THE Church of St Anne, the over a two-century-old Catholic church in Bukit Mertajam, was officially proclaimed as a Minor Basilica in the presence of over 2,000 clergies, religious and faithful from Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Pakistan and New Zealand.
Despite being granted the title by the Holy See three years ago, worshippers from all walks of life had to wait until today to witness the rare and historic moment due to Covid-19 restrictions that were imposed earlier.
To commemorate this special occasion, a solemn declaration was held during the special Eucharistic celebration at the Minor Basilica of St Anne earlier, which was presided over by Cardinal William Goh from Singapore.
During the special mass, the Parish Priest of the Church of St Michael in Alor Setar, Father Michael Cheah, read out the solemn declaration in Latin and English.
He was also the former Parish Priest at the Church of St Anne.
Two papal symbols, the ‘ombrellino’ (little umbrella) and a silk canopy with yellow and red liveries were displayed by the church next to the altar throughout the Eucharistic celebration.
Additionally, a tintinnabulum (bells) mounted on a pole were displayed as well to symbolise its link with the Pope.
Cardinal William Goh, during his sermon, described the Minor Basilica of St Anne as a holy ground that has a place in everyone’s heart, including those from different faiths and beliefs.
“St Anne is a great intercessor and a model for all married couples, and a great comforter for the marginalised, weak and poor.
“Many faithful, including non-Catholics, have turned to St Anne in desperation. Through prayers, miracles have surfaced for many in the past.
“This place truly is a beautiful shrine of harmony that has worked wonders and answered the prayers of those in need.
“The elevation of this church to a Minor Basilica is very appropriate for what it offers to the people and how important of a worship place it is among the people,” Cardinal William Goh said during his sermon.
During an interview that was published in the Catholic Weekly Herald (Jan 8 edition), Bishop of Penang Right Reverend Datuk Seri Sebastian Francis said the application to the Holy See to elevate the status of the church to a Minor Basilica was not because of its two-century-old existence, but more for its ability to attract people from all walks of life.
It is learnt that talks to get the Church of St Anne its Minor Basilica status surfaced in 2012 when Francis was appointed Bishop of the Penang Catholic Diocese.
Every year in July, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and visitors from across the world throng the church to join in its annual St Anne Feast Day celebrations.
Also present during the momentous ceremony were Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, state Tourism and Creative Economy Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin, Deputy Finance Minister II and Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim, Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng and Berapit assemblyman Heng Lee Lee.
Malaysia’s Catholic Apostolic Nuncio (ambassador) Archbishop Wojciech Zaluski also joined in the special Eucharistic celebration.
Story by Kevin Vimal
Pix by Muhamad Amir Irsyad Omar