04th February 2021
International Day of Human Fraternity
Dear People of God,
For over a year now, together with all of you, we, your archbishops and bishops of Malaysia are not only aware but have also been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 – none of us are spared. The outbreak which has rapidly spread around the world poses enormous health, economic, environmental and social challenges to the entire human population. We remember on this 1st International Day of Human Fraternity, those who have lost their lives, the thousands who are sick and the severe disruptions on day-to-day life.
Every one of us, individuals, families, parishes, dioceses, and countries have been required to make great sacrifices. As Church, we too have had to rethink and reorganise how to be Church in these unprecedented times. The virtue of solidarity in such a time has also required difficult and even unpopular decisions about matters at the very heart of our Catholic faith and way of life. Nevertheless, we must not stop but continue to find new and creative ways to bear witness to the love of God in such debilitating circumstances.
Despite the many challenges, we have and continue to witness the many heroic and selfless examples of men and women who truly exemplify human fraternity, goodness, and charity. We remember the medical and non-medical front-liners, law enforcement personnel, educators, parents, family members, caregivers, delivery persons, and many others who have stepped up to help one another in a collective way. These individuals have certainly put others before themselves in a heartfelt expression of human fraternity and solidarity, even when confronted with a threat to their own lives. In the words of Pope Francis, these are indeed “the saints next door”  (cf. Gaudete et Exultate, nn. 6-9, 9 April 2018) and we are grateful to God for having such generous selfless human individuals in our midst.
In recent months we have been following the news about the COVID-19 vaccines and the mixed reactions from peoples of all walks of life. Not only are there concerns from the scientific and medical fraternities but also from ethicists. We would like to encourage the faithful to be informed by reading the two recent documents issued from the Vatican:
(i) Notes on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, 17 December 2020); 
(ii) 20 Points for a Universal and Fair Destination of Vaccines for a Fairer and Healthier World (Vatican Covid-19 Commission and Pontifical Academy for Life, 29 December 2020). 
As our country receives and administers the COVID-19 vaccines, and roll out national programmes for vaccination, we recognise the difficult decisions governments and policy makers have to deal with. Reflecting on the Catholic Social Teaching, we call on those in authority to not only ensure that rigorous education and outreach campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy, but also an increased awareness in the following critical areas:
We are aware of the numerous uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines that are being rolled out in different countries. Not only questions about the efficacy and the safety of the vaccines but also ethical questions that pertain to the Catholic faith. In this section we address some key questions that relate to the ethical issues concerning the vaccines in the light of Catholic moral teaching.
At a time like this, where there is fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, as Catholics, our faith urges us to strive towards promoting human, social and spiritual values for the common good of all. As we continue to read the “signs of the times”, we need to discern wisely not just for the Church but in solidarity with others, for the whole human family.
Finally, we humbly acknowledge that “we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented” but not without hope. Let us turn our hearts to God, our common Father and the source of all goodness, to seek His blessings through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St Joseph, our protector.
We continue to remember and pray particularly for all the front-liners and those affected by the pandemic, for one another, and for the world.
Together with my brother bishops, we impart our blessings upon all.
I remain, yours faithfully in Christ
+ Most Rev Julian Leow Beng Kim D.D.
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur
+ Rt Rev Sebastian Francis
Bishop of Penang
+ Rt Rev Bernard Paul
Bishop of Malacca Johore
+ Most Rev John Wong
Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu
+ Rt Rev Cornelius Piong
Bishop of Keningau
+ Rt Rev Julius Gitom
Bishop of Sandakan
+ Most Rev Simon Poh
Archbishop of Kuching
+ Rt Rev Richard Ng
Bishop of Miri
+ Rt Rev Joseph Hii
Bishops of Sibu
 Pope Francis. Gaudete et Exsultate: Apostolic Exhortation on the Call to Holiness in Today’s World (19 March 2018), nn. 6-9. http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/ en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines (21 December 2020). https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_ cfaith_doc_20201221_nota-vaccini-anticovid_en.html.
 Vatican Covid-19 Commission and Pontifical Academy for Life. Press Release of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/ bollettino/pubblico/2020/12/29/201229d.html.
 Ibid. n. 8.
 The opinion expressed here is not related to the safety or efficacy of any vaccine in general or in any particular case.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions, 35-36 (8 Sept 2008). https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_ 20081208_dignitas-personae_en.html.
 Pontifical Academy for Life. “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses” (9 June 2005). The Linacre Quarterly, vol. 86, no. 2–3, May 2019, pp. 182- 87. https://www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6699053. Pontifical Academy for Life Note on Italian Vaccine Issue (31 July 2017) http://www.academyforlife.va/content/pav/en/the-academy/activity-academy/note-vaccini.html.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines (21 December 2020), n. 3.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines (21 December 2020), n. 5.
 Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi, 27 March 2020.
Prepared by Rev Fr Dr Clarence Devadass
Catholic Research Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Vaccine deployment plans and the rollout of national vaccination programmes have begun in many countries. Malaysia will follow suit very soon. As a Catholic, if you are trying to decide whether or not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, this question-and-answer series across the coming week may help you discern and decide.
At a time like this, our faith urges us to strive towards promoting human, social and spiritual values for the common good of all. As we continue to read the “signs of the times” and for whatever decisions we make, let us discern wisely not just for the Church but in solidarity with the whole of human family.