New Bishop for the Diocese of Penang

Entrance procession. Seen here on left is Monsignor Marek Zalewski and on right is Bishop Sebastian.

Some 10,000 people witnessed the episcopal ordination and installation ceremony of the new Bishop for the Penang Diocese which was held in Church of St. Anne, Bukit Mertajam, Pulau Pinang on August 20, 2012.

Bishop Sebastian Francis will be replacing Bishop Emeritus Antony Selavanayagam, who had served the Diocese for 29 years.

Also present was the Pope Benedict XVI’s representative, Monsignor Marek Zalewski, who serves as the charge d’affaires of the apostolic nunciature in Kuala Lumpur

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the Information Communication and Culture Deputy Minister Datuk Maglin Dennis D’Cruz were present to witness the auspicious ordination.

Bishop Sebastian Francis, new Bishop of Diocese of Penang

The ordination service, incorporated into the mass,were held in three languages – English, Tamil and Mandarin.

The Rite of Ordination began immediately after the Liturgy of the Word. The principal consecrator was Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, of Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, and the two other co-consecrators were Bishop Paul Tan of Diocese of Malacca-Johor and Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam of Penang.

The Bishop-elect first had to be presented to the people. This was done by a senior priest reading the mandate from the Holy See (Vatican). He was then questioned by the consecrator, on his resolve to uphold the faith and to discharge his duties faithful.

While the Litany of the Saints were being chanted, the Bishop-elect prostrated at the foot of the church’s altar, as a sign of humility and total service to God. The Laying of Hands and the Prayer of Consecration followed.

He was later anointed with holy oil and presented with the signs of his authority:  the book of the Gospels, ring, miter (pointed hat) and a pastoral staff called a crosier.

During Bishop Sebastian’s speech, which was in English and Bahasa, he thanked many people, including representatives from the various churches and also representatives from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

He also took the opportunity to deliver a Hari Raya greeting to Muslims and made reference to a Ramadan message from Pope Benedict XVI, through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, where the Pope called on each and everyone to educate young Muslim and Christian for peace and justice.

Bishop Sebastian Francis, 61, was born in Johor Baharu and has been a priest for 35 years. He spent his first 25 years mostly in studies locally and abroad and as a lecturer at the College-General in Penang. Before his appointment as Bishop, he served as a Monsignor in the Diocese of Melaka-Johor.

He had chosen ‘Fiat Voluntas Tua’ as his motto, which is in Latin, meaning ‘Thy will be done’. This motto is inscribed in his Coats of Arms. All Bishop has a personal Coats of Arms, which denotes the general responsibilities and duties of a Bishop, the successor of the Apostles.

In an interview with the weekly Catholic Herald, when asked about his priority, the new Bishop had this to say:

“My first priority will be to encourage clergy, religious, lay faithful to discover their identity and potential by making a personal decision to enter that ‘door of faith’ – to celebrate, deepen and share the faith, an undeserved and precious gift with all. I believe this immediate priority is God-given and a grace-filled moment. The other priorities from from this respond.”

Related article:  Bishop Selvanayagam tells his story.