07/18/2015, 00.00
SINGAPORE
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Church celebrates Singapore’s 50 years of independence with a solemn Mass

Ahead of official celebrations this fall, the city-state’s Catholic community marked the anniversary in the presence of the apostolic nuncio and the prime minister. The service provided an opportunity to remember the commitment of the first missionaries and the work of the Church in society. For Prime Minister Lee, the Church has been a “light and hope nurturing the young”.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – "We are called to sanctify the nation and this event is to celebrate what we have done but to propel into the future with a renewed vigour and hope – Let the light of Christ shine forth to the nations!” said Fr Derrick Yap at the start of the celebrations for Singapore’s 50 years of independence from Malaysia.

Official celebrations for the 50th anniversary are set to take place this fall, but the local Catholic Church decided to organise its own celebration with a solemn Mass in early July. Indeed, for Fr Yap, who is chairman of the Singapore 50 celebration committee, this is a “jubilee year, [. . .] a year of rejoicing because God is restoring all to wholeness.”

Some 10,000 people gathered on 4 July at the Singapore Indoor Stadium for the thanksgiving Mass. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and other religious dignitaries and political leaders were present at the ceremony.

The service paid tribute to the missionaries who first brought the faith to Singapore and who sacrificed their lives serving the people and building the nation.

For Fr Yap, "The occasion not only serves as a platform for the Church to celebrate her share in nation-building, but also to bring together Catholics here to forge stronger bonds with each other."

He noted that the Church has played a distinctive pastoral role in the areas of education, healthcare, social services, and integral human development.

He went on to say that the Church “continues in the mission to recognise the new poor in our midst who are vulnerable to . . . relativism, individualism, materialism, consumerism, and the negative impact of the internet and social media, particularly youth and families, which form the building blocks of society.”

In his homily, Archbishop Goh echoed Pope Francis' recent encyclical Laudato Si’, urging everyone “to care for the environment so that generations to come can continue to enjoy the fruits of the earth.”

In his address to those present, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “the Church has been a responsible, reliable, and sensitive partner, helping us to strengthen our multiracial and multireligious society.” For him, the Church has been a “light and hope nurturing the young”.

In Singapore, Catholics number more than 200,000, or about 5 per cent of the total population. Buddhism has the largest following with 33 per cent, followed by Christianity with 18 per cent, Islam with 15 per cent, and Taoism and Hinduism with 11 and 5 per cent respectively.

The local church is currently experiencing a phase of growth and dynamism illustrated by the opening of a theological seminary, a real "milestone" for the local community.

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