05/30/2022, 16.38
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William Goh, Singapore’s first cardinal

by Steve Suwannarat

The city-state’s archbishop is among the new cardinals Pope Francis announced for the consistory of 27 August. Born 65 ago, the fluent Mandarin speaker has led a small but dynamic Church since 2013, especially in pastoral outreach to migrants. After Hong Kong’s Bishop Emeritus John Tong reached the age limit, Goh will be the new ethnic Chinese prelate among the cardinal electors.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – For the first time, the Catholic Church of Singapore will have a cardinal. Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye is one of 21 new cardinals Pope Francis announced yesterday, six from Asia. They will be officially created in a consistory set for 27 August.

Born in Singapore on 25 June 1957 into an ethnic Chinese family, he became the fourth head of the Church in Singapore in May 2013, succeeding Archbishop Nicholas Chia. He is fluent in Mandarin.

He became a priest in 1985 when he completed his studies at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, which was followed by a licentiate in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Upon his returning to Singapore in 1992, the future cardinal focused on pastoral, spiritual and theological activities (including participation in the theological commission of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, FABC), holding various positions in the major seminary of Singapore until he became its rector.

Appointed coadjutor archbishop by Pope Benedict XVI in December 2012, a few months later he took over from Archbishop Chia.

His appointment as cardinal is a recognition of the role the small but very active Singaporean Church plays, in an economically advanced and socially developed country. Although a minority, Catholics are very much involved with the local and immigrant communities.

Since he is under 80, upon officially taking office on 27 August, Archbishop Goh will be a cardinal elector and significantly, in any future conclave, he will be the only ethnic Chinese since Card John Tong, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, reached the age limit two years ago.

When the pope’s decision became public, the local Church reacted with pride but also realism, noting that “Archbishop (Goh) is conscious that this honour and new responsibility conferred on him is also a recognition of the contribution of the faithful in the archdiocese for helping him to build a vibrant, evangelising and missionary church” in a country where Catholics number 300,000 out of a population of 5.6 million.

It should be noted that a few weeks ago, the archbishop issued a pastoral letter to the Church of Singapore following an outcry caused by the sentencing to five years in prison of a man religious, convicted in connection with sexual abuse.

In the missive, the prelate expressed his sorrow for what happened but also urged the faithful to take this case as a call to provide greater care of vulnerable people in the community, especially children and young people.

He also stressed the importance of cooperation between the archdiocese and Professional Standard Office, a body set up in 2011 that includes former magistrates, lawyers and psychologists, both Catholic and non-Catholic, to independently address such cases.

At the same time, he wrote: “Conversion is required of the entire Church. We must remember that the sins of one will affect others as well. It is a timely reminder for us to renew our faith, find healing in forgiveness and in God’s mercy, and seek reconciliation with our wounded brothers and sisters by taking the call to conversion of life seriously.”

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