St. Laurent  Imbert, founder of the Church of Singapore. St. Laurent Imbert, founder of the Church of Singapore. 

Singapore Church marks 200 years of evangelization

The theme for the bicentenary celebrations, “Ignite and Shine with Faith”, invites all Catholics to join hands in forming a more vibrant, evangelizing and missionary Church.

By Vatican News

The Catholic Church of Singapore is marking its 200 years by inviting all its faithful to renew their faith and relaunch their missionary zeal.  The yearlong jubilee celebration, dubbed Catholic200SG, officially kicked off on Sunday, December 13, with a virtual Mass by Archbishop William Goh of Singapore.  The inauguration included the launch of the jubilee website and the logo, and the screening of a documentary on the social impact of the Catholic Church in the smallest South-east Asian nation. 

Ignite and Shine with Faith

The theme for the jubilee year, “Ignite and Shine with Faith”, is in line with the pastoral vision of the Archdiocese of Singapore to shape a more vibrant, evangelizing and missionary Church.  Several events during the year will focus on renewing the faith of the Catholic community through four main actions: deepening, discerning, witnessing and celebrating. The celebrations will end on Dec. 11, 2021, with a Mass celebrated simultaneously in all of Singapore’s parishes.

With a population of about 5.6 million, Singapore is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation.  The Chinese are the largest ethnic group making up over 76 percent the population, followed by Malays (15 percent) and ethnic Indians (7.4 percent).  While most Chinese are Buddhists, most Malays are Muslims. Among other religions are Taoism and Hinduism. Christians comprise about 15 percent of the population.  The Archdiocese of Singapore has 360,000 Catholics spread across 32 parishes. 


British statesman and diplomat Sir Stamford Raffles is credited with founding modern Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the British Empire.  Two years later, Father Laurent Ilbert, a French Catholic priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), set foot on its shore on Dec. 11, 1821.  This marked the beginning of Catholic Church in the port city. 

He was martyred on September 21, 1839, in Saenamteo, Korea, for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of other foreign missionaries during a time of Christian persecution in the country. He was among the 103 Korean martyrs that Saint Pope John Paul II canonized in Seoul, Korea, on May 6, 1984.

Looking at past, present and future

Speaking about the bicentenary celebrations in March, Archbishop Goh, said that the historic milestone would be an opportunity to galvanise Catholics for the past, present, and future.  “We want to celebrate with gratitude and thanksgiving how far we have come. We must empower our Catholics today to be vibrant in their faith and evangelise. And we should inspire all to work for a future when humanity and creation find completion in God,” he said.

During the jubilee celebrations, the Catholic community will attend prayers to collectively thank God for their missionary forefathers and contemplate the challenges of living out their faith today. At the parish level, churches will organize spiritual and community activities to deepen the faith of their communities.

Conferences, talks and events will be organized by Church organizations on various aspects of faith life and its impact on Singapore.  Topics will include education, business ethics, social responsibility, serving the poor, strengthening family relationships and interreligious dialogue.

Among the first events of the bicentenary celebrations is a virtual Christmas concert on Dec. 25. It will include a variety of sacred music in traditional and contemporary styles performed by choirs and musical talents from the parishes.

The jubilee year will culminate with an 8-day festival from Dec. 4-11, 2021. Most activities will take place in four Catholic locations — the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Church of Saints Peter and Paul, St. Joseph’s Church (Victoria Street) and the Catholic Centre (Waterloo Street).

A celebration for all Singaporeans

According to Father Valerian Cheong, co-chairman of the jubilee committee, “2021 will be a special year for Catholics in terms of the renewal of their faith.” “The celebration will also help them to appreciate the Church’s impact on the development of Singapore these past 200 years, especially in the fields of education, health care, social services and interreligious dialogue,” Father Cheong said.

He said the Church would like to invite all Singaporeans, not just Catholics, to join the jubilee initiatives to exchange ideas in order to create “a better and more caring society”.

John Paul II

When St. Pope John Paul II landed in Singapore on November 20, 1986, he became the first pontiff to step on Singaporean soil.  During the brief 5-hour visit, which was part of his Asia-Pacific trip to Bangladesh, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and the Seychelles, he met the Singapore president and prime minister, and celebrated Mass for some 70,000 people at the National Stadium.  (Source: UCANEWS)

200 years of the Catholic Church of Singapore


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14 December 2020, 14:33