Singapore – Singapore Catholics mark the close of year-round celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the church’s presence in the city-state, with activities in a part of the city with historic Catholic roots.
The bicentennial celebrations, known as the Catholic200SG Festival, began on December 4 and end with simultaneous masses at all 32 Catholic churches in Singapore on December 11, the Archdiocese of Singapore said.
On the last day of the festival, Archbishop William Goh of Singapore will celebrate main mass in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the oldest Catholic church in the country. The simultaneous ringing of church bells across the island for one minute will mark the close of the Jubilee Year.
UCA News reported that the church had organized nearly 100 activities in the area known as the Mission District, which is home to three churches and the Catholic Center. Activities are grouped into arts, community and spirituality, with the aim of showcasing what it is to be Catholic in Singapore.
“We wanted to bring the activities to this part of the city because this area is of great importance to us,” said Father Valerian Cheong, co-chair of the Catholic200SG steering committee.
The Mission District is the very heart of the nascent but growing Catholic community that took root when Singapore began to thrive on trade, he said. It was the region where various Chinese dialect groups, Indian and European speaking communities came to pray and help each other in difficult times. It is also the district where many Catholic schools were founded, he added.
The Singapore Church began the Jubilee Year on December 13, 2020, with a virtual Mass celebrated by Archbishop Goh. A special jubilee website and logo were launched and a documentary on the social impact of the Catholic Church in Singapore was shown.
The theme of the Jubilee Year, “Igniting and Shining with Faith,” focused on the pastoral vision of the Archdiocese of Singapore to shape a more dynamic, evangelizing and missionary church.
The events focused on the renewal of the faith of the Catholic community through four aspects: deepening, discerning, witnessing and celebrating.
Archbishop Goh said the bicentennial was an opportunity to galvanize Catholics for the past, present and future.
“We want to celebrate with gratitude and thanksgiving how far we have come. We must empower our Catholics to be alive in their faith and to evangelize. And we should all inspire us to work for a future where humanity and creation will find their fulfillment in God ”, said the prelate.
Singapore was a Malaysian fishing village when it was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, who made it a British colony in 1819. Soon after, Catholic missionaries arrived, and the Catholic Church is credited with vital contributions to nation building through education, health care and social welfare.
Saint Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert, French priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris, landed in Singapore in 1821 for missionary missions in Malaysia and China.
He was martyred on September 21, 1839 in Korea for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of other foreign missionaries during a period of Christian persecution in the country. He was canonized by Saint John Paul II in Seoul in 1984.
The date of Saint Laurent’s arrival in Singapore is historically known as the start of the Catholic Church in Singapore.
Singapore is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation with an estimated population of 5.6 million. Most Chinese are Buddhists and most Malays are Muslims. Christians represent about 15% of the population.
The Archdiocese of Singapore has 360,000 Catholics.