Tony Tan Keng Yam arrived in Rome on Sunday. He will visit the Holy See next Saturday, a first for a Singapore president. This “is a significant event” for the Catholic Church in the city-state. “We are fortunate to be held in high regard and receive great support from the government.”
Singapore (AsiaNews) – President Tony Tan Keng Yam is in Italy on a state visit to Italy and the Vatican, where he will meet Pope Francis.
In a note sent to AsiaNews, the Singapore Catholic Church said that President Tan’s visit “is a significant event, the first by a Singapore head of state. We are fortunate to be held in high regard and receive great support from the government.”
Tony Tan, accompanied by his wife and several ministers, landed in Rome on Sunday for an eight-day visit. During his stay, he will meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The visit is designed to boost relations between Italy and Singapore in trade, investment, defence, culture, education and research.
Italy was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with a newly independent Singapore in 1965, "when few countries gave us much chance of survival as a sovereign state", President Tan said in a Facebook post before leaving Singapore.
President Tan and Pope Francis are scheduled to meet next Saturday.
"Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who received a Catholic education, said that the Church has always played an important role in Singapore society, running schools, hospitals, homes and charities that serve citizens of every race and religion,” said a note from the Communications Office of the Archdiocese.
“Singapore is blessed with a responsible and helpful government,” said Mgr William Goh, archbishop of Singapore. “Not only does it have a vision, but it is determined and open to collaboration.”
For the prelate, Singapore’s “government is secular, but not secularised since it acknowledges the important role played by religion in the moral development of people.”
Singapore and the Holy See established diplomatic relations in June 1981. John Paul II’s visit in 1986 was the most significant event in that period.
In 2006, relations were strengthened by Card Renato Raffaele Martino, special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI, who gave a speech in which he denounced terrorism and stressed the role religions play in promoting peace and solidarity.
Last August, the Vatican Secretary of State Card Pietro Parolin visited Singapore during his visit to Southeast Asia and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence.