Asian Catholics who cannot travel to Italy to venerate the relics of Padre Pio now has an alternative: the historic Church of St. Michael in Malaysia, which holds a first-class relic of the Capuchin Saint.
The church stands on the Church Road in Ipoh, the capital city of Malaysian state of Perak, about 200 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur. St. Michael Church had a humble beginning with a few Catholics, mostly Chinese settlers and workers living in the Kinta Valley, a hilly, forested region famed for its tin-ore mines.
The special gift of first-class relic from Rome was installed at St. Michael’s Church in the New Year 2015. A first-class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bones, flesh, or blood.
The relic at the church contains the blood of the saint. It is preserved on a tiny piece of cloth taken from his mittens. It is enshrined in a picture of St. Padre Pio and placed at the side of the altar of the Church.
Missionaries of Paris Foreign Mission Society (MEP) began the church in the 19thcentury. MEP missionaryFather Emile Barillonserved as the first parish priest (1890-92) and built a simple wooden structure for worship. It became the foundation stone for the history of Christianity in Ipoh, now covered by Diocese of Penang.
The old structure has been replaced by a convent school.Another MEP missionary Father Pierre Perrichon started today’s church in 1893. The priest hired renowned Chinese Christian contractor Leong Ah Choong to construct the Gothic-style church fora hefty cost of US$ 14,000.
The new church was blessed and inaugurated in 1896. In memory of the church’s first parishioners – Chinese migrants – its front arch holds a declaration in Chinese language: "God is the Source of all truth."
MEP missionary Father Jean Coppin (1904 - 1927) was the longest serving parish priest of the church. During his time the church has experienced remarkable growth in number of Catholics and pastoral care to the migrants. The priest paved the way for establishing several Catholic institutions including schools.
Rich in missionary heritage and the relic of Padre Pio, the Church of St. Michael at Ipoh is worth visiting for pilgrims and tourists.
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