The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a man of conviction who did what he thought was best for the country, said the Catholic Church's Archbishop William Goh yesterday.
He was a dedicated father who cared for the country as if the people were part of his own family, said Archbishop Goh at a mass for Singapore's first Prime Minister.
Still, while he was a leader who helped to give Singaporeans education, medical care and jobs, the archbishop said there are many people who do not agree with certain policies that Mr Lee introduced.
These included family planning policies such as the "Stop At Two" programme and the legalisation of abortion, the legalisation of casinos and his eugenics theory, which supports the idea that educated Singaporeans marry in order to produce brighter offspring.
The Catholic Church had arranged for a special memorial mass for Mr Lee, who died on Monday morning at the age of 91. During the mass, they prayed for his soul and for his family. Worshippers also penned about 1,000 prayer messages in his memory.
Addressing the congregation that spilled out of St Joseph's Church in Victoria Street into its surrounding carpark grounds, the archbishop said Mr Lee was a man who stood by his beliefs and had the vision and wisdom to turn Singapore into what it is today.
"He has left behind all those fundamental values that are necessary for the governance of Singapore: integrity, honesty, equality, justice," he said.
"We are not canonising Mr Lee because although he was a man of many achievements... he had his flaws."
In particular, he said the 1987 Marxist conspiracy was a "dark period" in the Church's history here.
In May and June that year, 22 people - who included many with links to the Catholic Church - were arrested under the Internal Security Act. They were accused of planning to overthrow the Government under the cover of the Catholic Church.
"We can disagree with him but the point remains... If he had been harsh with his political opponents, I gathered (this was) because this man would do everything to protect the existence of Singapore and the people," said the archbishop.
Archbishop Goh later told the media that many people were "wounded and hurt" by the 1987 incident.
"I think it is important for us to move on and to forgive and, most of all, to continue to build the country," he said.
"There's no point to go back to the past, trying to lick our wounds because it will not help in nation-building... And, as Christians, all the more we should forgive and forget."
Mr Lee, said Archbishop Goh, did not oppose religion and in fact promoted it.
What Mr Lee did not tolerate were people who used religion for political purposes.
"When you start mixing religion with politics, you have crossed the line. Either you get involved in politics or you get involved in religion but not under the guise of religion," said Archbishop Goh.
Mr James Galvin Loh, 60, a retired foreign exchange broker, described the archbishop's message as "truthful and balanced".
He was among the thousands who stood listening to the mass outside the church building, as all 1,200 seats for the 1.15pm mass had been filled by 11am.
He said: "The Marxist incident happened so long ago. There's no point hanging on to it. What's important is that the existing cordial relationship between the Church and the state continues. It's a new era now."
Ms Adrianne Desker, 52, a software developer, said she also appreciated the archbishop's homily.
"We're all here to celebrate a life well-lived," she said.