Sebastian Francis

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Sebastian Francis

Cardinal, Bishop of Penang
Chairman of the Office of Social Communication of the FABC
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed7 July 2011
Installed19 August 2011
PredecessorAntony Selvanayagam
Other post(s)Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria Causa Nostrae Laetitiae,
President for the CBCMSB Commissions of Consecrate Life, of Social Communications, and of the Malaysian Catholic Education Council
Ordination28 July 1977
Consecration19 August 2011
by Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam
Created cardinal30 September 2023
by Pope Francis
RankCardinal priest
Personal details
Born (1951-11-11) 11 November 1951 (age 72)
DenominationRoman Catholic
ResidenceGeorge Town and Bukit Mertajam, Penang (current)
Johor Bahru, Johor (hometown)
Previous post(s)President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (2016-2023),
Vicar General of the Diocese of Melaka-Johor
(1999–2001, 2003–2011)
Parish priest, Church of the Immaculate Conception (1994–1999, 2001–2003)
Alma mater
MottoFiat voluntas tua
(English: Thy will be done)
Coat of arms

Sebastian Francis (born 11 November 1951) is a Malaysian prelate of the Catholic Church who has been serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Penang since 2011. Pope Francis elevated him to the rank of Cardinal on 30 September 2023. He is the second cardinal from Malaysia after Anthony Soter Fernandez.

Early life[edit]

Sebastian Francis was born on 11 November 1951, in Johor Bahru, which was then part of the Federation of Malaya. His grandparents had emigrated to Malaya in the 1890s from Ollur in Thrissur district, Kerala, India.[1]


Francis entered Saint Francis Xavier Minor Seminary in Singapore in 1967 and enrolled in the College General, a major seminary in Penang, three years later, where he studied theology.[2] At the age of 26, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Melaka-Johor on 28 July 1977.[2]

He was parish vicar of St. Francis Xavier in Malacca from 1977 to 1981 and then briefly parish vicar of Immaculate Conception in Johor Bahru.[3] He then moved to Rome and earned a licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in 1983.[2] He was parish vicar of St. Francis Xavier in Malacca in 1984; professor of dogmatic theology and spiritual director at the major seminary of Penang, chaplain of university students in Penang, administrator of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Paulau Ticus-Penang and pastoral coordinator from 1985 to 1988;[3] vicar general of Malacca-Johor from 1988 to 2001;[2] pastor of the Cathedral in Malacca from 1988 to 2004; diocesan administrator of Malacca-Johor in 2002-2003; parish priest of St. Louis in Kluang from 2004 to 2007; parish priest of the Immaculate Conception from 2007 to 2011; and pastor of Christ the King in Kulai in 2011–2012. He was vicar general of Malacca-Johor from 2003 to 2012.[3] He interrupted his pastoral work to study at the Maryknoll School of Theology in New York where he obtained a degree in justice and peace studies in 1991.[4]

Bishop of Penang[edit]

On 7 July 2012, Benedict XVI appointed Francis the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Penang.[3][2] He received his episcopal consecration on 20 August 2012 at St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam[4] from Archbishop Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam, with Bishops Antony Selvanayagam and Paul Tan Chee Ing serving as co-consecrators. His consecration was witnessed by 10,000 Catholics and attended by then Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng.[5]

On 9 July 2023, Pope Francis announced he planned to make Sebastian a cardinal at a consistory scheduled for 30 September. At that consistory, Pope Francis made him a cardinal priest, assigning him the title of Santa Maria Causa Nostrae Laetitiae.

He is the chairman of the Office of Social Communication (OSC) of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) since 2023.[4] He was formerly the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei from 2016 to 2023.


Honours of Malaysia[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Malaysian bishop searches roots in Kerala". Matters India. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Resignation of the Bishop of Penang and appointment of successor". Archived from the original on 2015-11-21. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
  3. ^ a b c d "Rinunce e Nomine, 07.07.2012" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  4. ^ a b c "Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, Malaysia, appointed Chairman of the FABC-OSC". Today's Catholic. Radio Veritas Asia. 14 February 2023. Retrieved 26 March 2023.
  5. ^ "New Bishop for the Diocese of Penang". Citizens Journal (Malaysia). 22 August 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  6. ^ "Bishop Sebastian awarded DGPN". Herald Malaysia. 24 July 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2023.
  7. ^ "71 new Datuks in Penang".

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Penang
Succeeded by