Brunei Church a young missionary reality: Bishop
Beginning with the motto "Duc in Altum", the prelate described the projects to strengthen and sustain the missionary dimension of the Church.
Despite being one of the youngest and smallest churches in South-East Asia, the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei is a prosperous and vibrant reality with activities that continue to grow and enrich the life of the community, Bishop Cornelius Sim of Brunei said in a recent interview with Catholic News Agency.
Beginning with the motto "Duc in Altum", the prelate described the projects to strengthen and sustain the missionary dimension of the Church: "We hope to have new vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life."
Other than the Bishop, there are only three priests to care for 20,000 Catholics in Brunei. "It's a humble beginning, but we must continue to enrich our faith based on the principle of community," Bishop Sim said.
He said that they were fortunate to have a Filipino community that made the church so active and lively. The prelate appreciated their devotion and contributions to enrich faith in the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei.
The apostolic vicariate was established in 2004 by Pope John Paul II. Almost 70% of the faithful are migrants from the Philippines; another 20% are also migrants from Indonesia, India and Malaysia, with the remaining 10% of the indigenous population of Brunei. Though religious minorities are free to live their faith at home and in places of worship, there are heavy restrictions on public worship.
“Despite the strict rules, Catholics live their faith with depth and devotion,” said Father Arin Sugit, assistant to the bishop at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan. “Every Sunday, 5000 to 6000 people participate in the Mass at the cathedral,” he said.
The Sultanate of Brunei, a small state located on the island of Borneo, is a developed country and one of the richest in the world. About 70% of the population is Muslim, around 10% of the population is atheist, 13% is Buddhist, and a small number have indigenous beliefs. Christians, half of whom are Catholic, constitute 10% of Brunei's population.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the monarch, had recently introduced the Muslim Sharia law that calls for severe punishments for any offence. Among other things, the sale and consumption of alcohol in public is strictly prohibited and authorities carefully monitor the activities of other religions.