Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo meets with Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to the Holy See Apr 20-21. Photo by L’Osservatore Romano Photographic Service

SINGAPORE – Minister George Yeo made an official visit to the Holy See on Apr 20-21, said a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Yeo had a short audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Apr 21, where he conveyed the wishes of the President, Prime Minister, and the people of Singapore. He also handed the pope a letter from President S. R. Nathan inviting Pope Benedict to visit Singapore next year on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See.

Pope Benedict thanked President Nathan for the invitation, and went on to give his blessings to the people and the government of Singapore.

During his visit, Mr Yeo met with the President of the Pontifical Commission and President of the Governorate of the Vatican City State Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the current Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace Mario Toso. The meetings were held to discuss ways to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Mr Yeo also called on Archbishop Emeritus of Boston Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, and the Prelate of Opus Dei Monsignor Javier Echevarria, whom he met in Singapore last year.

Highlights from the history of Singapore-Holy See relations
  • Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was received by Pope Paul VI on Oct 22, 1971 at the Vatican Apostolic Palace.
  • Diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See were established in 1981.
  • In November 1986, Pope John Paul II visited Singapore, making it the first time a pope had ever set foot on the island.
  • In September 1997, Mr George Yeo, then the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, visited the Holy See and met Pope John Paul II. While there, Mr Yeo initiated the first discussion on bringing together people from different cultures and facilitating the exchange of ideas.
  • From 1998 to 2005, the Vatican cooperated with Singapore to train 112 students in their Third Country Training Programme.
  • Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, then the Secretary for Relations with States, visited Singapore in June 2005 where he inaugurated the “Journey of Faith – Art and History from the Vatican Collection” exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum.
  • In 2006, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs collaborated with the Archdiocese of Singapore to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See.
  • The five-day celebration was attended by Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who was apostolic nuncio to Singapore from 1981-1986. Then he was the President of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, and Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. He introduced the ‘Compendium of the Church’s Social Teachings’ to the people of Singapore.

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