SEBERANG PERAI, Jan 9 — St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam which draws huge crowds every July on St Anne’s Feast was officially proclaimed a minor basilica today.
The church was granted the title by the Holy See three years ago but the official proclamation could not be held then due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A special celebration, presided by Cardinal William Goh of Singapore, was held at the Minor Basilica of St Anne today.
The decree granting the title of Minor Basilica to St Anne’s Church from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome was dated September 5th 2019.
Malaysia's Catholic Apostolic Nuncio (ambassador) Archbishop Wojciech Zaluski, Bishop of Penang Right Reverend Datuk Seri Sebastian Francis and Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim were also present.
Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow, Deputy Finance minister Steven Sim and state exco Yeoh Soon Hin were also at the celebration.
About 2,000 clergy and congregants attended the official proclamation ceremony of the Minor Basilica of St Anne. — Picture by Opalyn Mok
About 2,000 clergy and congregants from Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Pakistan and New Zealand along with representatives from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) attended the ceremony.
Former St Anne’s Church parish priest, Father Michael Cheah, read out the solemn declaration in Latin and English at the historic ceremony.
Cheah, who is currently the parish priest of St Michael’s Church in Alor Setar, was the priest behind the construction of the current church building, located on the grounds next to the historical church building.
In the solemn declaration ceremony, the two papal symbols, the 'ombrellino' (little umbrella) and a silk canopy with yellow and red liveries were carried inside to be displayed.
Former St Anne’s Church parish priest, Father Michael Cheah, read out the solemn declaration in Latin and English at the historic ceremony. — Picture by Opalyn Mok
This was followed by the tintinnabulum (or bells) mounted on a pole which symbolises its link to the Pope.
In addition to that, the logo of the crossed keys of St Peter was displayed on the church's banners, furnishings and on the seal of the minor basilica.
The keys refer to the promise of Christ to Peter and symbolises the continuous relationship between the Basilica and the Pope.
St Anne’s Church was founded in 1845 by French missionaries from the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris.
It is the only church in Malaysia to be proclaimed a minor basilica.
South-east Asia currently has 25 minor basilicas — 21 in the Philippines and four in Vietnam.
In the solemn declaration ceremony, the two papal symbols, the 'ombrellino' (little umbrella) and a silk canopy with yellow and red liveries were carried inside to be displayed. — Picture by Opalyn Mok
Bishop of Penang Francis was quoted in The Catholic Weekly Herald as saying that he applied to the Holy See to elevate the church because of its ability to draw large crowds from all walks of life.
"If you look at the testimonies, the church has had an effect on everything under the sun, from people overcoming financial difficulties to finding jobs, finding their life partner, and having children,” he said.
He said the church also exudes harmony.
"It's not about religion, it's about life. It's about spirituality. It's about blessing us. That is why I decided to name St Anne as the shrine of harmony, to instil, to ingrain and impress the bond of humanity among all of us," he is reported to have said.