Filipino bishops mourn death of Brunei’s Cardinal Sim

Filipino bishops mourn death of Brunei’s Cardinal Sim

File photo shows Pope Francis greeting Bishop Cornelius Sim of Brunei during his “ad limina” visit to the Vatican on Feb. 8, 2018. VATICAN MEDIA

By CBCP News

May 30, 2021

Manila, Philippines

The Philippine Catholic bishops paid tribute Sunday to the first and only cardinal from Brunei, who died at the age of 69 after serving the Southeast Asian nation for over three decades.

Archbishop Romulo Valles, the episcopal conference’s president, said that they were “deeply saddened” by the death of Cardinal Cornelius Sim who was “very close to the bishops and priests of the Philippines”.

He said that the cardinal would be remembered for his “unfailing commitment to spread the Gospel, his constant advocacy of dialogue and peace, and his untiring and devoted service to the Church in Brunei and in the whole Asia”.

“In behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, I offer heartfelt condolences to the clergy, religious and laity of the Apostolic Vicariate in Brunei Darussalam,” Valles said.

Cardinal Sim died of cardiac arrest on Saturday at a hospital in Taiwan where he had been undergoing cancer treatment since May 8.

Pope Francis made him the first cardinal of Brunei in the most recent consistory in November 2020.

Travel restrictions due to Covid-19 pandemic, however, prevented him from traveling to Rome for the event, but the pope sent him the cardinal’s red hat and ring to Brunei.

In a telegram released May 29, the pope praised the cardinal’s “generous service” to the Church.

“To all who mourn the late Cardinal’s passing in the sure hope of the Resurrection I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in Jesus, the firstborn of the dead,” he said.

Brunei is one of the smallest and youngest ecclesiastical territories of the Catholic Church in the Southeast Asian region.

The country has some half a million people, more than 70 percent of whom belong to the Islamic faith. Christians account for about 10 percent of the population.

Assisted by three local priests, Sim led the pastoral care of Brunei’s Catholics, which are reported to be about 20,000, forming just 6 percent of the population, and the vast majority are migrant workers.

Sim once described the Catholic community in Brunei as a “little Church” but he emphasized that “being small doesn’t mean you are useless or less important”.

The point, he said during the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization in 2018 in Manila, “is to get through our minds that God places us where He wants us to be”.

“And I am called to do good and to lead the people entrusted to me with the sense that this whole thing is God’s story,” Sim said.

“The main mission of the Church is to be a visible sign of the presence of Christ, to witness to his love, his mercy, his truth and the goodness that is inherent in the teachings of the Church.”

“This also means that we look at the majority and recognize that they are also children of God. This is the first and most important point,” he added.

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