Hornbill Unleashed

October 7, 2014

Pope asks bishops to awaken the Church, Julian Leow listens

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
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Francis Paul Siah

Two weeks ago, Pope Francis met with newly ordained bishops at the Vatican and gave them this message: You are not “fixed-term” bishops that come and go aimlessly but are like sentinels who “awaken the Church.”

The Pope also warned them not to be deceived by the temptation of changing the people. He said they must “love the people” that God has entrusted them to lead and to “imitate the patience of Moses” in guiding them.

Indeed, this papal message should buzz loudly in the ears of the Most Reverend Julian Yeow as he prepares to take over the onerous task of the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur in two days’ time.

Come Monday Oct 6, the episcopal ordination of the new Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur will take place at the Holy Family Church in Kajang. The 50-year-old Julian succeeded Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam who served as KL Archbishop from 2003–2013.

Julian is not expected to have it easy in his new job. For a “man of God”, this is not an ordinary job like that of the man of the house earning a salary to feed his family. This is about leading the faithful and constantly feeding the 186,000 Catholics under his care in the KL archdiocese with the whole mystery of Christ which must be expounded in its integrity.

As Catholics are aware, the bishop, indifferent to human popularity, must boldly preach the Cross for the sake of the souls entrusted to him. The unity of truth and love can never be compromised under the pretext of retaining believers or of maintaining the harmony and good disposition of church-going members. As a very spiritual and naturally pious person, the new archbishop will surely excel on this front.

However, Julian is taking over the KL Archdiocese at a time which can be described as “turbulent” for the Catholic Church in Malaysia and for Christianity as a whole in the country.

The contentious Allah issue, which has severely wounded the time-honoured and much respected religious harmony and tolerance among Christians and Muslims in the country, is still unresolved. The Herald’s appeal is still pending after years of ding-dong court battles.

Much as I like to show and express full confidence in the new Catholic patriarch of Kuala Lumpur in resolving this long-running Allah saga, I also have to be realistic. I honestly doubt Julian could do much. What Murphy Pakiam could not do, I doubt Julian could. I must readily concede that I’m a man of little faith on this issue.

Why? Because we are dealing with a spiritual and godly issue in a court of man. Judges are not gods and they deal with man-made laws and not those decreed by God. Do not expect a bishop to fight a judge in the court and win, certainly not in the Allah case. I have resigned to the fact that the Catholic Church will never win any case of a spiritual nature in a Muslim-dominated Malaysian judiciary. But I would very much wish to be proven wrong.

The issue of Muslim outnumbering non-Muslim judges on the panel at every appeal on the Allah case is very glaring and it would also be foolhardy of us to expect a Muslim judge to decide against what had already been declared by his political masters as a “no win” case.

We have heard judges declaring that they do not play God in the court of law, yet many on the bench seem to relish doing so. How on earth can a few men decide whether Christians can call their God Allah or not? I can never accept such a decision.

What must be the greatest joke of the decade for us in Malaysia is that Allah cannot be used by Christians in Peninsular Malaysia but permissible in Sarawak and Sabah. So there are two versions of Allah for two different species of Malaysians, it seems. Yes, this is what they would have us believe – the absurdity in full glare!

I realise I’m in no position to advise the new KL Archbishop on the Allah issue even though I’m a Catholic but I hope that Julian would stop wasting his time and the church’s resources in pursuing the Allah case further in court.

Enough is enough. Let them win if they are so desperate and selfish to want the word “Allah” exclusively for themselves. Surely, as Christians, we have our own way of achieving victory, or rather of seeing victory in defeat.

I declared in this column in January this year that “I’m Catholic and I won’t use Allah”. As expected, many of my fellow Catholics did not agree with my stand on the matter but I sincerely hope that the new Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur will be able to shed some light and understanding on my views.

As Pope Francis had exhorted all bishops to awaken the Church with the patience of Moses, Julian will surely listen and make sound judgment on the directions he wishes to guide this biggest Catholic archdiocese in Malaysia forward.

There is no necessity to dwell on the past and the Allah saga should be left there – in the past. Julian must awaken his archdiocese to more pressing needs of the Catholic Church in Malaysia as he will be on the job for the long haul.

At 50, Julian is expected to lead the KL Archdiocese for the next 25 years and as the Pope tells all his new bishops, Julian is not expected to come and go aimlessly but be a good shepherd who truly loves and takes care of his flock.

Archbishop Julian has to be a powerful symbol of faith and love and be a sign of encouragement to the faithful who stand today in the greatest of need for visible spiritual leadership.

That leadership has to start with dumping the Allah issue into the dustbins of history, even into the fires of hell and never to be revived again.

At a time when terrorism, extremism and violence are at its worst in modern history, isn’t it a shame that we, in Malaysia, are still quarrelling over the use of a word. And we, Catholics, are equally responsible for being so petty.

I have noticed the “Tree with religious icons” in the new archbishop’s coat of arms. It signifies the ability to recognise the Divine in every person we encounter, to be open to dialogue and to seek the good of the other. This is something which Julian must be able to see in all those who oppose Allah to be used by non-Muslims.

Yes, dialogue is one way to resolving problems but when you have extended your hand in dialogue countless of times over many years with no resolution in sight, then the next best thing to do is to stop harping on the matter and allow it to die a natural death.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate His Grace Archbishop Julian Leow on his episcopal ordination and may his reign in the service of Christ and His Church be a holy, meaningful and fruitful one. And may the Good Lord bless our new Archbishop with good health, wisdom and great courage.


  1. Archbishop Julian Leow must lead his sheeps by true example in politely rejecting all worldly glorification such as Datukship, Tan Sri or whatnot conferred by the corrupted government and royalty.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — October 7, 2014 @ 9:38 PM | Reply

    • Do bear in mind that some priests seek recognition through honorifics like Datuk and TanSri. They are merely human beings – Bishop Datuk Peter Chung and Datuk John Ha. Rejecting a datukship is discourteous and never done by a priest .

      Comment by tun-pehin — October 8, 2014 @ 10:03 AM | Reply

  2. i observe the chef de mission and coaches of the Incheon Asian Games are mostly Indians with Abdullah behind. This trend is very interesting; but most of the medal winners are Tionghuas and Davids. This is a very interesting landscape. You mean coaches must be moslems in the Malaysian contingent?

    Comment by tun-pehin — October 7, 2014 @ 3:06 PM | Reply

  3. While people in other countries would rather die than denounce their Christian faith, people in Malaysia bow down to the powers-that-be and concede defeat because of one simple ‘petty’ matter. If you think this issue is just a simple fight for a single word, then you’re not seeing the whole picture. It’s not just the fight for the usage of ‘Allah’, it’s about our religious freedom being breached. It’s about people of power dictating what a religion should use or do not use, when they have no business in it in the first place, especially if the reason given is totally absurd! For now, they don’t allow us to use ‘Allah’, what’s stopping them from banning Christians to use other words in the future? Forget the future, it’s already happening now! In fact, they’ve curbed our freedom all throughout history, and when people start to fight back, you call them ‘petty’.

    Is a native’s fight for their land ‘petty’? There’s plenty of other land in God’s Earth, why would they fight so hard for just a small lot? They can just let the contractors take it, they move to another plot of land and move on with their lives, right? Of course, it’s wrong because it’s an ancestral land which they have occupied for ages. Their people have lived and died there and no man has any right to take them away. The word ‘Allah’ has also been used for ages, and in peace without any problems, why on Earth should we allow the government to take it away on the pretense that it will confuse Muslims. Have any Muslim confessed that they’re confused because of the Christian usage of ‘Allah’? NO! It has never happened and certainly never will.

    This is not an outright spiritual issue. It’s still a man-made law issue. Whatever a religion want to use to call God, should be left to the authority of the people of that religion, no other religion or government has the right to interfere, unless it has a valid reason to which would cause some kind of problem with the people of the nation. Sure, the Muslim leaders have a problem with it, but is the reason valid (confusing Muslims)? Totally not. You may see it as ‘petty’ because you think the matter can be just put to rest and people will forget about it, but we see it as a bigger issue because we see where the problem lies. People may forget about it now, thinking it’s resolved, but trust me, when they find something else about Christianity that’s offensive to them, the ‘Allah’ issue will be their leverage.

    Comment by Clay — October 7, 2014 @ 10:26 AM | Reply

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