Grand music filled the 173-year-old Cathedral of the Good Shepherd yesterday evening as Singapore's oldest pipe organ played for 2,700 people gathered on the cathedral grounds in Queen Street.
The people, mostly worshippers, were there to witness a special dedication mass to mark the completion of the cathedral's three-year restoration.
The audience spilled out into a large tent outside the cathedral, while more peered in through the windows and glass doors along the sides of the church building. Another 1,100 watched it live on YouTube.
Restored at a cost of $40 million, the cathedral was gazetted as a national monument in 1973 and houses the 105-year-old pipe organ, Singapore's oldest.
Yesterday, the organ accompanied a choir of about 150 singers drawn from the 32 Roman Catholic churches around Singapore, with trumpets and timpani adding to the festive atmosphere.
When the music finished, Mr Lim Boon Heng, chairman of the restoration committee, handed over the cathedral's keys to Archbishop William Goh in a symbolic gesture.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say as well as Council of Presidential Advisers chairman JY Pillay and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon were among those witnessing the ceremony as Archbishop Goh blessed the altar.
He also inserted relics of two saints in the back of the marble altar. One of them, St Francis Xavier, lived more than 450 years ago.
Archbishop Goh shared with the audience his memories of the cathedral years ago before he was ordained. "It was like a sanctuary to me. I liked the tranquility and silence it offered. When I read the engravings on the memorial plaques, I feel connected and grateful to our forefathers," he said.
He added that cultural inclusiveness is a part of the cathedral's continuing mission, and welcomed visitors regardless of faith, language or financial background.
"You can have the most beautiful cathedral, but if it is just a museum, it will not change lives," he said.