Julian Leow Named New Archbishop Of Kuala Lumpur

The Vatican today named Reverend Father Julian Leow Beng Kim as the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, taking over from Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam who stepped down on December 6 upon turning 75.

Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph S. Marino announced the appointment at the archdiocesan office in Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur this evening.

Leow will take on the title of Archbishop-elect until such time he is officially installed as the new Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

There are 40 parishes and chapels under the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, which covers Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Pahang, Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan.

The Seremban-born Leow has been a priest for 12 years. He attended St Paul's Institution for his elementary and secondary studies. He later studied at the New South Wales University in Australia from 1983 to 1988 and obtained a Bachelors Degree of Building. In 1994, he entered College General Major Seminary in Penang for his studies for formation to the priesthood. He was ordained a priest on April 20, 2002.

Speaking to reporters later, Leow said that he had mixed feelings when he came to know that he was the one chosen for the post of archbishop a few days ago.

"It was surreal for me, I was unsure what was happening," he said. Leow added he was thankful to be inheriting a good structure from his predecessors and hoped to build on the foundation that had already been laid.

When asked about his stand on the contentious "Allah" issue, Leow said, "I have my views on it, but I have to speak to the lawyers first before I make any statement."

He was then asked about inter-religious dialogue, to which he made it clear that it was very important, adding that much effort had been put into it, especially by the Catholic Church. He then added that he believes "dialogue is key, even in the Allah issue".

"Let us make Malaysia a wonderful place to live and work, a diversity of ethnic, culture and religion, and let this bind us as unity is our diversity," Leow added.

Pakiam said, "I am happy for this little bit of transition that we see.

"He brings a professional touch to the administration of the church, as seen when he was the parish priest of the Holy Family Church in Kajang."

He also said that Leow is a deeply religious person with a human face. Since 2010, Leow (pic) has served as one of the formators at the College General Seminary.

Leow's appointment as archbishop today comes at a time when relations between the Catholic church and Putrajaya are at its lowest ebb. Just 10 days ago, the Federal Court rejected an application by the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop to challenge the ban on the use of the word "Allah" in the Bahasa Malaysia secttion of its weekly publication, Herald.

The Catholic Church is now mulling whether to seek a review of the Federal Court decision, in which three of the judges in the seven-man bench gave dissenting judgments. Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum and Federal Court judges Datuk Zainun Ali and Tan Sri Jeffey Tan Kok Hwa had held that leave must be granted to the Catholic Church.

However, Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, who led the seven-man bench, said the President of Court of Appeal Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif, Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkifli Ahmad Makinuddin and Federal Court judge Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar agreed that leave should not be granted.

The publisher of the Catholic weekly, Herald, had been using the word "Allah" in the publication since 1995 until the Home Minister imposed a ban in 2009. On October 14 last year, a three-man bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali allowed Putrajaya's appeal to ban Herald from using the word Allah, saying there was a 1986 directive by the ministry that prohibited non-Muslim publications from using four words, "Allah", "Kaabah", "Solat" and "Baitullah".

Apandi in his judgment had said that the reason for the prohibition was to protect the sanctity of Islam and prevent any confusion among Muslims. He had also ruled that if the word was allowed to be used by Christians, it could threaten national security and public order.

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