Visitors throng a renovated century-old church in Singapore

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St. Joseph’s Church was established in 1912 to serve Portuguese and Malacca Catholics in its early days

A view of the renovated 110-year-old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Victoria Street in Singapore. (Photo: St. Joseph’s Church)

Published: July 22, 2022 at 10:12 GMT

Updated: July 22, 2022 at 10:23 GMT

A century-old Catholic church in Singapore, a national monument, has been attracting hundreds of Catholics and visitors since it reopened last month after a five-year renovation.

Since the reopening of the 110-year-old St. Joseph’s Church, “we have discovered, so to speak, the story of the faith of this community,” Bishop William Goh of Singapore said during the reopening Mass on June 30th.

“And that’s why we rejoice – because knowing our history is knowing our faith and appreciating what we have,” said the prelate who was named a cardinal by Pope Francis last month.

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The number of visitors to the church increased after the start of regular weekday Masses on July 4, social media posts and blogs show.

“Went to mass on weekdays!!!! Finally I can attend St. Joseph’s Church, great memories from my childhood,” Jude de Cruz wrote on Facebook.

“I would love to visit the church when I return to Singapore. Many years of childhood in church, including giving out church leaflets during door programs,” said Margaret Jones, who is studying in Australia.

The parish community plans to make it an inclusive center for anyone “who wants a rest from the harsh realities of life,” said parish rector Fr. Joe Lopez.

“We will focus on building the spirit of the church, a place that is inclusive, not only of Catholics, but of all who seek solace and solace in the face of the harshness and difficulties of life,” the father said. Lopez.

During the reopening ceremony, Bishop Goh thanked those who supported the renovation.

The work, which includes the restoration of the church, its presbytery and a preserved building, cost approximately $25.2 million. The National Heritage Board of Singapore only funded US$1.9 million and the rest came from donations.

The National Heritage Board of Singapore designated the church as a national monument on January 14, 2005.

Portuguese missionaries built San Jose Church in 1853 and it became known as the “Eurasian Church” as it served Portuguese Eurasian and Malacca Catholics in Singapore in its early days.

As the Catholic community grew, the old building was demolished in 1905 and the current structure replaced it in 1912.

Portuguese historian Father Manuel Teixeira described the church as one of the “most beautiful in all of Malaysia” in his collection of writings, The Portuguese Missions in Malacca and Singapore (1511-1958), a reported the Straits Times.

The neo-Gothic style church can accommodate 1,500 people at a time.

The history of the church is closely linked to the Portuguese Singapore Mission, which first arrived on the island in 1826 from Goa in India.

In 1886, the Portuguese Archbishop of Goa transferred jurisdiction over the Portuguese missions in Singapore and Malacca to the Portuguese Bishop of Macao, according to the St. Joseph Church website.

The dual ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the parish ended after 95 years on July 1, 1981, by an agreement signed between Archbishop Gregory Yong of Singapore and Bishop Arquimínio Rodrigues da Costa of Macau.

To maintain the Portuguese character of the church, the Bishop of Macau continued to send priests to the church until December 31, 1999.

In 2012, the church celebrated its centenary amid a crowd of 1,000 with Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Nicholas Chia of Singapore, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli and Father Michael Teo, Rector of the ‘church.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State for the Holy See, celebrated Mass at St. Joseph’s Church on August 16, 2015, on the occasion of modern Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.

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