KOTA KINABALU: Over 3,000 Catholics from all over Sabah gathered in and around the Sacred Heart Cathedral here yesterday to share the joy of seeing Sandakan-born John Wong Soo Kau, a 42-year-old priest consecrated as the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu.
Archbishop John Lee, who presided over the two-hour ceremony, described the event as historic, saying that it was for the first time that there are now two bishops serving the archdiocese.
He said this was good for the people in the church, for it would be easier for them to see the bishop, but quickly added, “This will not be for long. Eventually, John Wong will take over.”
The coadjutor archbishop serves as an assistant to the archbishop and shall automatically take over once the archbishop retires.
In a speech after the ceremony, he congratulated the new bishop for his courage to take up the appointment and described his coadjutor, as young and energetic.
Archbishop Lee, 76, was assisted at the consecration ceremony by Bishop Cornelius Piong from Keningau Diocese and Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom from the Sandakan Diocese.
Bangkok-based Monsignor Marek Zalewski, the First Counsellor, Apostolic Nunciature, a representative of Pope Benedict XVI, was at the ceremony to present the officially document signed by the Pope that gave authority for the appointment.
Archbishop John Lee said in his speech that the presence of Monsignor Marek signified the closeness of the Pope with the local church.
He also spoke a few words in Chinese, thanking John Wong’s mother, Rose Chung Thiem Yin, 71, who had come with over 30 members of her family from Sandakan to attend the ordination.
He thanked her for her support and sacrifice, saying that her son had not only become a priest but is now a bishop. He said the ordination was a time of celebration and joy for the whole archdiocese.
All archbishops and bishops from the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei were present, led by its President, Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur.
Also there were over 40 priests from Singapore, Sarawak, Peninsular, and the two dioceses of Keningau and Sandakan, besides the priests from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu itself.
Among Catholic community leaders who turned up to attend the historic occasion included: Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, Federal Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities; Datuk Peter Pang, the Deputy Chief Minister, Sabah; Datuk Radin Malleh, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department; Datuk Marcus Mojigoh, MP for Putatan; Datuk Wilfred Bumburing and Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau and their wives.
Other invited guests present were leaders from other Christian denominations, such as Pastor Chin Chi Keong of the Baptist Christian Church; Rev Jimmy Asam, President of the Protestant Church Sabah; and Bishop Thomas Tsen of the Basel Christian Church Malaysia.
The ordination ceremony was followed immediately by a reception at the parish centre opposite the Cathedral.