Fr Julian Leow has been appointed the fourth Archbishop of the Kuala Lumpur diocese, succeeding Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, who retired last year upon reaching the age of 75, as required under canon law.
The announcement was made by Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph S Marino in KL this evening.
Immediate reaction in Catholic circles to Julian’s appointment has been positive.
Julian, 50, has been Dean of Studies, Father Librarian and Initiation Year Director at College General, the seminary in Penang.
Born in Seremban, he studied at St Paul’s Institution before leaving for New South Wales University, where he obtained a degree in building. He then worked for six years in the construction line around the region before becoming a priest in 2002.
After his ordination, he worked in parishes in Seremban and Kajang and in between, studied Mandarin in Taiwan for six months.
He then took a course in church history in Rome for which he received a licentiate (equivalent to Master’s).
In terms of his theology and ecclesiology, Julian is seen as ‘centre’.
He has taught a course on Vatican II, the watershed council, convened by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s, that thrust open the church doors to reform.
Julian has also taught courses on New Way of Being Church, Mission History and Western Philosophy rather than the more esoteric theology subjects, according to a fellow lecturer at the seminary.
His sermons have been described as “soothing, about loving God”, not anything too profound. Not surprisingly, he does not seem overly fixated with church rules and regulations.
A fellow priest described Julian as an unassuming and diplomatic person, smart and mature. “My initial reaction is that he is the best choice considering everything. But as always, I will wait and see.”
Indeed, Archbishop-elect Julian is assuming an enormous responsibility, not least in the wake of recent events including the Allah controversy, and will need all the support he can get. His firm belief in dialogue, however, should stand him in good stead.
“I see him as a uniting factor … a humble chap, who would be good for the local church, especially KL,” said the priest.
A religious sister in her seventies who knew Julian as a boy in Seremban expressed delight: “I think he will be a very good and promising bishop. He is open, approachable and humble”. Her fellow sisters were pleased as well as they regarded Julian as “a great friend of the religious (orders)”.