By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Oct 28: The passing of Malaysia’s first Roman Catholic cardinal, Anthony Soter Fernandez, 88, is a great loss to the country and in this region, as he has been instrumental in promoting peace and inter-religious dialogue, said Archbishop of Kuching His Grace Simon Poh.
Poh also described the cardinal as a very humble person who was close to the people he served.
“His passing is a great loss to our country and to the region as well, as he has been instrumental in promoting peace and inter-religious dialogue among the different faiths,” Poh told DayakDaily when contacted today.
Poh also described the late Fernandez as a father figure to the church in Malaysia.
“I also had the privilege to know him personally when he gave me a retreat to prepare for my consecration as a bishop in 2015,” said Poh.
Fernandez, died at 12.35pm today after a bout with tongue cancer. He has been staying at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the elderly in Cheras, where he had been under palliative care.
Fernandez was diagnosed with tongue cancer in November last year and had undergone immunotherapy and radiotherapy.
Funeral and wake arrangements will be announced later and they are expected to be quiet affairs.
Fernandez played a major role in inter-religious dialogue, serving as chair of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism from 2001 until 2003.
He professed the need to have a consensus in every decision and was a pivot in maintaining the unity of the council.
Born in Sungai Petani, Kedah, he began his 50-year journey into the priesthood with his priestly ordination in Penang in 1966. Twelve years later, he became a bishop of the diocese.
Fernandez retired as the archbishop of Kuala Lumpur on May 24, 2003, and was made a cardinal by Pope Francis three years later.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 218 members, 122 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. — DayakDaily