A day before he left for Taiwan to undergo cancer treatment, Cardinal Cornelius Sim of Brunei celebrated Mass with his flock on May 6, in what turned out to be his last.
In his final words at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, he encouraged Catholics to be active in the Church and to make their participation “much more tangible.”
“Pray that the Church becomes stronger,” Cardinal Sim said. “Don’t be a spectator in the Church. Be someone who contributes, gives time, talent, and treasure.”
He also thanked the community for supporting him and asked for the same support for his three priests.
Cardinal Sim, 69, had been under treatment since December 2019 for cancer that affected his liver the most.
The cardinal left for Taiwan on May 7 to undergo cell therapy treatment that was supposed to take at least six months.
But just a few weeks later, his condition worsened until he died from cardiac arrest at the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan on May 29.
In Brunei, the parish immediately started a novena as they await the remains of the charismatic leader who was elevated as cardinal less than a year ago.
The Southeast Asian nation of half a million people is home to a Catholic minority of only about 20,000, mostly migrant workers.
In his visit to the Philippines in 2018, the cardinal credited the Filipinos for making their “little Church… truly alive”.
“The Filipinos have greatly enhanced the Church in Brunei because they bring with them this liveliness, this down-to-earth approach to life,” Cardinal Sim said at a conference on new evangelization in Manila.