Bandar Seri Begawan (AsiaNews/Ucan) - The ordination of the first Catholic bishop in Brunei was an unprecedented event for the Catholic Church in the predominantly Muslim sultanate. Monsignor Francesco Cao Minh Dung, counselor to the Apostolic Nunciature in Bangkok, described the episcopal ordination of Bishop Cornelius Sim on Jan. 21 as a historic moment in the life of the local Church, recently raised to an apostolic vicariate.
It was the culmination of the change from an apostolic prefecture to an apostolic vicariate, which Pope John Paul II announced on Oct. 20. An apostolic vicariate is an ecclesiastical jurisdiction in mission regions where the Church hierarchy is not yet fully organized.
Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Bangkok-based apostolic delegate to Brunei, ordained Bishop Sim, 53. The ordination was held at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei's capital. In addition to Catholic archbishops, bishops, priests and nuns, representatives from other Christian Churches attended Bishop Sim's ordination.
Brunei has about 5,000 registered Catholics. About 20,000 Filipino migrant workers, most of them Catholics, also stay in the country. Muslims are about 65 per cent.