Pope 'exemplifies essence of religion'

Shanmugam lauds pontiff as strong advocate of inter-faith dialogue and understanding

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has lauded the Pope as a strong proponent of inter- faith dialogue and understanding, saying "we will all do well to build bridges and break down walls" as urged by the leader of the Catholic Church.

He said Pope Francis exemplified the very essence of religion and demonstrated the meaning of religion in life through his actions and words.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at Saint Joseph's Church in Victoria Street where he was invited by the Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, and the head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, Archbishop William Goh, to join the Sunday mass two weeks ago. During the mass, the church also marked the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

"The last three years...were nothing short of revolutionary," he said, noting that the Pope had won the respect of Catholics and non-Catholics alike and made the world a better place for everyone.

"I consider it one of my true blessings in my life to have met the Holy Father last year, when I visited the Vatican City," said the minister.

In his address to the audience after the mass, Mr Shanmugam hailed the significant efforts by the Catholic community here in social and charitable causes.

He noted that the Pope has been a strong proponent of inter-faith dialogue and understanding, a lead followed by the Church here which also takes part in inter-faith dialogues and promotes racial and religious harmony.

"All around us we see conflicts that use religion as an excuse and it has come to Singapore as well, and we need to deal with that."

He said Archbishop Goh's address at a January event, in which he talked about the need to share a common understanding between religions as well as between the religious and non-religious, was well received. "The Catholic community plays an important role in Singapore, promoting universal values such as compassion, honesty and kindness, lending a helping hand to those in need and, together with other communities, building a peaceful and harmonious Singapore that we can all call home."

A video of his speech was posted on YouTube.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Pope 'exemplifies essence of religion''. Print Edition | Subscribe