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JOHOR BARU – The Catholic community in Johor welcomed the new Roman Catholic Bishop of the Malacca-Johor Diocese in a ceremony that was not seen here for more than a decade on 12 Jan 2016.
Bishop Bernard Paul is the diocese’s third bishop. The 63-year-old is also the first ethnic Indian to helm the post after 42 years.
Paul replaces Bishop Emeritus Paul Tan Chee Ing who retired on 19 Nov 2015 and his resignation was accepted by Pope Francis.
The ceremony, a rare event of episcopal ordination and installation of Catholic clergy, was steeped in tradition and saw about 5,000 people from the country attending the event at the Johor Persada convention centre here.
Also present was the Vatican Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino.
The ceremony’s principal consecrator was Tan and he was assisted by Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of Kuala Lumpur and Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang.
Earlier, the ceremony started at 4 pm with the entrance hymns, followed by the procession of archbishops, bishops, priests and altar servers.
Then the Rite of Ordination took place with the “Veni Sancte Spiritus” hymn before the reading of the Apostolic Letter and Consent of the People.
Paul was then brought before the senior bishops on the dais.
The rites continued with the litany of the Saints before the consecration prayer.
This followed with the anointing of the bishop’s head by Tan. He was later presented with the bishop’s reddish-rose skullcap (zucchetto).
The investiture ceremony continued with Paul receiving the bishop’s ring, bishop’s mitre (ceremonial head-dress) and bishop’s staff (croizier).
The senior bishops then accompanied Paul to be seated at the side of the dais, signifying his installation as the new bishop.
The Mass proceeded as usual.
In his address, Archbishop Marino called on the new bishop to undertake the mandate of teaching, governing and sanctifying the people of the Malacca-Johor diocese.
“You will have the support and closeness of all the people, the priests, religious and laity of Malacca-Johor as you journey with them in encountering people where they live.”
Addressing the congregation later, an emotional Paul said there is a need to raise the profile of the Catholic Church in Malacca and Johor.
“We have to project ourselves as Catholics living true to our faith and this includes the promotion of justice, harmony, family and true human values.”
Paul also stressed the importance of unity among priests, religious and the laity.
“If we are not in communion, don’t talk about mission. If we want to attract people to the church, we must be people of love and unity,” he said.
The history of the Malacca-Johor Diocese has seen Emeritus Bishop James Chan being ordained in 1973 as the first bishop, followed by Tan in 2003.
Paul, the eldest of nine siblings, was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1953 and had his early education in La Salle, Peel Road.
His father, a government servant, was constantly posted to other states and saw his family move over the years.
Following that he continued his studies at St Thomas in Kuantan, Pahang before moving to St Michael in Alor Star, Kedah in 1968.
Paul completed his High School Certificate (HSC or equivalent with today’s STPM) in 1972 at the Derma English School in Kangar, Perlis. He joined the Penang major seminary in 1982, following a short career as a teacher in Kedah.
Between 1989 to 2015, he served as priest and parish priest in a number of churches in Penang, before his appointment. – Ben Tan, The Rakyat Post.