On 9th October, our Holy Father Pope Francis announced that the Universal Church will have 17 new Roman Catholic Cardinals. The consistory is scheduled to take place on 19th November, the day before the Solemnity of Christ the King and the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Thirteen of the newly named Cardinals are under 80 years and are therefore eligible to take part in a papal election (conclave). The other four are not eligible to vote but they were given this title as an honorary title.
Archbishop Emeritus Anthony Soter Fernandez has been appointed as the first ever Roman Catholic Cardinal in Malaysia. He is being awarded this title in recognition of his extraordinary faith and service for the Church in Peninsular Malaysia. Cardinal-elect Fernandez was born on 22 April 1932 and became a priest on 10 December 1966. He was appointed as Bishop of Penang on 29 September 1977 and then as an Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur on 30 July 1983. He retired as an Archbishop on 24 May 2003. From ‘His Grace’, today we are proud to address him as ‘His Eminence.
Last year Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was appointed as our first ever resident ambassador to Vatican based in Rome. Today, our country is really privileged to have its first ever Cardinal and also an Ambassador in the Vatican. We thank Pope Francis for appointing our Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez as Malaysia’s first Cardinal and welcoming Tan Sri Dompok as Malaysia’s first Ambassador to the Vatican.
Who are these Cardinals of the Catholic Church? The word “cardinal” is derived from the Latin cardinalis, which in turn derived from ‘cardo-dinis’, meaning “the hinge of a gate, and, by extension, support, and foundation.” The cardinals are the “hinges” upon which the doors of the Church swing open and shut; they are the “support,” the “foundation” of the Catholic Church. Cardinals come immediately after the Pope in the Church’s hierarchy.
Cardinals are princes of the Church appointed by the Pope. They are the closest advisors to the Pope, and they also assist him in his duties as universal pastor. There are currently 211 members under the age of 80 in the College of Cardinals and they have the right to choose from amongst them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, a new Pope.
I was overwhelmed when I heard the news that Archbishop Emeritus Soter was named among the 17 new Cardinal elects. I spoke to him over the phone two days after his appointment to congratulate him. He was very happy and told me that he would be leaving for Rome in November to receive the “red hat”. The red hats given to and worn by the cardinals are the color of blood, signifying that they are expected to witness to the faith “even unto the shedding of blood” that is, even as martyrs.
Cardinal-elect Soter Fernandez was the one who accepted and sent me to the Seminary in Penang. He is like a “Father” to me because he has encouraged and guided me since I wanted to be a priest in 1993. He ordained me as a priest in February 2003 and sent me to Kuantan and Terengganu as my first posting. I was the last candidate ordained by him before his retirement and he always appreciates me very much as the “last son” ordained by him.
Your Eminence, our love, prayers and best wishes from the Parishioners of St Joseph’s Church, Sentul are always with you.
Fr. George Packiasamy