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Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei
Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei

The Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei Darussalam is a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical jurisdiction, covering the territory of Brunei Darussalam, a small nation on the northern coast of Borneo. The Vicariate is headed by an apostolic vicar, presently Bishop Cornelius Sim.

Population

The population of Brunei Darussalam was estimated at 459,000, in 2017.

This estimate includes all people residing in Brunei Darussalam. The Malays, who also include the indigenous communities of Kedayan, Tutong, Belait, Bisaya, Dusun and Murut, constitutes the major population group, accounting for 237,100 people. Members of other indigenous groups account for 12,300, the Chinese account for 40,200, and the other races account for 68,200 people.

The population distribution by district shows that Brunei/Muara District still has the largest share, with a total of 247,200 persons, while Belait and Tutong Districts have 59,600 and 41,600 persons respectively. Temburong District has the smallest population of around 9,400 persons.

Language

The official language is Malay. Other languages include English and Chinese (various dialects).

History

The present Catholic community in the country finds its roots in the ministry of the Missionary Society of St. Joseph (Mill Hill Missionaries). Throughout the years, the local Church was administered by various ecclesiastical jurisdictions centered in Labuan, Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), Kuching and Miri, cities in neighboring Malaysia.

The separation of the Bruneian territory, formerly under the Diocese of Miri-Brunei (now simply known as the Diocese of Miri), created a distinct Bruneian Church. This separated territory was designated as an apostolic prefecture in November 1997, to be headed by the then Monsignor Cornelius Sim (who was the Vicar General of Miri-Brunei, and a Bruneian priest) as its first apostolic prefect.

The Apostolic Prefecture of Brunei Darussalam came into being on February 22, 1998, with the proclamation of the papal bull to the faithful and the installation of the apostolic prefect. On October 20, 2004, less than seven years after it was formed, the apostolic prefecture was elevated to an apostolic vicariate. Monsignor Sim was privileged to be chosen to continue leading the territory as its first apostolic vicar, carrying the dignity of a titular bishop. The official celebrations and episcopal ordination took place on January 21, 2005.

Climate

Brunei Darussalam has an equatorial climate, characterized by a uniform high temperature, high humidity and heavy rainfall. Temperatures range from 23-32 degree Celsius, while rainfall varies from 2,500 mm annually on the coast to 7,500 mm in the interior. There is no distinct wet season.

Geography

The land surface is developed on bedrock of tertiary age, comprising of sandstone, shale and clay. The terrain in the western part of Brunei Darussalam is predominantly hilly lowland below 91 m, but rising in the hinterland to about 300 m. The eastern part of the state consists predominantly of rugged mountain terrain, rising 1,850 m above sea level, at Bukit Pagon. The coast has a wide, tidal and swampy plain.

Location

Brunei Darussalam is situated on the north-west of the island of Borneo. It has a total area of 5,765 sq. km. with a coastline of about 161 km along the South China Sea. It is bounded on the north by the South China Sea and on all the other sides by the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Physical Features
The land surface is developed on bedrock of tertiary age comprising of sandstone, shale and clay. The terrain in the western part of Brunei Darussalam is predominantly hilly lowland below 91 m, but rising in the hinterland to about 300 m. The eastern part of the state consists predominantly of rugged mountain terrain, rising 1,850 m above sea level at Bukit Pagon. The coast has a wide, tidal and swampy plain.

Capital and Town
Brunei Darussalam is divided into four districts namely Brunei/Muara, Tutong, Belait and Temburong. Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei Darussalam with an area of about 16 sq. km. The famed Water Village of Brunei (Kampong Ayer) is also located here.

Other towns are Muara, about 41 km to the northeast of Bandar Seri Begawan, where the chief port is located, Seria which is the seat of the oil and gas industry, and Kuala Belait, Pekan Tutong and Bangar which are the administrative centres of Belait, Tutong and Temburong districts respectively.

Official Religion
Islam is the official religion of Brunei Darussalam as stated in the Brunei Constitution, with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan (Head of State) as the head of Islamic faith in the country. Thus Islam plays a central role in the life of every Muslim in Brunei Darussalam. Other faiths practiced in the state include Christianity and Buddhism.

Administration

The vicariate does not operate a distinct chancery, nor does it have a designated cathedral. However, one of the parishes, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, unofficially hosts both functions, as it is the residence and office of the bishop, and is the most populous parish in the vicariate. There is no official priests' council, although the clergy meet on a monthly basis.

The vicariate is administered pastorally through commissions responsible for liturgy, catechetics, finance, education, the youth, evangelization, family life, migrant welfare, the Bible apostolate and social communication. The commissions are directed by appointed clergy, and see representation from the parishes. The role of these commissions is to foster a more aligned vision and direction among the parishes in various aspects of Church life.

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