Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli celebrating the special Mass at the cathedral with priests on Nov 20.

... says the apostolic nuncio during a Mass to mark the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul’s visit to Singapore

The Catholic Church in Singapore needs to continue flourishing as a community, “united and spiritually vibrant”.

It also needs to find “new strength and courage to be more vocal and visible” in society in order to contribute more to social wellbeing.

Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli made these comments in his homily during a Mass on Nov 20 to mark the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s visit to Singapore.

Foreign Minister K Shanmugam speaking after the Mass. Photo: CATHEDRAL OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Speaking to a packed gathering at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which included Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, he recalled the late pope telling the 63,000-strong crowd at the National Stadium:

“The Church in Singapore that I am visiting today, like your young and vigorous nation, is flourishing and fully alive… And it is this Church that I wish to urge on to even greater spiritual growth.”

After 25 years, said Archbishop Girelli, “it is appropriate now to reflect if the pope’s wish for a greater spiritual growth has been accomplished”.

Speaking during the Mass, which also commemorated the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Holy See and Singapore, the nuncio noted that there are now more Catholics in Singapore than before, parish communities are vibrant and Mass attendance high.

“At the same time, I would also add that unity within the archdiocese can be strengthened,” he said.

“Furthermore, it also appears to me that the Catholic Church seems to have lost her ground in the civil society which is becoming more secularised, and moral values and principles are being undermined,” he added.

“The principle of the sanctity of the human life is not fully respected. The dignity of the person is not always equally recognised for every human being. The sense of easy profit is disseminating materialism, often hurting and destroying family life. Individualism and egoism seem to be on the increase in the society,” he said

Moreover, “Catholic schools are striving to keep their identity”, the nuncio observed.

Therefore, to respond to the late pope’s wish “for a greater spiritual growth”, the Church here “needs to continue flourishing as a community, united and spiritually vibrant”, said the archbishop.

“The Catholic Church needs also to find new strength and courage to be more vocal and visible in the civil society, in order to contribute more and more to the social wellbeing,” he added.

Concluding his homily, Archbishop Girelli said, “John Paul II came to bless Singapore and to tell Singaporeans not be afraid to open their doors to Christ.”

In his speech after Mass, the nuncio noted that as one of the most developed countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore has made a “significant contribution” to the economic and social advancement of the region.

“The Holy See too is eager to do her part to contribute to the well-being of this region,” he said.

He noted that on the national level, “the Catholic Church has served and desires to continue serving the nation through her educational and social apostolate”.

The nuncio said he is “confident that the goodwill which has characterised the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Singapore will be strengthened”.

In his speech, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, said many Singaporeans still have “vivid memories” of the tens of thousands of people who attended the papal Mass at the National Stadium on Nov 20, 1986.

“His Holiness and his message touched the hearts of Singaporeans of all faiths – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – and from all walks of life.”

Mr Shanmugam noted that over the last 30 years, relations between Singapore and the Holy See “have grown from strength to strength, anchored by our common interest to advance the cause of development and peaceful coexistence amongst people of different faiths”.

The minister gave as an example the Singapore-Holy See Third Country Training Programme. “Since 1998, we have worked together to provide technical assistance to developing countries in the region, to help upgrade professional and linguistic skills,” said Mr Shanmugam.

He also paid tribute to the Catholic community in Singapore “and its many contributions to enrich our society”.

“Catholics make up about seven percent of the Singapore population today,” said Mr Shanmugam. “However, the community has always played an important role in providing education and care for the sick and underprivileged, regardless of religious affiliations.”

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