Singaporean minister meets with Pope to reaffirm bilateral relations

Singaporean Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong met Pope Francis in the Vatican on an official visit aimed at reaffirming bilateral relations.

Tong, 52, a Catholic and member of the ruling People’s Action Party, had a brief audience with the Pope on Jan.5 as well as a delegation from Singapore that included non-resident Ambassador Janet Ang.

During the audience, Tong presented a memorial book to Pope Francis on behalf of Archbishop William Goh of Singapore. The book is a keepsake released as part of the celebrations recently held for the 200th anniversary of the Catholic Church in Singapore, reported The times of the straits.

They also briefly discussed issues of mutual interest including social cohesion, multi-religiosity and harmony.

After the visit, Tong posted photos and highly appreciated the meeting with the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church on his official Facebook page.

“Pope Francis was warm, humble and kind. He had a kind word or gesture for everyone and made it a point to warmly welcome everyone to the Singapore delegation, ”Tong said.

Her unwavering influence and strong heart for the last, the lost and the least in every community are precious learning points for our own society.

He also applauded the third encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, which, he says, deeply explores the Pope’s teachings on “universal love, reconciliation, peace and solidarity”.

Fratelli Tutti, he said, aims to promote a universal yearning for brotherhood and social friendship, concluding that the time has come to “dream, then, as one human family”.

“These teachings resonate strongly with a multicultural and religiously diverse Singapore,” he added.

“Her unwavering influence and strong heart for the last, the lost and the least in every community are precious learning points for our own society.

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“These teachings transcend the Catholic faith, and indeed, every single person faith alone; they have a true universal and timeless relevance.

Tong said Singapore will continue to work to foster closer ties with the Holy See.

Singapore was a Malaysian fishing village before Sir Stamford Raffles made it a British colony in 1819.

Today, Singapore is a sovereign city-state with a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. Its population is estimated at 5.6 million inhabitants. According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, around 31.1% of Singaporeans are Buddhists, 18.9% are Christians, 15.6% Muslims, 8.8% Taoists and 5% Hindus. About 20 percent do not adhere to any religion.

Catholicism arrived on the shores of Singapore on December 11, 1821, with the arrival of Saint Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert (1796-1839), French priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP). The date of Father Laurent’s arrival in Singapore is historically known as the start of the Catholic Church in Singapore.

The Archdiocese of Singapore, which covers the entire island, has approximately 360,000 Catholics.

Singapore and the Vatican have maintained diplomatic relations since 1981.

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