A child hands a toy to Archbishop Nicholas Chia during the offertory at the Dec 14 Mass. The toy symbolises the joys of childhood Afghan children have been deprived of.A child hands a toy to Archbishop Nicholas Chia during the offertory at the Dec 14 Mass. The toy symbolises the joys of childhood Afghan children have been deprived of.ARCHBISHOP Nicholas Chia expressed solidarity with Afghan refugees during a special Mass on Dec 14 and urged Singapore Catholics to take concrete action to help the needy and suffering and pave the way for peace. 

He set the tone for the event held at the Church Of St Bernadette when he said in the opening prayer: “We are appalled by the springing up in the world today of terrorist attacks and conflicts. But we must ask ourselves, ‘What can we do in such situations?’ ”

During the homily, he noted the pope’s concern for world peace that led him to designate Dec 14 a special day of prayer and fasting.

Said the archbishop: “The Sep 11 terrorist attacks brought about innumerable suffering, death, destruction of homes, sickness and disease, rendering millions of people starving and homeless.”

He noted how media reports made people aware of the Afghan situation. “We know what is going on but it is not enough to be aware. The important thing is to ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing about it?’

Quoting from the Letter Of St James, he said: “ Faith without good works is dead. It is not sufficient for us to say we are believers, we have faith...We have to live our faith. Faith must be concretised with action.”

The pope’s call to prayer and fasting is to help one do something concrete, he said. “We join in prayer for the suffering children of God, for although they are not Catholic, we know they are still children of God and we fast as an act of penance for our own sins of omission in failing to reach out to the needy.” What was saved in the fasting must be given to the poor and suffering, he added. '

He urged the congregation to pray for world leaders to rely on God. “We must pray for the leaders who are so important to world peace, that they may be enlightened and know the way that God wants them to tread,” he said.

Jesus shows the way to lasting peace, but “He will need our cooperation for he has no hands and feet except yours and mine,” he stressed. Concelebrating with the archbishop were Monsignor Eugene Vaz, Frs Patrick Goh, Michael Arro, Anthony Ho, Paul Tong, Michael Sitaram, Joachim Chang, Luke Fong and Jesuit Father Colin Tan.

On Dec 10, the archbishop sent a note to parishes suggesting the setting up of a special collection box for the poor and suffering in conjunction with the pope’s call for prayer and fasting.

Mr Jimmy Lim, a Filipino professional, attended the Mass in solidarity with the Afghans. “I feel for the people. I understand their suffering,” he said, adding “it is a good idea to raise funds for the Afghans”.

Mr and Mrs Peter Tan, from the Church Of The Risen Christ, attended the Mass with their three daughters. “It is important for us to come together as a family, a small church, to join the big Church in the event,” he said, noting the happy faces of the congregation on a fasting day.

Mrs Sonia Aboud, a Brazilian who attends the Church Of St Ignatius Church, said: “I loved the Mass, it was very inspiring and timely. ” Her Canadian husband, Ken, added that the Mass “raised awareness of the plight of Afghan refugees. Now it is time to think about, pray about and most importantly, do something about their situation.”

Mr Richard Koh of the Church Of The Holy Trinity, said: “This is a very significant Mass. We should have this kind of Mass periodically to remind us of war-torn countries and the victims of war.”

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