Some 3,700 people in Singapore gathered for a thanksgiving mass on Thursday (September 8), as the city-state celebrated the appointment of its first cardinal.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, alongside Cabinet ministers and bishops from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, as well as other religious leaders, was also in attendance at St Joseph's Church in Upper Bukit Timah.
@yahoosea Singapore celebrates its very first Cardinal (for reals, not like Da Vinci Code)#sgnews #tiktoksg ♬ original sound - Yahoo Southeast Asia
William Cardinal Goh, Archbishop of Singapore, was one of six new cardinals from Asia appointed by Pope Francis, with his investiture taking place in Vatican City on August 27. The other cardinals hail from or are currently serving in India, Timor Leste, Mongolia and the Vatican.
All six are well below the age limit of 80, making them eligible to vote in a conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Francis, 85. There are now a total of 31 cardinals from Asia, with 21 eligible to be electors.
There are currently two cardinals from the Philippines, which has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world: Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Archbishop of Manila Jose F. Advincula. The country has produced a total of nine cardinals.
Speaking at the Cardinalate Thanksgiving Mass, Cardinal Goh joked that many kaypohs (busybodies) had asked what the pontiff said to him at his investiture. "He said, 'pray for me'. So since he said 'pray for me', I will say the same thing to you: please pray for me.
"I really do not know (why I was appointed). I never asked him for the reasons as well. But I think he doesn't know the reason as well. I believe the Holy Father, in choosing me... believes that somehow, God will unfold His plan in my heart."
Speaking of his role as a cardinal, he added, "That is the most important mission of the Church — to promote unity and love among all of humankind. Of course, ours is a spiritual mission, in the sense that we believe very strongly that the world would be united if everyone truly believes in God."
People will know that we are truly believers in God, when we show the face of God's mercy and love to others."
Lawrence Chong is a Singaporean consultor at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, which seeks to promote mutual understanding and collaboration between Catholics and those of other religions.
Asked if more cardinals will be appointed from Asia in future, Chong told Yahoo Philippines that the Pope has an affinity for Asia, having wanted to visit Japan in his youth. He also pointed to the "disproportionate" number of cardinals from Southeast Asian countries with Catholic minorities, while noting that cardinal appointments are always dependent on the reigning Pope
"I think some form of Asianization is going on. The contribution of the Asian factor is growing," noted Chong. "If you will look at the College of Cardinals, the 226, now Asia is a quite significant bloc. I will also argue that Southeast Asia is very interesting, having quite a number of cardinals from Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore."
But when asked if an Asian Pope might be elected, he demurred, noting that the "big, influential" voting blocs are still from Europe and the Americas. "To be a Pope, you have to go through many rounds in order to make sure you have two-thirds majority. That's why some Popes are elected over 10 rounds. But I will say they do have to now account for the Asian bloc."
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