(Feature photo updated on 27 August 2022)
Singapore’s fourth and current Catholic prelate, Archbishop William Goh, will be made Cardinal on Saturday night (Singapore time) in a historic moment as the island republic’s first ever Cardinal.
“Let us walk together in faith, love and prayer, journeying with each other in mutual trust and respect between clergy and the laity, towards the goal of realising the New Evangelisation, in line with the thrust of the Universal Church,” said Cardinal-elect Goh in a Facebook post on 1 June.
After the initial announcement on 29 May, the ceremony to officially install the new cardinals will be held on 27 Aug at 9.45pm (SGT) in Rome at the Ordinary Public Consistory for the Creation of New Cardinals.
With the appointment, Cardinal-elect Goh will hold the second highest rank in the Catholic clergy, second only to the Pope. He will be joining the College of Cardinals where he will be an elector of a new Pope among his other responsibilities.
The consistory sees 21 new Cardinals being created, with six coming from Asia – Mongolia, Timor-Leste, Korea, Singapore, and Goa and Hyderabad in India – bringing the total number of Cardinals to 226.
This signals an expanding representation of Cardinals from across the world. After the consistory on 27 Aug, just under 40 per cent or 2 in 5 of the Cardinal electors will represent Europe, a decrease from nearly half at the 2005 conclave. Cardinal electors representing Asia will have doubled from 11 electors in 2005 to 22 after this weekend.
Prior to serving as the fourth Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, Cardinal-elect Goh began his theological studies in Philosophy at the Major Seminary in Penang (College General), and Theology at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary in Singapore.
In a written testimony of his journey to priesthood, Cardinal-elect Goh said that his “mother’s faith and devotion” to the religion “sowed the seed” of his vocation without him consciously being aware of it at a young age. As early in secondary school, he felt the “initial desire of becoming a priest”. After completing his National Service, Cardinal-elect Goh went on to work in a bank before eventually accepting the call of priesthood and enrolling in the seminary.
He was ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Singapore on 1 May 1985, and has since held appointments as the Spiritual Director of the Catholic Spirituality Centre and the Archbishop of Singapore. Outside the Church, he also holds appointments such as a member of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony and a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.
When he returns from Rome, Cardinal-elect Goh will be celebrating the appointment at a Thanksgiving Solemn Mass at St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah) on 8 Sep.
College of Cardinals
After the ordinary consistory, Pope Francis has called for an extraordinary consistory on 29 and 30 Aug, the first since 2015. The Pope will then conclude with Mass on 30 Aug with all the new Cardinals and the College of Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.
The papacy is usually held until the Pope passes, and resignations are highly rare. While Pope Francis has not indicated such signs, the appointment of Cardinal-elect Goh opens the possibility of a Singaporean sitting on the Chair of St Peter.
“I think what the Church needs today is really compassion. And priests, especially priests and religious, I think we need to show more compassion for people who are weak, who are not able to live up to the teachings of the Church. We need to journey with them as what the Holy Father sees instead of being judgmental, because I believe that we are all struggling to be faithful to the Gospel. We are not perfect either. I think the Gospel is the ideal of course,” said Cardinal-elect Goh in an interview with Vatican News.
He added: “We cannot compromise the values of the Gospel, but at the same time we need to be realistic. We need to be compassionate, to feel with those who are struggling to live up to their faith. I like the Holy Father’s emphasis on compassion and inclusivity. Everybody must somehow be embraced by the Church, whether those who are divorced, those who are LGBTQ, those who are on the peripheries, the poor. And I think this is what the Church is all about.”
You can watch the livestream of the Ordinary Public Consistory for the Creation of New Cardinals here.