Bandar Seri Begawan (AsiaNews) - Despite being one of the youngest and smallest churches in South - East Asia , and the whole continent, the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei is actually a prosperous and vibrant reality with spiritual activities that continue to grow and enrich the life of the community . This is confirmed by the Apostolic Vicar Msgr. Cornelius Sim in an interview with Catholic News Agency ( CNA ). Beginning with the motto "Duc in Altum" , the prelate describes the on the ground projects " to strengthen and sustain the missionary dimension of the Church." We are one of the smaller dioceses of Asia, he points out, with only one bishop and three priests, but "we hope to have new vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life."
The Sultanate of Brunei is a small state located on the island of Borneo, which is also home to parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. It is a developed country, and one of the richest in the world. Malay is the official language, but English and Chinese are both widely spoken. About 70% of the population of this nation - which is an absolute monarchy- is Muslim, around 10 % of the population is atheist, 13 % is Buddhist, and a small number have indigenous beliefs. Christians, half of whom are Catholic, constitute 10 % of Brunei's population.
Recently, the Sultan Hassanal
Sharia law, which applies to Muslims and includes - according to the Koran
- the sentencing to death by stoning for adultery, amputation for thieves,
flogging for other crimes such as abortion and alcohol consumption. Among
other things, the sale and consumption of alcohol in public is strictly
prohibited and authorities carefully monitor the activities of other religions.
Despite these strict rules, Catholics live their faith with depth and devotion. This is according to Fr. Arin Sugit , assistant to the bishop at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. Almost 70% of the faithful are "migrants from the Philippines", another 20% are also migrants from Indonesia, India and Malaysia , with the remaining 10% of the indigenous population of Brunei.
Bishop Sim explains that they are "fortunate" to have a "Filipino community that makes our church so active and lively". They contribute to enrich us and our faith" with a "sincere and popular devotion". Fr. Sugit speaks of "vibrant and growing faith activities" although the process of testimony and the spread of Christianity is still "slow" .
The bishop and three priests serve a community of about 20 thousand people all over Brunei , and the minority is free to live their faith at home and in places of worship, but there are heavy restrictions on public worship. Every Sunday, says Fr . Sugit , there are between 5 and 6 thousand people for Mass in the cathedral. The apostolic vicariate was established in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, who elevated Msgr. Sim to the rank bishop, consecrated January 21, 2005 by the then Nuncio Msgr. Salvatore Pennacchio . "It's a humble beginning - Mgr . Sims - but we must continue to enrich our faith based on the principle of community."