Cardinal Says: “I Am Just Soter”

History has been made. The Malaysian Church has its first ever Cardinal in His Eminence Anthony Soter Fernandez.

There emerges a hope for interreligious harmony and unity among all Malaysians.

Amid a climate of perceived growing Islamisation and racial polarisation, members of the church hope Cardinal Anthony Soter Fernandez would help foster better unity among Malaysians.

This was indeed most notable with the presence of members from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism; Christian Federation of Malaysia, Council of Churches of Malaysia and other religious organisations. Also present were the Arch/ Bishops from the region, ambassadors, foreign dignitaries, clergy, religious and faithful.

Cardinal Soter Fernandez with the clergy
The simple thanksgiving Mass was held at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist on January 8, to mark his appointment as Cardinal, this first ever honour bestowed on the Malaysian Church. The celebration also commemorated Cardinal Fernandez’s 50th sacredotal anniversary.

In his address to the congregation, the Cardinal read out the personal letter he received from Pope Francis after his appointment to the College of Cardinals on 9 November last year. He said that he was particularly touched by the simplicity of the Holy Father who simply signed his name as ‘Francis’, minus any titles or designation as would be the norm.

Cardinal Soter also touched on the homily given by the Holy Father during the Consistory which took place on November 19 at St Peter’s Basilica. According to Cardinal Soter, Pope Francis who was reflecting on the Lord’s Sermon on the Plain gave a firm reminder that as the Church, we are constantly being asked to open our eyes to see the wounds of so many of our brethren who are deprived of and deprived in their dignity. In reflecting the prelate’s ongoing emphasis on a Church that is Malaysian and inclusive by nature, the Cardinal’s address was also read out in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil for the benefit of the faithful from the vernacular groups.

The spirit of ‘inclusiveness’ was also visibly reflected throughout the congregation which comprised religious groups that had worked with the Cardinal in the past and who continue to work with the Malaysian Church today.

The Cardinal in his message said, “The Holy Father in his homily during the consistory on Nov 19, exhorted the newly created cardinals with these words: ‘Today each of you is asked to cherish in your heart, and in the heart of the Church, this summons to be merciful like the Father.’ The Pope also said, ‘If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life,’” (Joy of the Gospel, 49).

Cardinal Soter expressed his deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks to His Excellency Archbishop Marino, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, His Grace Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur; and to each and everyone who graced the occasion.

“To all of you, I wish to remain just Soter, without any titles.”

Earlier the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino in relating to the Feast of the Epiphany which was celebrated on that day, said that the Church was never meant to be a sect closed within itself, but an outgoing community destined to go to the far corners of the Church.

Touching further on the recognition given to Cardinal Fernandez and the local Church, the Nuncio said that this appointment is an honour that is unique and reserved to a very few and has placed the Church in Malaysia and the country as a whole in the minds and hearts of people throughout the world.

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