Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we enter into the season of Easter, I cannot help but look back towards a Holy Week that I will remember for a long time to come.
You will have heard about the ‘Escape Chapel Party’ that was to have taken place at CHIJMES Hall on Holy Saturday evening. We learnt of the party on the morning of Holy Monday and that was the beginning of three days of what can be seen as our own participation in the Passion in the final days of Lent.
The promotions for the event were offensive. Young girls dressed in provocative adaptations of a nun’s habit distributed promotional flyers in public spaces. Advertising material featured images of similarly dressed girls and promised ‘a sacrilegious night of partying’ and the presence of ‘nuns’. These were an affront to Catholics. The fact that the party was to be held in what was once the CHIJ chapel and on Holy Saturday compounded the disrespect not just to our faith but to the many women religious who have devoted their lives to God and who have contributed greatly to Singapore with their schools, homes and work with the poor.
Happily, the organizers cancelled the party. They apologised, and we have forgiven them this whole episode.
This incident underscores the importance of mutual respect for all religions in our multi-religious country, and a better understanding of the different religions. The organiser said that they did not mean to offend Catholics and did not use any religious symbolism. What are the nun’s habit and the rosary if not Catholic?
I was heartened by the uproar against the party from the ground, and commend those who courageously voiced their disapproval. It shows our faith and our willingness to speak up for that faith, but we must be sure to do so reasonably and responsibly, and above all, charitably as Jesus showed us.
It is my wish for the Church to be a constructive voice for harmony and a positive presence in Singapore civil society. I call on all the faithful especially those actively engaged in public issues to always reflect Christ by your compassionate conduct. With the help of God, all of us can and must play our part in fostering greater harmony within our national community, even as we stand up for our faith.
May the Lord bless you with abundant graces this Easter.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia