Church God People

The mission continues’, says Cardinal-elect Francis

Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang encouraged church people and the lay faithful to accompany him “seek and build” a Church of peace, harmony, and love. 

The prelate made the statement after Pope Francis named him as one of the 21 new Cardinals, which the pontiff would create at a consistory on September 30. 

Bishop Francis said he is “happy to follow in” the footsteps of Cardinals Soter Fernandez of Malaysia, Cornelius Sim of Brunei, and William Goh of Singapore. 

“Together with them and the Church in Asia, we give joint witness to the universality of the Catholic Church and the Apostolic continuity of the Mission entrusted by the Risen Christ to St. Peter, the Apostles, and their  Successors,” he said. 

“May the Mission primarily entrusted to the Holy Spirit continue in Malaysia, Asia, and beyond. And the Mission continues through many members of the laity, religious, and clergy who are all disciples and laborers in God’s vineyard and garden… Together we seek and build God’s Kingdom of Joy, Mercy, and Hope,” he added.

In a statement issued on July 10, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei (CBCMSB) expressed its support for the new Cardinal-elect, saying that the Catholic community is “assuring him of our prayers and communion”.

Bishop Francis is Malaysia’s second Cardinal. He is the fifth Bishop of Penang, which covers the states of Kedah, Perlis, Perak, Kelantan, and Penang. He is also the president of the bishops’ Conference.

The prelate was born on November 11, 1951, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. He joined the Juniorate of the Brothers of St. Gabriel in Singapore and resided with the Brothers in Community from 1964 to 1966, then, joined St. Francis Xavier’s Minor Seminary in Singapore from 1967 to 1970.

In 1971, he enrolled in the College General Major Seminary in Penang, Malaysia. On 28 July  1977, he was ordained priest in the Diocese of Melaka-Johor at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

He studied Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology at the Angelicum  Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy from October 1981 to June 1983. He also studied at the Maryknoll School of Theology in New York,  U.S.A., and obtained an Advanced Degree in Justice and Peace from July 1990 to June  1991. 

On 7 July 2012, he was appointed as Bishop of Penang and installed on 20 August 2012. From 2015 to 2017, Bishop Sebastian Francis was appointed as the Vice President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and  Taoism (MCCBCHST) and the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

Bishop Francis was elected president of the CBCMSB in 2017, and concurrently as a member of the Central Committee for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC). 

He was recently appointed as the chairperson of the FABC – Office of Social Communication on January 1, 2023.

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