Church does not exist in its own little bubble

Brunei bishop thanks pope

The Brunei bishop Cornelius Sim has thanked Pope Francis for “choosing someone from the peripheries” to be counted among his cardinals.

In the cardinal designate’s view, Pope Francis understands that the Church exists “in those little places where there is not much publicity” but where the faith is alive.

Sim, along with 3 other priests, leads the Church of Brunei that is mostly made up of some 20,000 expatriate workers.

For him, the Church cannot merely be a subculture: “as a Church, we are not one little group of people, all isolated on our own in our little bubble.”

He says Church needs to build relationships, first within the community, starting within the family and moving to elsewhere in society, like the workplace and education.

The Church cuts across boundaries of race, colour, social status, or migrant status because “all of us are children, sons and daughters of Jesus Christ” Sim told CNA.

The 69-year old native of Brunei reinforced his view, saying approximately 70% of the small Catholic population are migrant workers from the Philippines.

Another 20% are migrants from other countries such as Indonesia, India, and Malaysia. The remaining 10% are indigenous Bruneians.

Sim says the challenge of the Bruneian Church is to “provide a home away from home” for the mostly migrant community; supporting them in times of trouble such as illness or death.

It also helps with financial and feeding programmes.

He commented that the Catholic Church has had a presence in Brunei for over 90 years and its three Catholic schools are especially an area of contribution; 60% to 70% of their students are Muslim.

Brunei is a country of 2,200 square miles located on the north coast of Borneo, an island the country shares with Malaysia and Indonesia.

The wealthy oil and gas-rich nation has a population of some 500,000 people, more than 70% of whom are Muslim.

Sim said he was surprised to learn Pope Francis had chosen him to be one of 13 new cardinals.

“For me, it was a bit of a shock and unexpected,” Sim told Vatican News.

At his priestly ordination in 1989, Sim became the first native priest of Brunei. Then, in 2005, Pope John Paul II appointed him Vicar Apostolic and he became the first local bishop of Brunei.


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