Singapore Celebrates the Bicentennial of Its Introduction to the Faith

January 04, 2022

December 11, 2021 ended the jubilee year in which the Catholics of Singapore celebrated the bicentenary of the evangelization of the former British trading post, which became the cosmopolitan city-state we know today.

On December 11, 1821, Fr. Laurent Imbert, religious of the foreign missions of Paris (Mep) who later became apostolic vicar in Korea and was martyred in 1839, landed at the far end of the Malay peninsula, where there was an important trading post founded only two years earlier by the British, and named Singapore.

The task of the religious - who was to undergo martyrdom on Korean soil a few years later, in 1839 - was to meet the small Catholic community present, made up of twelve or thirteen faithful, according to the report transmitted on the following December 15 to Msgr. Esprit Marie Joseph Florens, apostolic vicar of Siam.

It was the beginning of an evangelization which had its ups and downs, but which helped to mark the identity of the city-state.

“To ignite and shine through faith”: such was the theme chosen for the year of commemoration solemnly opened by the Church on December 13, 2020, and which culminated on December 11, 2021. On this day, all The town's bells rang in unison, while a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Two hundred years after the providential arrival of Fr. Laurent Imbert, the Catholic community remains small in number - just under 3% of the 6.2 million inhabitants of the city-state - in the context of a predominance of Buddhism and Taoism, although there are significant minorities of Muslims and Hindus.

Protestants represent about 12% of the population.

Notwithstanding a society increasingly seduced by materialistic lifestyles, the most recent data from the Singapore Statistical Office show that Christianity - especially Catholicism - is the only religion to experience real development within the city-state.

The Society of St. Pius X has exercised its ministry in Singapore for many years. The community currently includes three resident missionaries, Frs. Patrick Summers, Lawrence Novak, and Jean-Michel Gomis. This is also where the headquarters of the Asian District of the Society is located.