Sabah Catholic Lawyers Hold Inaugural Red Mass 2012

Like other professions, members of the legal fraternity are called and chosen by God.

As such, they must respond and justify the call by performing good deeds in their profession as well as daily life.

This reminder came from Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Datuk John Lee when he celebrated the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, known as Red Mass, the first of its kind in Sabah, at the Church of Mary Immaculate in Bukit Padang, Saturday.

The one-and-a-half-hour Roman Catholic service for people in the legal fraternity was jointly organised by the Archdiocesan Human Development Commission (AHDC) in collaboration with those involved in the administration of justice, in particular, Catholic lawyers, members of the judiciary and Justices of the Peace (JPs). Archbishop Lee and Deacon Jeffri Gumu (Sacred Heart Cathedral) were clad in a red robe while Archbishop Co-adjutor John Wong and Rev. Leo, a Korean priest, had a red stole over their cassock. The red colour signifies invoking the power of the Holy Spirit as guidance to all who pursue justice.

The purpose of a Red Mass, the Roman Catholic service for people in the law profession and judiciary, was for the Bar and Bench to join its celebration in calling on the Holy Spirit to guide them in administering justice.

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Archbishop Lee said the Mass of the Holy Spirit for lawyers and judges, dating back to the 13th century, has been celebrated annually in the Catholic Church in West Malaysia and other countries.

The first recorded Red Mass was celebrated in France in 1245 while the tradition began in England during the reign of King Edward II in 1310.

As the Red Mass Commentator, Alice Imelda Chin, a lawyer, aptly put it at the beginning of the service: "As administers of justice, we are gathered here in solidarity, seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice.

"It is also a time for all of us who seek justice, to reflect on what Catholics believe is the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession, a willingness to defend truth. That's what the red colour symbolises."

Speaking to some 80 members of the legal profession (attired in their barrister's robe), judiciary and JPs, Archbishop Lee stressed that the celebration of the mass was centred on the importance of the Eucharist, and they would not understand it unless they understood the Word of God.

He reminded them that being called and chosen by God as lawyers and judges, they must seek God's help in dispensing justice in the course of executing their work.

"It's a privilege to celebrate this Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit with you.

I thank you for your response to this Red Mass. Let us pray for judges and lawyers in our country.

"We pray to the Lord for justice and courage to do what is right. Let us stand firm in our profession and daily life. Live up to the Kingdom of God, as promised by God, and stand up for whatever is right and healthy towards the harmony of society.

"Do share your professional life in helping society to grow in justice and harmony. Come together to discuss and exchange views.

"And if you (lawyers and judges) want to continue with Red Mass in future, we will be here for you," Archbishop Lee said in his 40-minute homily.

According to Archbishop Lee, he was invited by the Catholic Lawyers Society (in West Malaysia) to attend their Red Mass in Kuala Lumpur this year.

"But I turned it down. I told them I am too old and tired to go.

Why not hold it here (Sabah)? I gave my blessing to a suggestion from lawyers in the Archdiocesan Human Development Commission (AHDC) that we celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit in Sabah this year.

"That's how it started to get all of you together for this Red Mass," he explained. The Archbishop also called on Catholic lawyers, judges and JPs to help the church on special issues.

"The church may not be familiar with civil law. You can contribute your knowledge, advice or expertise on what should be done and in building the community (church)."

Among those present included Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Minister of Infrastructure Development, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, State Attorney-General Datuk Roderic Fernandez, Sessions Court Judge Duncan Sikodol, former State Attorney-General Tan Sri Herman Luping, former State Assembly Deputy Speaker Datuk James Vitales and former Deputy State Attorney-General Datuk Josie Bosi. JP Herman led the procession into the church, followed by Archbishop's Lee entrance.

The Stella Maris Church Choir, conducted by Neil Mah, was in attendance.

Lawyer Ruth Marcus did the Reading while fellow lawyer, Datuk Gordon Leong led the congregation in the responsorial psalm.

Offerings to the church were jointly presented by lawyers Datuk Alex Khoo (based in Sandakan), Jeyan Marimuttu, Ho Kin Kong, Rosemary Ahping, Stella Jipiu and Sylvia Jawatin.

Jeyan's daughter, Vanessa, is chambering at the moment while Ho's son, Jeremy will be graduating as a lawyer in July.

Also present was the Ghani family with at least four members as practising lawyers - father (Datuk James Ghani), son Dominic, daughter Marianne and son-in-law Christopher Chong.

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