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PH Bishops Mourn Death of Brunei’s First Cardinal

Cardinal Cornelius Sim of Brunei passed away at age 69. He had been serving the country for more than 30 years.

Catholic bishops in the Philippines paid tribute on Sunday to the first and only cardinal from Brunei, Cardinal Cornelius Sim. He died at the age of 69 after serving his country for more than 30 years.

Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), expressed his condolences for the passing of the late cardinal. (Read: CBCP to Lead National Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary)

“[Cardinal Sim was] very close to the bishops and priests of the Philippines,” Valles said. “[He will be remembered for his] unfailing commitment to spread the Gospel, his constant advocacy of dialogue and peace, and his untiring and devoted service to the Church in Brunei and in the whole Asia.”

Cardinal Sim died of cardiac arrest on Saturday, May 29 at a hospital in Taiwan. He had been undergoing cancer treatment in the facility since May 8.

Cardinal Cornelius Sim

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Cardinal Cornelius Sim baptizes a new Catholic (Photo from Vatican News)

For more than three decades, Sim had been leading the pastoral care of Brunei’s Catholic faithful. Known as a predominantly Islamic country, the Southeast Asian nation only has about 20,000 Catholics within its territories— or about six percent of its total population.

While it is a small portion of the country, Brunei’s Catholic community kept Sim committed to his mission. He emphasized that “being small doesn’t mean you are useless or less important,” and that the point “is to get through our minds that God places us where He wants us to be.”

“The main mission of the Church is to be a visible sign of the presence of Christ, to witness to his love, his mercy, his truth and the goodness that is inherent in the teachings of the Church,” Sim said during the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization in 2018 in Manila

“This also means that we look at the majority and recognize that they are also children of God. This is the first and most important point,” he added. (Read: Prayer for 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines)

First Cardinal of Brunei

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Pope Francis greets Bishop Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of Brunei, during his “ad limina” visit to the Vatican in this Feb. 8, 2018, file photo. Bishop Sim was among 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis Oct. 25. (Photo from CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In November 2020, Pope Francis made Sim the very first cardinal of Brunei. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sim was not able to personally attend the consistory. Instead, Pope Francis sent the cardinal’s red hat and ring to Brunei.

In a telegram released on May 29, the Pope praised the cardinal’s “generous service” to the Church. (Read: Cardinal Advincula to Receive ‘Red Hat’ on May 28)

“To all who mourn the late Cardinal’s passing in the sure hope of the Resurrection I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in Jesus, the firstborn of the dead,” the Pope said.

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