Be inclusive: Catholic Archbishop

Be inclusive, Catholic Archbishop William Goh urged his congregation, at a time when the Church is undergoing a crisis.

In the latest issue of the Catholic News, the archbishop said young Catholics have stopped going to church.

"How many of your friends have gone to other Christian churches?" he asked.

He said the Catholic Church is full, "thanks to the migrants" who are "giving the impression that the Church is vibrant".

Archbishop Goh also warned against marginalising groups such as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, divorcees and people who have undergone abortions.

"Have compassion for them," he said at a recent meeting to outline his 10-year plan for the archdiocese.

Among those present at the meeting were 750 representatives from Catholic churches here, including some priests.

This is believed to be the first time that Archbishop Goh, who took over a year ago as head of the Catholic Church here, has come out so openly to urge his flock to be tolerant towards groups that traditionally have been shunned by staunch Catholics.

In February, amid a debate between religious groups over a sexuality advisory from the Health Promotion Board (HPB), Archbishop Goh said he was aware some Catholics are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality or that of their loved ones. He added that the Church "feels with you and views every individual as unique and precious in the eyes of God, regardless of his or her sexual inclination or state of life".

He said he was exploring the establishment of support groups for those "struggling with same-sex attraction" and for their loved ones who have difficulty accepting them.

However, he also reassured the Catholic community regarding the Church's position that the family - comprising heterosexual couples with children - remains the "indispensable, basic building block of society".

Archbishop Goh's conciliatory tone reflects Pope Francis' call to the Catholic Church to reach out to a broader congregation and not be "obsessed" with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Some Catholics, such as Julia Seah, said the archbishop's call is timely. "We are now in different times, with different norms. While I don't think the archbishop is calling for outright acceptance of gays or abortion, I think we need to calibrate our views and be less harsh," said the 35-year-old marketing manager.

In response to a trend that has seen more migrants attending church while locals stay away, masses are now being conducted in more languages here, a spokesman for the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant People told My Paper.

The additional languages include Tagalog, Burmese, Vietnamese, Korean and French, to cater to the "large influx of foreign construction and industrial workers from surrounding countries", she added.

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