Catholics warned off 'breakaway' Singapore church

THE Catholic Church here has spoken out against what it considers to be a breakaway group now actively seeking to expand its flock.

Over the past two Sundays, priests have been warning their parishioners to stay clear of the Society of Saint Pius X, based in Killiney Road.

Priests have told parishioners they should not take part in services conducted by the society. One even said that doing so could lead to excommunication from the Church.

The society, founded in 1969, is not recognised by the Vatican. It began operating here about four years ago, but is drawing flak now because of recent self-promotion efforts.

In particular, the Catholic Church took issue with a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour - the Virgin Mary - used by the society on its promotional flyers.

This prompted warnings to the 120,000 Catholics here that the society was confusing people into thinking it had the support of the Church.

It has attracted almost 130 followers to its services, conducted by Father Daniel Couture, a Frenchman, and Father David Pagliarani, an Italian.

Its premises on the second floor of the Tai Wah Building include a prayer hall for about 40 people, a library and living quarters for the two priests.

Headquartered in Switzerland, the society's members include actor Mel Gibson, who directed the film The Passion Of The Christ.

Father Henry Siew, a theologian who lectures at the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary in Punggol, wrote that the society is off-limits to Roman Catholics.

The reasons he gives are that it rejects the authority of the Pope, ordains its own priests and promotes radical teachings, including the belief that all other religions are false.

Father Siew added that the society also claims that non-Catholic Christians must convert to the Catholic faith.

'It fails to understand that... the Church's mission is neither to condemn people of other faiths nor to impose itself on them,' he said.

But Father Pagliarani denied that the society rejected the Pope's authority.

The Pope is still included in prayers during its mass, which is conducted in Latin.

'Our position is not to go against the official Church, but to preserve the faith and the tradition. We recognise the Pope, but we believe our duty is to refuse the teachings when they are not in line with his predecessors,' the priest said.

He also denied that the society is schismatic, saying: 'We did not break away from the official Church to create another church. We did it to be faithful to the traditional teaching.'

That is why it does not accept the Church's position of engaging in dialogue with other Christian groups and religions, and insists on conducting services in Latin.

'It is a sacred language which separates the rite from a common act,' he said.