SINGAPORE: The newly—ordained head of the Catholic Church, Coadjutor Archbishop William Goh, welcomed political and religious leaders at a reception at the Catholic Spirituality Centre in Upper Serangoon Road on Saturday morning.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife were among the guests which include Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Members of Parliament, and members of the Inter—Religious Organisation.
The new Archbishop told the 300—strong audience at the reception that the Catholic Church in Singapore is committed to dialogue and maintaining religious harmony.
Inter—religious dialogue, he added, can be a way to deal with the threat of secularism.
Coadjutor Archbishop Goh said: "The greatest concern of the church today is simply this — that the world is becoming too secularised. In itself it is not wrong. It is when secularisation becomes secularism — that is to say anti—church and anti—religion. And so without religion, without faith in the absolute, because God is the absolute, then we don’t have an objective foundation for moral values."
He added: "As a result, people are divided, people are fragmented, because it is all based on relativism, which simply means to say, it is up to each one to think. How can we build a united society when we don’t have a reference point, a basis for unity?"
Coadjutor Archbishop Goh added however, that the Catholic Church is always conscious that there is a clear separation between Church and State. But like the State, the Church is concerned with the common good of society, namely justice, harmony, and progress — and works with the State to achieve this.
He added that the Church recognises that the just ordering of society is the responsibility and purview of the State, and that the Church cannot take over the role of the government, nor impose its values on believers of other faiths.
Prime Minister Lee said he looks forward to working with Coadjutor Archbishop Goh.
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said he is confident that the Catholic Church and its 300,000 strong community will continue to flourish and make important contributions to Singapore under his leadership.
Mr Lee said that the work of the Catholic Church has benefited many Singaporeans over the years, adding that it has served the poor and needy of all faiths and races, as well as provided excellent educational and social services.
Mr Lee also said the new Archbishop intends for the Catholic Church to continue contributing to a cohesive and compassionate society, peace and harmony in Singapore.
Mr Lee added that he looks forward to working with the new Archbishop, a point echoed by Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Mr Lawrence Wong.
Mr Wong said: "Well, I’m very happy to be here to join the Catholic community to celebrate this very joyous occasion of the ordination of the Coadjutor Archbishop William Goh. I think our religious groups and religious leaders play a very important part in nurturing our character, our values, and also in maintaining and preserving religious harmony in Singapore. This is what we’ve done over many years, and this is what we continue to do.
"We welcome the new leadership in the Catholic Church and we look forward to working with them. And we hope with the new leadership, with the adjutor Archbishop William Goh, we can continue to work with him closely in furthering the common causes that we have — strengthening our religious harmony in Singapore and building a stronger society, and a more inclusive society."
Prime Minister Lee also paid tribute to the outgoing Archbishop Nicholas Chia and thanked him for his contributions over the past 12 years.
Mr Lee noted that they have worked together closely to promote religious harmony and understanding.
In a letter to the Archbishop Chia, who is slated to retire in April when he turns 75, Mr Lee highlighted Archbishop Chia’s commitment to promoting strong inter—faith ties.
Mr Lee proceeded to highlight examples of this. Among them including Archbishop Chia’s setting up of the Archdiocesan Council for Inter—religious and Ecumenical Dialogue in March 2007 to give Catholics additional opportunities to learn about other religions in Singapore, and vice—versa.
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Archbishop Chia also supported the Muslim and Christian communities in joint Hari Raya and Christmas celebrations, as well as conducted an inter—religious prayer session in 2002 to pray for peace.
Mr Lee added that the Catholic community in Singapore has thrived under Archbishop Chia’s leadership.
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