Malaysia's first cardinal, Anthony Soter Fernandez, died on Oct. 28. Prayers were offered on Dec. 6 to mark the 40th day following his death. (Photo supplied)
Church leaders and school children participated in a special prayer program for Malaysian Cardinal Anthony Soter Fernandez, on the 40th day following his death, as part of a tradition practiced by the local church.
Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim of Kuala Lumpur, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, presided over the program on Dec. 6, thanking God for the gift of Cardinal Fernandez.
Malaysia's first cardinal, who led Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese for more than two decades, died on Oct. 28, aged 88 after battling tongue cancer.
School children recited a special Rosary and joined Holy Mass online to remember and pay tribute to the late cardinal on the 40th day following his death.
Traditionally, the 40-day mourning period ends with prayers at the parish church, grave, and at a meal shared by relatives and friends at the dead person's home.
In some eastern cultures, people believe the departed soul remains on in the world for a 40-day period, when it visits the home it lived and its grave. On the 40th day, it leaves the world.
Some Christians connect the 40-day observance with the Ascension of Jesus, which is believed to have occurred on the 40th day after his resurrection.
Archbishop Julian Lew thanked the children for participating in the online prayers.
He also thanked God for "having graced the church" with Cardinal Fernandez.
"He gave us a living image of Jesus, the good shepherd. He has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of the ordinary Christian life," the archbishop said.
Cardinal Fernandez was born on April 22, 1932, and was ordained a priest of Penang Diocese in 1966. He was ordained Bishop of Penang on Feb. 17, 1978.
Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur on July 30, 1983, and he was installed as the archbishop on Nov. 10, of that year. He retired on May 24, 2003.
Pope Francis named him a cardinal in November 2016.
He was chairman of the Human Development Office of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) and the national bishops' conference Commission for Inter-Religious Affairs.
He died only three days after Pope Francis announced Bishop Cornelius Sim, apostolic vicar of Brunei, among 13 new cardinals, making him the only second cardinal in the region.