A new shepherd for the Archdiocese of Kuching

KUCHING — Newly-installed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kuching, Archbishop Simon Poh, invited all faithful to discern God’s vision and to plan the direction of the archdiocese together.

“As the Archdiocese of Kuching embarks on the process we call ‘3R’, Review, Reassess and Renew… we are seeking a vision of what we want our Church to be, and seek ways to live out this mission in our parishes,” said Archbishop Simon during his homily.

In 2012, the Archdiocese of Kuching held the Archdiocesan Pastoral Congress to assist the-then Archbishop of Kuching, Archbishop John Ha in crafting the direction of the archdiocese. The result of the Congress was the “ACTS of the Congress”, a set of action plans for the pastoral direction of the archdiocese. This year, the local church reviews and reassesses the ACTS. Survey questionnaire forms are made available for this purpose. The findings of the review will be brought to the archdiocesan assembly scheduled on 18 – 20 August. 

“Bring the questionnaire forms to all corners of the parishes. Let the voice of the Lord speak to us through single mothers, broken families, the farmers, the poor and the needy, the sick and housebound… so that we can respond with mercy and love, especially the least, the lost and the last.

“So I invite you, join me, together with your priests, parish councils and leaders, we review, reassess, renew and seek God’s vision and our mission in the Archdiocese of Kuching,” he said.

Archbishop Simon Poh, 53, who succeeded Archbishop John Ha as the third Archbishop of Kuching, took canonical possession of the archdiocese on 20 March with a Holy Mass attended by more than 3000 and in the presence of about 80 priests, nine arch/bishops, dignitaries and representatives from other faiths. The occasion coincided with the celebration of the solemnity of St Joseph, Husband of Mary, the patron of the archdiocese and St Joseph’s Cathedral.

The installation ceremony began with Archbishop Simon Poh venerating the crucifix at the entrance of the Cathedral.

Archbishop Joseph Marino, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, then read the Decree of the Apostolic Nunciature certifying the appointment of the new archbishop of Kuching. Prior to that, the prelate explained that the Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis, which was supposed to be read, did not arrive in time. Therefore the Decree was read instead. The Decree was then shown to the College of Consultors.

Archbishop Simon Poh then affirmed his appointment by saying: “Trusting in the Lord, I accept the ministry entrusted to me … and so thereby, I take canonical possession of my Archdiocese.” With that, he was led to and seated in the Cathedra.

The Cathedra (“chair” in Latin) is a sign of the bishop’s teaching office and the place from which he leads the faithful in prayer.

Archbishop John Ha then handed him the crosier (or the shepherd’s staff), which symbolises the bishop’s office of governing.

The two archbishop emereti, John and Peter, rectors of the parishes in the archdiocese, representatives of men and women religious, the chairperson of Archdiocesan Pastoral Council representing the lay faithful welcomed and pledged their loyalty to the newly installed Archbishop Simon.

Drawing on the role of St Joseph as an educator for Jesus, the new Archbishop said that one of the missions of his ministry is to ensure a holistic education for life.

The prelate also pledged to work together with all people of goodwill and the State Government for “the common good of all, to respect human dignity and the value of labour and towards building a better society together”. “We will stand with our State against the implementation of the hudud bill,” he said.

The new Archbishop of Kuching also requested the congregation to pray for him and his priests. “I humbly ask for your prayers for me, for the grace to be a good father to my priests. Pray for me to give the archdiocese and the parishes good pastors,” he said.

In his address after the installation Mass, Archbishop Emeritus John Ha, 70, whose resignation was announced on 4 March, shared the reason of his resignation from the Archbishop’s Office ahead of the canonical age of 75.

“Over the last few years, I have been increasingly feeling my age as it gradually manifested its symptoms – brevity of attention, frequent lapses of memory, quick mental exhaustion at meetings.

“In addition, I gradually felt worn out by challenges from within and from without myself personally as well as the Church. At times, I felt rather discouraged if not totally helpless. Administrative work also started to take its toll on me, so much so, that I began to feel it more as a burden than as a joyful ministry,” said the Archbishop Emeritus, which was why he felt the need for an auxiliary bishop.

On 24 September 2015, Bishop Simon Poh was appointed and ordained.

“I am very glad that Bishop Simon has been appointed to succeed me. His appointment assures continuity as well as progress of the Archdiocese,” said Archbishop Ha.

Prior to the Mass, the new Archbishop of Kuching held a dinner reception for Arch/bishops, priests, together with representatives from the State Government, invited guests from Association of Churches of Sarawak and the religious leaders from various Inter Faith Groups.

Audrey Yu

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