Father Goh to succeed Archbishop Chia as head of Catholic Church

December 31, 2012
By Wong Wei Han

FATHER William Goh, Rector of the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary, is slated to become the head of the Catholic Church here, in a move that marks Archbishop Nicholas Chia's impending retirement some 11 years after he was first appointed.

The appointment of Father Goh as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Singapore by Pope Benedict XVI was announced during mass at churches here yesterday, Dec 30.

In the transitional role, Father Goh will assist Archbishop Chia until the latter formally retires.

Speaking to TODAY after presiding over a mass at the Church of The Holy Family, Archbishop Chia, however, said there is currently no specific timeline as to when he will retire.

"(Father Goh) will help me until I retire. I cannot tell you when that will be exactly - I don't want to commit myself (to a timeline)," said Archbishop Chia, who became Singapore's Archbishop in 2001.

Citing advancing age and declining health as his reasons for retiring, Archbishop Chia, who turns 75 in April, said he made the request "earlier this year" for the Pope to appoint a coadjutor.

"I'm getting old. My health is not at its best too, so it's important to have a younger person helping out in the running of (the) diocese," he said.

Father Goh will become Singapore's second local-born Archbishop, after Archbishop Chia.

The 55-year-old entered the priesthood in 1985 as the parochial vicar - an assistant priest - to Archbishop Chia, when he was still the parish priest at the Church of the Holy Cross. Father Goh could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Archbishop Chia's announcement yesterday came three months after his letter to civil activist group Function 8, expressing his support for a rally to abolish the Internal Security Act, was at the centre of a public disagreement.

The letter was withdrawn for fear of harming social harmony, said Archbishop Chia, who also rejected Function 8's request to publish the document. The episode received an airing in Parliament, as Members of Parliament raised questions on the exchange and Singapore's principle of separating religion from politics.

The Archbishop yesterday refuted any link between the incident and his decision to step down.

"My request for a coadjutor has no connection whatsoever with (the incident in September). It's just that I'm getting older, and there's need for new blood," he told TODAY.