Daily Archives:February 16th, 2018

Singapore prelate calls on Europe ‘to let itself be inspired by religion’

VATICAN CITY – AsiaNews published the second installment of a three-part interview with Archbishop William Goh of Singapore on 15 Feb 2018.  In this installment, the archbishop analyses the differences in religious experience in the West and East.  He was with the Malaysian and Brunei bishops at their ad limina visit to the Holy See on 4-9 Feb 2018 and gave the interview to Asia News Feb 9.

After having illustrated the climate of harmony and the relationship of collaboration between the city-state institutions and religious confessions, Archbishop Goh analyses the misunderstandings that mark relations between religion and Western societies.

Instead of rejecting it, the European countries should be inspired by religion in the government of people, in making their lives better, in giving them meaning and fulfillment. I think that Singapore can be an example in this sense.

However, unlike Europe, our government is secular but not secularist or anti-religious. The European weakness is represented by the fact that many governments are adverse to faith. How can a secular government help people to realise themselves, if it does not contemplate God and neglects religious sentiment? In the West, a very important dimension of people’s lives is being lost. In an attempt to be more and more secularised, faith is relegated to something private, marginal. In this way, men will never find happiness in the things they possess.

Although Singapore is a very prosperous country, where competitiveness and economic development are primary objectives, society holds “a strong religious feeling.”

The archbishop explains why:

When you have everything you need, the question that arises is: ‘What is the meaning of life?’. Religion provides the solution to this question, which cannot be answered without God. Even the younger generations of Singapore, who have been raised in a state of well-being, ask themselves these questions: ‘What do you live for? Do you want to make a difference in people’s lives? You cannot find meaning in your life if you do not live for others.

I am used to meeting numerous entrepreneurs, successful people, who in the course of their lives all become philanthropists. They are people who possess more than necessary, money that they would not be able to spend in their whole lifetime. And so they begin to try to benefit others, offering their service for the good of the country and giving part of their wealth to non-governmental organisations, the Church and charitable institutions. People in Singapore are very generous and donate without prejudice. The parishes are full and the Church is alive. This is why, when we come to Europe, we are sad to see empty churches. We are very busy and in all we celebrate eight liturgies every weekend.

Msgr Goh identifies in the “domain of rationalism and the industrial revolution” the causes of the crisis of values sweeping through European countries.

Europe has thus become rationalist, materialistic and individualistic – he says – religion cannot be explained, it is something that comes from the heart, it is an encounter. Faith and reason do not contradict each other, but faith is greater than reason.”

There are also many differences between East and West in how religion is experienced.

Asians are generally sentimental people, very spiritual. Europe has instead lost its spiritual dimension and a large part of religion is in the minds of people. Reasoning prevails over personal experience, over the encounter. The Gospel is a miracle, it goes beyond human words.”

According to Msgr Goh, one of the reasons why Christianity, especially Catholicism, has taken root in Asia is “respect for what is sacred”, typical of local cultures.

This is the reason why religions in Asia are flourishing, what drives us to rediscover our encounter with Christ. However,  given that Singapore subject to strong Western influence, my fear is that our citizens tend to be too ‘cerebral.’

Consequently, in his pastoral work, Msgr Goh seeks to renew the faith of Catholics through spiritual retreats and experiences of conversion.

As a bishop, it is my duty to guide this kind of initiative every year, to help people meet Jesus directly. This, moreover, is the foundation of our faith. Without this meeting, one can study all the theology that one wants, but no change will take place in people’s heart. Theology is faith that seeks knowledge, it is not an explanation of faith. This is where Europe’s failure resides, which also contributes to the scandals and bad examples that have invested religious leaders. As Pope Francis affirms, the renewal of the Church passes through the renewal of her pastors. The faithful want this change, in Singapore they are ‘hungry’ for the Word of God. We need a conversion of hearts that starts from the top and reaches the base. – Paolo Fossati, AsiaNews

Francis modifies norms for the resignation of bishops

Pope Francis greets a bishop. Credit: Daniel Ibanez, CNA

VATICAN CITY – On Thursday Pope Francis tweaked the Church’s policies on bishops and curial officials reaching the age of retirement, indicating that they should accept what God wants, whether accepting retirement or accepting continued service.

The changes were made through a motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, meaning “Learning to take your leave,” published on 15 Feb 2018.

Previous norms stated that the appointment of most bishops serving as curial officials and papal diplomats lapsed after the officials had reached the Vatican’s usual age of retirement of 75. Now, like diocesan bishops, they are requested to resign at 75, and will continue in their positions unless the Pope accepts their resignation. He may also request them to stay on, at his discretion.

In the motu proprio, signed Feb 12, Pope Francis cited the generous commitment and experience of many bishops in dioceses or working in the Curia, as a reason for the update in norms.

He noted that the period of transition, whether a resignation is accepted or not, can require an interior attitude of acceptance, and that even the conclusion of an ecclesial office itself is a service and requires “a new form of availability.”

“This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare oneself to leave office, and when asked to continue that service for a longer period, even though the age of seventy-five has been reached,” he said.

The Pope also provided some examples of reasons he might choose to extend a curial bishop’s service in an ecclesial office past the age of 75.

The reasons could include, he said, the importance of continuity and the adequate completion of important projects, the difficulties associated with changing leadership of a dicastery already in a period of transition, and the contribution of the person in the application of new directives or new magisterial guidelines from the Holy See.

Francis explained that the transition from active service to retirement requires adequate internal preparation, which includes stripping oneself of the desire for power and or the need to be indispensable to others.

Such preparation will help to make the transition full of peace and confidence, rather than pain and conflict, he said.

 As much as possible, this new “project of life,” should include austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, and time dedicated to reading and providing simple pastoral services, he said, noting that prayer is also a powerful tool for discerning how to live out this time.

On the other hand, if a bishop’s resignation is not accepted, and he is asked to continue his service for a longer period, this requires that he abandon his personal desires and projects “with generosity,” the Pope said.

He also emphasised that such a request of the Pope should not be considered a “privilege, or a personal triumph,” a favour between friends, or even an act of gratitude for the service he has provided.

“Any possible extension can be understood only for certain reasons always linked to the ecclesial common good,” he said, and is not an “automatic act, but an act of government.”

The Pope said that the virtue of prudence is applied, along with adequate discernment, in order to make the appropriate decision in these cases.- CNA/EWTN News

MSB bishops give Catholics dispensation from abstinence for first day of Chinese New Year

The presenters – children, youth, adults – in varied traditional attire bring the gifts forward to the altar at the Presentation of Gifts, 16 Feb 2018, SHC.

KOTA KINABALU –  The Bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei have decided to give dispensation to all Catholics from abstinence on Friday, 16 Feb 2018, in view of the festive season of Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year is a time of rejoicing with family members, loved ones and friends as they usher in the new year according to the Chinese custom.

This decision was made during the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei (CBCMSB) in January.

This year the first day of Chinese New Year fell on the Friday after Ash Wednesday (Feb 14), the third day of Lent.

Consequently, the atmosphere was a bit subdued during the CNY Mass celebrated at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb 16. The Gloria was omitted.

As in past years, there was the usual drum display by five drummers: Frankie Wong, 14, and his brother Brian, 12;  Jessica Liew, 12; Megan Sham, 19; and Betty Kong, 19.

Among the appreciative thousand over faithful were Archbishop John Wong, Abp Emeritus John Lee, Fathers Paul Lo, Max Hontor, Joshua Liew, Joseph Fung sj, and the religious sisters.

In his homily, Abp Wong related salvation history to the LNY celebration theme, urging everyone to seek first the Kingdom of God before anything else, and to have that sense of loyalty and faithfulness to God which a dog (being the Year of the Earth Dog) has toward its owner.

At the presentation of gifts, 17 presenters brought candles, flowers, fruits, vegetables, sticky rice cake, kuazi, money, bread and wine to the altar.

After Communion Prayer, Abp Wong blessed 10 big baskets of mandarin oranges to be distributed to the faithful after Mass.

The Chinese rite of bowing three times before the altar (representing God) by all, to the concelebrants by the faithful, and to each other took place before the final blessing and dismissal.

As part of their appreciation tradition, the Chinese community gave ang pows to the clergy and religious present.

After the distribution of oranges, many of the faithful and clergy adjourned to the front of the parish centre for the lion dance performances by the You Yi Troupe.

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