Archbishop Goh: ‘The Catholic Church in Singapore has helped the state by her numerous contributions to education and social service.’Archbishop Goh: ‘The Catholic Church in Singapore has helped the state by her numerous contributions to education and social service.’The Church’s place in society, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and the roles of priests, Religious and laity were clearly outlined by Coadjutor Archbishop William Goh at a morning tea reception the day after his episcopal ordination.

“Religion and state share an important role in the holistic development and support of the individual and his/her community; thereby bringing stability to the country and society at large,” he told a 300-strong crowd gathered at the Catholic Spirituality Centre at Upper Serangoon Road.

Special guests at the Feb 23 event included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Members of Parliament, members of the Inter-Religious Organisation, and bishops from around the region.

Archbishop Goh noted that the more the Church and state “foster sounder co-operation between themselves ... the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of all”.

It is with these convictions that the Catholic Church has always been “a prophet in the area of morality, championing social rights and the dignity of the individual,” said Archbishop Goh.

“She is always conscious that there is a clear separation between Church and state,” he said. “However, this separation does not mean that the Church has no place in society.”

“Like the state, she, too, is concerned with the common good of society, namely, justice, harmony and progress, and works with the state to achieve this. She recognises that the just ordering of society is the responsibility and purview of the state, necessary for the preservation of justice and harmony.

“She cannot take over the role of government and cannot impose her values on believers of other faiths,” he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife Ho Ching, and apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli were among the VIPs at a reception at the Catholic Spirituality Centre.Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife Ho Ching, and apostolic nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli were among the VIPs at a reception at the Catholic Spirituality Centre.

However, “in extending the Gospel message of God’s love for His people, the Catholic Church in Singapore has helped the state by her numerous contributions to education and social service, including the care for the sick and the under-privileged”.

Archbishop Goh said that “bishops, as successors of the Apostles, are entrusted with continuing this mission of Christ”.

He added that both religion and state can “bring about justice, charity, unity and the progress of humanity together”.

Archbishop Goh noted that the Church is also “committed to strengthening relationships with Christians and peoples from different communions and communities”.

Above: Mr Lawrence Wong, (fourth from left) Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, poses for a photo with Archbishop Goh together with representatives of various faiths.Above: Mr Lawrence Wong, (fourth from left) Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, poses for a photo with Archbishop Goh together with representatives of various faiths.

The Church believes that proclaiming Christ and bearing witness to Him must be done in a way that respects consciences and does not violate freedom, he added.

He observed that society today is under the threat of secularism, individualism and relativism, which lead to intolerance, moral decadence and strife.

“Unless religions unite,” he said, “faith will be relegated to the private domain of an individual’s life, thereby weakening the impact of religions on society and morality.”

“A society without a soul would be a heartless society; a rudderless society; a society without hope,” he said.

Turning to priests as “co-workers of the bishop”, he said all priests must have the mind and heart of missionaries. “They should have at heart, in their prayers and particularly at the Eucharistic sacrifice, the concern of the whole Church for all of humanity.”

Religious, too, are a vital part of the Church community and should carry out their work in communion with it, he noted. “Indeed, as the Holy Father says, ‘Every [Religious] institute exists for the Church and must enrich her with its distinctive characteristics, according to a particular spirit and a specific mission.’”

Members of the laity must also “heed the universal call to holiness and to mission” especially in this era of secularism and relativism, he said.

“To do so, however, pre-supposes that we who call ourselves Christians, have first contemplated on the face of Christ,” he said.

Quoting Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Goh said, “It is not enough to update pastoral techniques, organise and coordinate ecclesial resources, or delve more deeply into the biblical and theological foundations of faith.

“What is needed is the encouragement of a new ‘ardour for holiness’ throughout the Christian community.”

It is necessary to “work at a spirituality of Communion, firstly with God and through Him, with each other in order to achieve communion in mission,” said Archbishop Goh.

Another tea reception was held in the afternoon for Catholics from the various parishes.

Well-wishers penned congratulatory messages and made spiritual bouquets in the form of prayers offered for the newly ordained archbishop.

There were performances from church choirs to entertain guests as they waited to meet Archbishop Goh and have their photo taken with him.

Ms Isabelle Tan who attended the Conversion Experience Retreat three years ago conducted by then Fr Goh said she was moved by the experience.

Ms Tan also shared that she hopes to see a revival for the youth under his guidance.

Ms Nicole Nielson, from the Church of Divine Mercy said, “It’s good to see Msgr Goh smiling and happy, we need someone vibrant like him to lead the people.”

By Christopher Khoo and Martin See
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Episcopal Ordination - Photo Album
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