Saturday, December 14, 2013
Murphy Pakiam retires as Archbishop of KL, Catholic Church to name successor
Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Murphy Pakiam retired last week after reaching age 75, unable to see through another appeal to Malaysia's highest court against a government ban on Catholics using the Arabic word Allah to describe God.
Pope Francis accepted Pakiam's resignation as he had reached the age limit, the official Vatican website reported on Friday. But it did not name a successor for the priest who turned 75 on December 6.
In 2007, Pakiam filed for a judicial review after the church's weekly, Herald, was ordered to stop using Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia edition by the Home Ministry.
In 2009, the Kuala Lumpur High Court overturned the ban but the ruling was suspended pending an appeal which Putrajaya won last October.
Church lawyers filed for leave at the Federal Court on November 12 to appeal the Court of Appeal decision, citing 26 reasons. There is no date for the decision.
A week after the Court of Appeal's October 14 decision, Pakiam issued a statement saying that that the three appeal court judges were grossly misinformed when concluding that the word Allah was “not the essential or integral part of the religion of Christianity”.
"It is to be noted that for centuries the Bahasa Malaysia translation and the Arabic equivalent of the one God, is the sacred word Allah, which the Christians have been using peacefully.
"Hence, to conclude that the word Allah is not essential to the Christian faith would be a grave denial of the fundamental right of the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian community to use this word in prayer, worship services, prayer books, the Al-kitab and other publications. This would be tantamount to signalling a form of persecution," he had said.
But the immediate task for the church now is to elect a successor.
The process will begin with the selection of an administrator for the diocese in the interim period, to be elected by a group of local senior priests, Herald editor Rev Fr Lawrence Andrew told The Malaysian Insider.
Under the church’s law, the senior priests must name an administrator within eight days from the acceptance of resignation by Pope Francis.
The office of the diocesan administrator ceases when the new Archbishop takes over.
According to Andrew, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino is now in the process of sending three names to the Vatican for the Pope to choose from in appointing the new Archbishop.
"The Holy Father will then decide, and it can take up to a few months," he said.
Andrew, who attended a celebration last Friday to mark the archbishop's 75th birthday, said Pakiam told his staff that when he took the post, the office and other facilities were already in place.
Pakiam had noted that this was not the case for the late Archbishop Dominic Vendargon, the first Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.
"At that time, there was only one person in the office, as the Archbishop was busy building churches in the Archdiocese.
“When Archbishop Soter Fernandez took over, he added more offices to facilitate the administration of the diocese as well as to continue his work in building communities. So when he retired and I took over, there was not much in terms of additions that needed to be done," Pakiam had said.
Pakiam had also explained to his staff that having reached 75, it was the church's law that required bishops to submit their resignation to the Pope.
He was a priest for 49 years, a bishop for 18 years and is the third Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.
Also present that day for the birthday celebration was Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez, his predecessor.