made their Ad Limina Visit on 4-9 Feb 2018.

They met with the Holy Father as Successor of St Peter and the Vicar of Christ on Feb 8 and it was the most anticipated event.

The arch/bishops introduced themselves individually to the pope who greeted them in the library. He then discussed with the bishops openly about the issues facing them in their arch/dioceses for almost 90 mins.

“He is a very humble man, not caring much about protocols and formality. He invited us to ask any questions, even sensitive ones, because he was keen to hear from us,” said Archbishop William Goh from Singapore.

At the meeting, the arch/bishops expressed their support for Pope Francis and said that they were happy with the direction he was taking for the Universal Church.

“We are in solidarity with Pope Francis. Our churches are feeling encouraged because we have taken the same direction as he has taken,” said Bishop Sebastian Francis, the President of the Bishops Conference.

“It’s a genuine conviction that this is what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today!” he added.

Abp Goh said that on his part he asked the pope about the effectiveness of the different dicasteries of the Curia in responding to the challenges facing the Universal and Particular Churches, because of the bureaucracy of the institutions and the enormous areas of concerns they have to attend to.

Secondly, Abp Goh shared with the Holy Father about the confusion among prelates, priests and laity on chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

He asked, ‘How should we understand and apply the pastoral guidelines given to assist the spiritual lives of married couples who are living in irregular marriages?’

“The Holy Father was receptive, open and non-defensive in all his replies, and sought to help the bishops understand the context and objectives of his apostolic exhortation. He advised the arcbishops/ bishops not to retaliate or fight with their opponents but to be firm and be patient in winning them over through dialogue and perseverance. He ended the meeting by asking the bishops to pray FOR him, not AGAINST him,” said Abp Goh.

“We left the meeting feeling inspired by the Holy Father’s humility, humanness and simplicity in showing his solidarity with us bishops in our struggles and challenges as shepherds of our local dioceses,” added Abp Goh.

“It was like Paul and Barnabas, presenting themselves to Peter at the Council of Jerusalem. For us, it was the Local Church of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei presenting herself, her people and her progress and her questions to the Holy Father and the Prefects of the discasteries,” shared Bishop Bernard Paul of Melaka-Johore Diocese.

The arch/bishops celebrated the Eucharist at the Tomb of St Peter and the Basilica of St John Lateran.

This is, indeed, one of the most important Basilicas in Rome besides St Peter’s Basilica and St Mary Major. This is the Mother Church and the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Holy Father. It is also the oldest Church in Christendom because it was the first to be built by Emperor Constantine.

This Church is the symbol of unity among all Catholics in the world, sharing one faith, one hope and charity.

“Indeed, it is a great privilege and an awesome feeling to celebrate Mass at the Basilica. To know that we are connected with our Mother Church – ancient and yet ever new. One in thinking, praying, feeling and loving,” shared Abp Goh.

The arch/bishops also had the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist at the Church Sant’Alberto Magno, where Cardinal Soter Fernandez is the parish priest. Over the days of the Ad Limina, the bishops visited a number of dicasteries of the curia, which is like the different ministries of a government. Each of these dicasteries oversee many portfolios.

For example, the Dicastery for Promoting Human Development covers charitable organisations, health, social doctrines, faith and development, ecology and creation, refugees and migrants. The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life takes care of the promotion and formation of the laity, family and life, youth, associations and ecclesial movements and women.

They also had a meeting with the Ambassador of Malaysia to the Holy See Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok and discussed matters related to promoting religious harmony and education.

Altogether, the three countries have some 1.45 million Catholics: 1,060,000 in Malaysia; 373,000 in Singapore and 18,000 in Brunei. – Herald Malaysia, 14 Feb 2018

The Church’s real challenges are in Asia, says Singapore prelate

ROME  – Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye of Singapore, discussed a number of issues with AsiaNews on 9 Feb 2018 after his meeting with Pope Francis Feb 8, issues like the reality of Asia, the life of the Church and religious harmony in Singapore, and his personal observations about Amoris Laetitia.

Nine years after the last ad limina visit in 2008, the 11 bishops of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (BCMSB) visited the Vatican between 4 and 9 February, to visit the tombs of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and meet Pope Francis.

Born in Singapore in 1957, Abp Goh was ordained archdiocesan priest in 1985. For four years, he was assistant parish priest at the Holy Cross Church before travelling to Rome in 1992 to finish his studies in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Upon his return home, he taught and lectured at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary of (SFXMS) between 1992 and 2005.

In 2005, Fr Goh was appointed SFXMS rector and spiritual director of the Catholic Spiritual Centre, a position he held until his ordination as the fourth archbishop of Singapore in 2013. What follows is the first part (of three) of an interview with the prelate.

“The real challenges for the Catholic Church are here in Asia,” said Abp Goh, during his first ad limina visit to the Vatican as Archbishop of Singapore. “The Asian continent is different from all the others, since it is extremely varied in terms of religions, cultures and economic realities,” he added. In this context, Singapore stands out as a reality in its own right.

“It is a very particular Asian country, characterised by strong economic and technological progress, perhaps similar to South Korea and Hong Kong. Together with Malaysia and Brunei, it belongs to a Bishops’ Conference that brings together nations that face different political, economic and religious challenges.

“Singapore is a unique country, the expression of a cosmopolitan and highly educated society. More than 40 per cent of its residents have at least one university degree. About 75 per cent of the population is ethnic Chinese, but there are important Malay (13.5 per cent) and Indian (9 per cent) communities.”

One of the peculiarities that characterise the rich city-state is the relationship between the government and religion. “Unlike neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore has a secular government,” the prelate explained. “However, we like to define ourselves more as a ‘multicultural and multi-religious state’. The government is in fact secular in order to preserve the unity of the nation, but most ministers and officials profess a faith. The state is not against religion, but is in favour of it, seeing it as a fundamental component for the country’s development.

“The government provides important support to all religions, without favouritism. For example, it is customary to invite religious leaders to take part in numerous meetings and ask them for advice on issues affecting the country, especially from a moral and social point of view.”

“Some ministries, like the Ministry of the Family or the Ministry of Education, collaborate closely with religious leaders. Along with youth policies, these are the areas in which the government invites us to express opinions because we all work for the good of the country.”

The collaboration between the State and religions for the country’s development is also reflected in the archbishop’s personal involvement. “I was appointed presidential adviser for minority rights and religious harmony. Thanks to the work of governmental inter-ethnic and inter-religious bodies, there are frequent occasions for discussion and talks among all groups in Singapore’s cosmopolitan society. Our ability to live together peacefully, especially among different religions, is truly a miracle.

“Among the various initiatives, religious groups have set up a non-governmental organisation, the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), which provides a significant place for sharing different experiences of faith, this thanks to the important help from the government. All this makes Singapore a truly unique reality, where every religious problem is dealt with directly among religious leaders, even with a phone call. This is the beauty of our country, there are no conflicts,” the archbishop said.

“All religions are on the same level and do not exercise any political power. Instead, all the countries that surround Singapore have a dominant religion, favoured by their governments. When this happens, the tendency to discriminate against others is strong. Unlike what happens in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, religions in Singapore do not have political power and do not seek it. For this reason, dialogue is easier and the common goal is the good of the country.

“Whenever foreign delegations visit Singapore, they make sure to meet local religious leaders. Recently, even Prince Charles of England visited the country and held talks with leaders on how to promote religious harmony. In Singapore we try to be a model, but ultimately the problem of many countries is the mutual exploitation of religion and politics. This is why I believe that elsewhere our system may not be effective, ” Abp Goh noted.

The day before the interview, Abp Goh met Pope Francis along the bishops of Malaysia and Brunei. The archbishop said that these countries are very different from one another. For this reason, during the audience with the pontiff, the presentation of each took a long time. “As a result, there was little time for questions and observations,” the archbishop explained.

Still, “We managed to have a very meaningful talk,” Abp Goh said. “’Ask me all the questions you want, any! Even if you do not like the pope, you can tell me,” Pope Francis told us with the humility that is his trademark. He was present like a father and as such he listened to us.

“For my part, I asked him two questions that are close to my heart. First, I explained my curiosity about the efficiency of a structure organised around small dicasteries in the context of a universal institution to which billions of people belong. After, I asked for clarifications on the theme of communion for the divorced included in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s second apostolic exhortation.

“Many in the Church have doubts and are uncertain. Such confusion and division also frighten me, but the Holy Father told me: ‘Chapter VIII cannot be decontextualised. It is only the end of the exhortation. Chapter IV is more important, where its principles are explained. For Pope Francis, the question cannot be reduced to whether divorced people can receive communion or not?’ Rather, the question is: ‘How can we reach them, [and] assist them from a spiritual point of view?’ Unfortunately, sometimes there are different approaches between academics and those involved in grassroots pastoral outreach. Pope Francis belongs to the latter group.” – Paolo Fossati, AsiaNews

Faithful have “spiritual right” to receive the treasure of God’s Word

Pope Francis at the General Audience, 14 Feb 2018. (Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass in his reflections at the General Audience on 14 February 2018.

“If the soul is always joyful, it is a good day.” The weather was “a little ugly,” as Pope Francis said Wednesday, but the Holy Father found a way to brighten everyone’s spirit at the weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square.

The Pope began his audience with a small group of sick people gathered in the Paul VI Hall. He then ventured out into the wind and rain, where he delivered his catechesis to a small crowd of pilgrims who braved the inclement Roman winter weather.

The teaching at Wednesday’s General Audience was focused once again on the Mass, as Pope Francis reflected on the end of the Liturgy of the Word. Hearing the Word of God, with the explanation in the homily that follows, is a right, “the spiritual right of the people of God to receive the treasure of the Word of God in abundance.” Everyone who goes to Mass, the Pope said, “has the right to receive abundantly the Word of God, read well, proclaimed well, and then explained well in the homily. It’s a right!”

After the homily, the Pope spoke about the moment of silence, which gives people time to reflect on what they have heard.

Pope Francis then spoke about the communal recitation of the Creed at the Mass, which “manifests the common response to what was heard by the community in the Word of God. He emphasised the “vital connection” between hearing and faith, recalling the words of Saint Paul, that “faith comes from hearing.” Faith then leads to the Sacrament, so that the Creed becomes a link between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

After the Creed, the Mass continues with the Prayer of the Faithful, or the Universal Prayer – so called, the Pope said, because it embraces all of the needs of the Church and of the world. The Prayer of the Faithful, he said, echoing the General Instruction of the Missal, is an exercise of their baptismal priesthood by the People of God.

Reflecting on the words of Jesus – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” – Pope Francis said we don’t believe this, “because we have little faith.” He encouraged us to have great faith when we pray together during the Mass.

“The intention for which the faithful are invited to pray should give voice to the concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding having recourse to conventional and short-sighted formulas,” he said. “The Universal Prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to make our own the loving gaze of God, who cares for all His children.” – Christopher Wells, Vatican News

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