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Cardinal Goh Prepares for Pope Francis' Arrival in Singapore

Pope Francis will embark on a historic journey to Southeast Asia this September, with stops planned in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the culturally rich island nation of Singapore.  

Singapore, known for its vibrant mix of cultures and religions, is a melting pot of diversity, home to approximately 395,000 Catholics. Despite its small size, the city-state holds significant strategic importance in the region and boasts the highest urban density in Asia, coupled with the highest quality of life.  

At the helm of the Catholic Church in Singapore stands Cardinal William Goh, appointed archbishop in 2013 and elevated to the rank of cardinal in 2022. In an exclusive interview with EWTN News, Cardinal Goh shares insights into Pope Francis' upcoming visit, the dynamics of the College of Cardinals, and the challenges facing the Church in Asia.  

Matthew Bunson, Vice President and Editorial Director EWTN News, had the privilege to interview His Eminence Cardinal William Goh, Archbishop of Singapore. Bunson’s questions are in bold and the Cardinal’s responses follow. 

What’s the experience been like to be a member of the college with all the responsibilities, but also that particular relationship with the diocese of Rome? 

Certainly as a cardinal, we have greater responsibilities to the universal church, but so far I’ve only attended two consistories and one meeting, because I am a member of the Dicastery for Family and Life, that is the connection so far.  

To be chosen as a cardinal – what Pope Francis has been doing, it’s a good idea, it’s helpful for the Church to be inclusive, universal – we have Cardinals from all over the world. 

The difficulty, the challenge will be getting the cardinals together to know each other well, especially when the time comes to vote for the Pope in the conclave, that will be necessary. 

Presently, I think most of us know each other, and not all speak Italian as well so I think that area of rapport among the cardinals will be necessary for greater communion. 

What are your hopes for Francis’ visit? 

Francis is always popular with many of our Catholics, and I think he is a beacon of hope, a beacon of mercy and compassion. That is his forte, to try to continue the work of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict. 

So, he's embarked and we're reaching the conclusion of this long process of synodality. I know that you attended the Synod of Bishops last October. What was that experience like?  

What I liked about that synod was the retreat and the small group sharing. In that group sharing, we truly were able to journey with each other, listen to each other without judgment and accompany each other, especially when we are among bishops. It's much easier because we understand our own struggles and difficulties and challenges and also aspirations. That's the good thing about the synod. And I think that is the way, not just for the Universal Church, but also for the particular Church, the local Church, that we need to listen, to journey with each other. I think that is very helpful, so that there will be a greater understanding and communion between the clergy and the laity, so that we walk as one, so that we will truly be coming together as one Church. 

You've been conducting synodal sessions in the months after the first meeting of the synod of bishops last year, the Synod on Synodality. What has that experience been like for you to meet with the faithful? 

Our faithful – it's just like the synod: How many were there present? We are talking about the Universal Church, one billion. How many were present? It's same for the local Church. We have about 600 people who came for the plenary assembly. I think those who have participated found it very enriching. I think that journeying is of extreme importance. And so now what we are trying to do is we want to get the priests, the clergy first and foremost, to journey together. They also must learn the synodal process. I think the process is important. The destination is another question, but I think the process must first begin.  

You mentioned the process of synodality and the destination. What is your hope for the destination? 

That we be one Church and that our lay people and the priests will work together as one. And I believe, and I think it's also important, Pope Francis has mentioned, and Pope Benedict, that work of mission is the obligation of every Catholic. It is not just the work of priests alone. Everybody has a responsibility, a differentiated responsibility, but everybody is responsible. The vision of this archdiocese is to build a vibrant evangelizing and missionary Church. That is our vision. This synodal process will help to engage our laypeople, to help our priests and the laity to work together for the same common vision. 

The Church here, like the Church everywhere, is facing pressures from secularism, relativism. You've spoken about the importance of defending what I think you use the phrase truth and justice. What does that mean?  

It's important for us that in the face of this secularism or the -isms, individualisms and so on, I think the Church has to be truthful in what we proclaim. I do not believe that we should change the Gospel message or dilute the Gospel message. The truth has to be spoken because the truth sets us free. But of course, truth has to be spoken with charity. That is very important. But I don't believe that we should try to compromise the Gospel. And that is my fear that today even Church leaders are compromising the Gospel.  

Your Eminence, I'm so grateful for your time, and I'm looking forward to further coverage, especially with Pope Francis’ visit and to see what happens here in the Church in Singapore. 

Thank you.  

Adapted by Jacob Stein 

Author Name

For the past 20 years, Dr. Matthew E. Bunson has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including: "The Encyclopedia of Catholic History," "The Pope Encyclopedia," "We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI," "The Saints Encyclopedia"and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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