Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - The ban on the use of the word "Allah" is limited only to the Catholic weekly Herald, and does not apply to the Bible, Masses and other religious services.
In the latter cases, the word can be used without breaking the law, said Mgr Julian Leow, archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, in a pastoral letter published on the Archdiocese's website.
In it, the prelate spoke about the legal dispute that involved the weekly edited by Fr Lawrence Andrew, noting that with last week's ruling all legal means have been exhausted.
However, the decision by the Court of Appeal is limited "only" to the Herald, and does not affect the other activities and publications of the Catholic Church.
On 21 January, Malaysia's Federal Court dismissed the latest, and perhaps last, appeal by the Catholic Church, concerning the use of the word "Allah" for non-Muslims.
A five-man panel delivered a unanimous decision turning down the Catholic Church's application for a review of the apex court's earlier ruling which did not grant it leave to appeal the ban on the use of the word "Allah" in the Herald.
In his pastoral letter, the Most Reverend Julian Leow said that the "Allah" ban did not include a prohibition in the Bible or in praise and worship during mass and prayer sessions.
"The government," he noted, "has said that the decision of the Court of Appeal is only confined to the Herald's case. We shall therefore take the government at its word".
The prelate did not hide the uncertainties and possible repercussions of the ban on the rights of minorities to practice their faith.
However, Catholics are a people of "faith and hope," he said, and would take a stand for justice and truth.
"We need to protect the rights of the minority and the voiceless," the archbishop of Kuala Lumpur explained.
"We need to forgive and to reach out in love especially to those who misunderstand and are misinformed," he added.
He explained that for Catholics, although the Home Minister's restriction on the use of the word "Allah" in the Herald goes against the Federal Constitution, it is only through love that battles are won, for "God is love".
In a country of more than 28 million people, Muslims are the majority (60 per cent). Christians are the third largest religious group (after Buddhists) with more than 2.6 million members.
A Latin-Malay dictionary published 400 years ago shows that the word Allah was already in use to describe the Biblical God in the local language.
Some 180,000 Catholics live in the capital Kuala Lumpur out of a population of over 11 million residents. They are served by 55 priests, 154 men and women religious, but only 1 permanent deacon.