Cardinal Goh of Singapore hopes Pope Francis’ visit will ‘spur a renewal’ in the country — By: Catholic News Agency

Cardinal William Goh of Singapore celebrates Mass at the city-state’s Indoor Stadium on July 4, 2015. / Credit: Archdiocese of Singapore

CNA Newsroom, Apr 17, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Following the announcement of Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to the Asia Pacific region later this year, Cardinal William Goh, archbishop of Singapore, has expressed his hope that the Holy Father’s visit to the city-nation from Sept. 11–13 “will bring renewed fervor to all Catholics in Singapore.” 

In a media release, Goh encouraged the Catholic population of Singapore to unite and pray for the Holy Father’s upcoming visit. “Let us, as a community, pray for the continued health and safety of the Holy Father and ask the Lord to grant us a truly meaningful and grace-filled visit,” he said. 

Pope Francis’ visit will come 10 years after Goh outlined his 10-year pastoral plan for the Catholic Church in Singapore. 

At a 2014 meeting held with approximately 750 parish ministry representatives, Goh stated that the Church may appear vibrant because of “so many Masses, baptisms, confirmations,” but it nevertheless faces challenges, including the declining practice of faith among local Singaporeans. 

“Half of the Catholics go to church. The Church is full thanks to the migrants,” he said.

To help Singaporean Catholics to spiritually prepare “to meet Jesus through Pope Francis’ pastoral visit,” the Archdiocese of Singapore also recently launched a dedicated website containing prayers, online resources, and other updates regarding the coming of the Holy Father in September. The website also unveiled the archdiocese’s chosen trifold theme of “Unity, Hope, and the Cross” to mark the occasion of the 2024 papal trip. 

To date, there are about 395,000 Catholics living in the country who belong to diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Masses are predominantly celebrated in English but are also available in Mandarin, Tamil, and other Southeast Asian or European languages for local and expatriate communities. 

Though the Catholic Church is relatively young and diverse, and it is growing in numbers in a place of political peace where religious tolerance toward institutions and individuals is mandated by the law, Goh hopes Pope Francis’ visit will spur a renewal and strengthening of faith, conversion of heart, and missionary spirit within Singapore’s Catholic communities.   

Dominic Nalpon, a Singaporean theology student based in Rome, shares Goh’s sentiment that external factors, such as the numbers of Catholic faithful, do not necessarily indicate a “booming” Church. 

“Singapore is probably the most Western country in Asia, which is not in and of itself a bad thing, but we are also the most affluent, and I think there is a correlation between affluence and a decline in faith or religiosity,” Nalpon said. “I think that the challenge is that we can easily fall into the external practices of faith but without having a grounded relationship with the Lord. I think that’s the hardest issue.”   

One of the highlights of the pope’s visit to Singapore will be the papal Mass expected to take place on Sept. 12. 

The last and only other time a pontiff visited Singapore was in 1986 when Pope John Paul II made a five-hour stopover in the country and celebrated Mass with thousands of people at the national stadium. 

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