Catholics celebrate bicentennial of Singapore's evangelization
by Steve Suwannarat

A celebration of historic roots and stimulus for mission. Since the opening mass on December 13, a full calendar of events, attended despite the pandemic. Future objectives include renewed dynamism in the Catholic community and promotion of the values of faith. 


Singapore (AsiaNews) - On December 11, 1821, Saint Laurent Imbert, a religious of the Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP) landed at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula where there was already a well-known centre of trade and commerce: Singapore, founded only two years earlier by the British.

His task was to meet the sparse Catholic community. It consisted of a maximum of 12 or 13 individuals, according to the assessment he sent on December 15 to Msgr Esprit-Marie-Joseph Florens, then Apostolic Vicar of Siam. It was the beginning of an evangelization that has seen highs and lows, but which has helped shape what is now the identity of the city-state.

The celebration of the bicentennial was not indicated as a point of arrival, but a commemoration and a stimulus to open a new era of commitment, growth and sharing under the theme "Ignite and Shine with Faith". A phrase that identifies the two essential points of the event: strengthening and revitalizing the Catholic community and promoting the values of faith with a missionary impulse.

A calendar of events, Catholic 200 SG, accompanied the entire anniversary beginning with the opening mass on December 13, 2020, celebrated by Archbishop Msgr. William Goh. The same day the bicentennial website and logo were unveiled, along with a documentary on the social role of the Church in a nation as unique as it is exemplary.

Singapore in fact offers many possibilities for cohabitation between different faiths and cultures, even if in a highly controlled and planned context to avoid tensions and conflicts.

The 12 months of initiatives will culminate in the Mass scheduled for tomorrow. They have been marked by the pandemic, but nonetheless attended. Including the last one, Catholic 200 SG Festival, eight days of meetings, guided tours, exhibitions, conferences and rituals to reintroduce to the population the history, traditions and socio-cultural commitment that have contributed so much to the integration in the city-state, one of the most cosmopolitan places in Asia, of a baptized community that today counts about 360 thousand individuals.

The community may be small in number, but essential in a context where the majority is Buddhist-Taoist - with substantial minorities of Muslims and Hindus - reflecting the ethnic representation of Chinese (76%), Malays (15%) and Indians (7.4%). Christians, a transversal presence among the various ethnic groups, make up 15% of the 5.7 million local inhabitants and also include a part of the community of Western origin, as well as a good number of Asian immigrants.