By Daniel Tay


SINGAPORE - To mark the opening of the new legal year together with thanksgiving for the past year, the Catholic Lawyers Guild celebrated the Red Mass on Jan 4 at Church of St. Alphonsus (Novena Church). The Mass and the dinner which followed were attended by lawyers, academics, students and others in the legal profession.

Left, a set of court robes, which are worn by lawyers in open court hearings in the Supreme Court, are offered up. The robes are symbolic tools of the trade for lawyers in the Catholic Lawyers Guild.

The custom of a special Mass for the Bench and Bar arose in the early 13th century, with the first recorded Red Mass being celebrated in Paris in 1245.

In England, the tradition of the Red Mass began about 1310. The entire Bench and Bar attended the Red Mass together at the opening of each term of Court. The Mass was celebrated in honour of the Holy Spirit, for which red vestments were worn. The judges of the High Court at that time, who were all doctors of law, also wore red robes. Hence, the celebrations became popularly known as the Red Mass.

Today the Red Mass is attended by judges, lawyers, and officials of all faiths who ask God to bless, strengthen, and enlighten civic and religious leaders, all servants of the law, and all people of faith, so that in cooperation and mutual trust, justice and freedom for all may be more effectively achieved.

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