Singapore (AsiaNews) - "I would like to invite you to fast with me, for the success of the New Evangelisation in Singapore. For prayer to be effective, it must be accompanied by fasting. We learn this from Jesus, our model in evangelisation, by looking at how he prepared his ministry, going into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days," said Mgr William Goh, archbishop of Singapore, in his pastoral letter for Lent in which he called on the members of his diocese to fast each Friday with water and bread to promote the New Evangelisation.
For the prelate, this is the only way to defeat "hostile secularism", which is against religion, and resist the development of "individualistic, materialistic and relativistic society." the latter undermine the foundations of society, striking at the heart of "the universal values of human rights, based on truth and love."
By urging people to undertake the Lenten fast, Archbishop Goh noted that "devout and fervent" prayer, both individually and in group, is "the key to the New Evangelisation" which is why it is "absolutely necessary".
At the same time, prayer and fasting "remove obstacles to the mission" and are of great benefit "for the soul and body" because "they keep us disciplined" and help us to resist "the temptations of the flesh."
For Mgr Goh, prayers and abstinence from food should not only be seen as "a ritual act" or a deed for ulterior motives. "God is not interested in a fasting ritual that bears no fruit and is not a source of charity for one's neighbours". Fasting "does not give any result if it is not watered by mercy and charity."
Through fasting "we should open our hearts to God and move towards continuous conversion". This is even more important if we consider that fasting "cleanses us from sins, in particular those that result in death from pride, arrogance, jealousy, anger and lust."
He urged the faithful to "fast together," because "we are weak" and "can fall victim to the temptations arising from carelessness, self-indulgence and sins." By contrast, unity is a source of "encouragement and mutual support."
For Friday fasting, Singapore's archbishop said people should use lunch and dinner breaks to engage in "individual prayer and Eucharistic adoration", participate in "Eucharistic celebrations", or even "pray together in the office or at home in order to "share the Good News. "Overcoming physical hunger will be much easier if it is accompanied by the Christian communion of love and group reading of the word of God".
More than 200,000 Catholics, or about 5 per cent of the total population, call Singapore home.
Buddhism is the city-state's dominant religion with 43 per cent of the population, followed by Christianity (18 per cent), Islam (15 per cent), Hinduism (11 per cent) and Taoism (5 per cent).
At present, the local church is going through a phase of growth and dynamism, which has led to the recent opening of a theological seminary, a real "milestone" for the local community.