By Joyce Gan

25ACc01.jpgFor more than three months, the Archdiocese of Singapore collaborated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Singapore. This culminated in a five day celebration from June 20 to 24, graced by special papal envoy Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino.

THE CELEBRATIONS culminated in a Jubilee dinner on Friday Jun 23 at the Meritus Mandarin Hotel.

It was attended by some 900 people including diplomats from over 40 countries, past and present ambassadors to the Holy See, senior government leaders, representatives from various religious communities, and priests and parishioners from 30 churches in the Singapore Archdiocese.

The St. Francis Xavier Youth Choir sang the national anthems of the Holy See and the Republic of Singapore.

Warm welcomes were exchanged between J. Y. Pillay, chairman of the organizing committee for these celebrations, guests of honour Minister George Yeo, who toasted to Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who toasted to the President of Singapore S. R. Nathan and to the "good and friendly people of Singapore".

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The cake that was prepared to commemorate the celebrations for the Jubilee dinner held at Meritus Mandarin on Fri, Jun 23.

In his speech, the cardinal called to mind the late Pope John Paul II, under whose direction this diplomatic relations was established. He spoke about how people in nations who have diplomatic relations with the Holy See know "the Holy See will continue to promote their human rights, especially the right to life… and to continue to protect the common good in which we all share" because these nations and the Holy See share a "desire to work for true peace and justice in the world".

There are presently 174 nations who have established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See, including Singapore. "For 25 years, the Republic of Singapore and the Holy See have shared cordial diplomatic relations. It may seem to have been a lifetime for some but for others, 25 years seem like only yesterday. We pray here that this relationship of mutual trust, understanding and cooperation will continue for many years to come," Cardinal Martino said and concluded his speech with a blessing. "May God the Father hear our prayer and strengthen our friendship with him and with each other."

The highlight of the evening was a video presentation that was completed just that afternoon, depicting the history of diplomatic relations and the history of the church in Singapore. The video captivated those present at the dinner and ended to hearty applause. Two books were presented during the presentation ceremony - "25th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between  the Republic of Singapore and the Holy See 1981-2006", written by Father Rene Nicolas, MEP and "Going forth… The Catholic Church in Singapore 1819-2004", written by Eugene Wijeysingha.

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Pope Benedict sends message to Singapore Catholics

Reports by Daniel Tay, Joyce Gan and Sister Wendy Ooi, fsp

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Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino (center) celebrated Mass with concelebrants Archbishop Nicholas Chia (left) and Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Wed, Jun 21.

THE ANNIVERSARY was celebrated with Mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd which was attended by about 900 people including prominent Catholics, Singapore religious leaders and bishops from the region. Before Mass, the statue of late Pope John Paul II was unveiled and blessed.

A colourful entrance procession into the Good Shepherd Cathedral followed, led by a 100-member strong choir and Knights and Dames from the Order of Malta. During Mass, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino read a message to the Catholics of Singapore from Pope Benedict XVI.

"Both States seem to have been going in a safe and prosperous way to reach a fruitful future with the help of the Lord," the message said. "We also think that we should not keep silence about the 20 years that have passed since Our Venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, visited Singapore and encouraged the country to a human and religious progress. "Besides, the Asian Mission Congress is also drawing near already. This Congress should bring a renewed energy to preach the Good News to all the peoples of Asia, so that the Words and Gifts of the Saviour should be widely spread there too.

"It is therefore proper and very important to commemorate and celebrate these events in the best way. This celebration gives opportunity and possibility not only to recall them, but also to promote a more fervent religious feeling to bring about harmony and peace, as we know that the Catholic Church will try her best so that all peoples will share in these salutary gifts."

The pope asked Cardinal Martino "to convey our words, so that everybody will receive a new encouragement to always progress firmly in the right paths of their lives. For this reason, you shall show to all participants of these celebrations our good will and also our gratitude for the first year of our Pontificate". The pope also gave his Apostolic Blessing.

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Homage to John Paul II

A STATUE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II is installed at the courtyard of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd to pay homage to the pope who visited Singapore 20 years ago on Nov 20, 2006.

The bronze statue is two metres tall. In this posture of the pope with gaze towards heaven and brandishing thepapal crosier, embracing and blessing the great multitude of the faithful, one can recall his farsighted and encouraging words at the beginning of his pontificate in Saint Peter's Square in October 1978: "Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ."

John Paul II was the only pope to visit Singapore and he left imprints of his holiness and his message for dialogue and peace in the hearts and minds of Singaporeans.

The base of the statue is decorated with the rich cultural symbols of Singapore such as merlion and orchids.

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On religion and peace:

Papal envoy Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino poses with (seated from left): Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Walter Woon, present Ambassador to the Holy See; Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports; Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio; Prof Tommy Koh, Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies which organized the conference; and (standing) religious leaders, at the Shangri-La hotel before deliverimg an hour-long lecture on the "Role of Religions in Promoting Peace and Solidarity and Denouncing Terrorism".

CatholicNews will publish excerpts of the speech in the next issue.

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Singapore ambassadors to the Holy See

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Above, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino meets with Singapore Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong at the Istana on Friday, Jun 23.Clockwise from top left, Walter Woon, Francis Yeo Teng Yang, Mary Seet-Cheng, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Dr Chiang Hai Ding and Prof Pang Eng Fong pose for a group photo at the Jubilee Dinner held at Meritus Mandarin Hotel on Friday, Jun 23.

Ampalavanar Selverajah, Ambassador of Singapore to the Holy See, 1999-2003, presents his Letters of Credence to Pope John Paul II on Dec 16, 1999. L'O. R. photo

Jayalekshimi Mohideen, Ambassador of Singapore to the Holy See, 1991-1993, talks to Pope John Paul II after the presentation of her Letters of Credence on Jan 24, 1991. L'O. R. photo

 

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