Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli greeting Deacon Clement Chen and his wife at the Catholic Spirituality Centre.

The newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore has called for unity within the Church community here and greater faith formation for laypeople.

Speaking “from the bottom of his heart” to about 200 Church representatives at the Catholic Spirituality Centre on April 7, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli noted the vibrancy of the Singapore Church and the “high” attendance at Sunday Mass – a “good sign” of the laity’s faith.

He said the first message he wanted to convey in this informal meeting was that of unity – “between priests, between Religious and priests, between faithful and priests, and between the community and its pastor, Archbishop Nicholas Chia” so as to become “the community of Jesus Christ”.

The nuncio with President S R Nathan on March 31. Photo: Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts

Archbishop Girelli, who was former nuncio to Indonesia, also noted how Asians were deeply religious. Catholic Indonesians express their spirituality through attending Mass and being part of the community, he said.

“What we need more is formation” especially “deeper formation in Catholic doctrine and the faith in general,” he said.

He urged priests to “give more catechesis to the faithful” in this regard.

The nuncio also encouraged priests and Religious to cultivate their spiritual life through the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and praying the Breviary.

Church leaders and laypeople welcomed the nuncio’s message.

Archbishop Chia described the nuncio as “simple, open and communicative” and said the Singapore Pastoral Institute (SPI) has been playing a role in lay formation. He added that laypeople themselves need to take the initiative to come forward for formation.

The nuncio with Archbishop Chia, ambassadors and the Cathdedral Choir of the Risen Christ during the welcome concert on April 3.

SPI director Arthur Goh said the formation Archbishop Girelli spoke about refers to the wider Catholic population. While there are courses readily available, there is a need to reach out to those who do not go to church, he said.

One priest, Fr Henry Siew, noted that the nuncio’s call for formation is a reminder to the priests, and encouragement to the laity to “actively make an effort for growth and development”.

Fr Andrew Wong said there are many rich Church documents and teachings, and that it is time to form the faithful in Catholic doctrine such as its social teachings, rather than just focus on devotions.

A welcome Mass for the nuncio was held earlier on April 3 at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd during which he conveyed the pope’s love to the Singapore Church and described the challenges it faces.

“I can assure you that Pope Benedict XVI loves you,” he told the congregation. “My presence here as his representative proves it.”

In his homily, he noted how “the Church in Singapore is facing the challenge of modernity”.

“In a city that is the most modern in Southeast Asia,” he said, “the Catholic Church has the opportunity to understand more deeply its role in a wealthy society characterised by the highest standard of living as well as good values like freedom and mutual respect, care of children and elderly people”.

However, the Church here also faces issues such as “materialism and consumerism” and “moral questions” such as the “social marginalisation of immigrants, legalised abortion, capital punishment ... gambling”.

“We must face these moral questions of our times as believers courageously and in humility without assuming to be faultless,” he said.

The Cathedral Choir of the Risen Christ directed by Sir Dr Peter Low staged a special Easter concert, titled Pascha, that evening at the cathedral to welcome the nuncio.

The crowd, together with various ambassadors and high commissioners, joined representatives from the Inter-Religious Organisation in observing a minute’s silence for victims of the disasters in Japan. A collection was also made for them and presented to the Japanese ambassador.

Archbishop Girelli arrived in Singapore on March 15. He presented his credentials to President S R Nathan at the Istana on March 31.

Archbishop Girelli is also Apostolic Nuncio to Timor Leste, Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia and Brunei, and non-resident Pontifical Representative for Vietnam. n Additional reporting: CHRISTOPHER KHOO, CATHEDRAL CHOIR OF THE RISEN CHRIST

By Darren Boon
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