Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam: Agent of Change

In the shadow of a global pandemic, a dedicated team embarked on a three-year project to document the life of the third metropolitan archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam.

May 17, 2024

Pics courtesy of ArchKL Social Communications Ministry

By Patricia Pereira

In the shadow of a global pandemic, a dedicated team embarked on a three-year project to document the life of the third metropolitan archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam. Their efforts culminated in the release of his biography on May 10, coinciding with the diamond jubilee of his sacerdotal anniversary.

Initiated by Archbishop Julian Leow, the successor to Archbishop Emeritus Murphy, and driven by Fr Dr Clarence Devadass, Director of the Catholic Research Centre, the biography was penned by three seasoned female writers, all former journalists with extensive experience.

The biography, titled Agent of Change: Essays on the life and times of Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, details the life and legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Murphy. Its launch at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre was attended by family members of the archbishop emeritus, clergy, religious, and laity. Among the 150 guests were individuals who had collaborated with or encountered the prelate, along with childhood friends whose contributions were integral to the book’s completion.

In the biography, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s life is not depicted as a linear timeline but rather the book is filled with anecdotes, reflections, and personal encounters that reveal the depths of Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s character. It highlights his steadfast commitment to social justice, interfaith dialogue, and compassion, emphasising his transformative impact on the community and the Church.

The event commenced with speeches delivered by Archbishop Julian and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Wojciech Zaluski. A captivating visual narrative of Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s life ensued, presenting a mosaic of moments frozen in time, each laden with significance and depth. These visuals served as a touching reminder of the milestones and challenges that defined his journey, offering a glimpse into the triumphs he celebrated and the adversities he overcame.

Interwoven with these visuals were segments featuring individuals who shared personal encounters with the archbishop emeritus. Among them were Bishop Bernard Paul of the Malacca Johore Diocese, along with several clergy members from the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese and the Penang Diocese. Their testimonies added layers of insight and emotion to the celebration of Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s impactful legacy.

The pinnacle of the event — the book launch — took place as the archbishop emeritus placed his palm on an iPad, unveiling the book on the screen. This symbolic gesture symbolised the digital age merging with the timeless wisdom and teachings of Archbishop Emeritus Murphy, bridging the past with the present and the physical with the digital realm. Guests had the opportunity to glimpse the contents of the biography as the pages turned, marking the beginning of its journey into the hand and hearts of the readers.

The apostolic nuncio then honoured Archbishop Emeritus Murphy with the papal blessing for his 60 years of priesthood, while Archbishop Julian presented him with a framed cover of the book. Subsequently, a second video showcased congratulatory messages from family, clergy, and members of the interfaith council.

A notable feature of the event was the coffee talk session with the authors — Theresa Manavalan, Marina Emmanuel and Jacqueline Toyad — providing a rare opportunity for guests to glean insights into the creative process behind the biography. The writers shared anecdotes and reflections, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the journey of bringing Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s story to life. Their insights into the creative process, the challenges they faced, and the moments of inspiration they encountered added a layer of depth to the narrative, enriching the reader’s understanding of the man behind the biography.

Despite the formidable challenges posed by the pandemic, the authors traversed the length and breadth of Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s life through extensive research and heartfelt personal interviews. Their odyssey was guided by the light of generosity and kindness, as individuals from all walks of life opened their hearts and homes to share their memories and insights.

As described by the authors, the book aims to provide readers with a glimpse into the remarkable life and profound personal commitment of a man revered by many for his spiritual guidance and humanitarian endeavours. It is a testament to Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s enduring legacy, serving as an inspiration for generations to come. For the authors, the biography was not merely a literary endeavour, but a personal journey of understanding and empathy, bridging the chasm between the distant figure and the deeply human soul.

The celebration continued with a cake cutting session followed by lunch. As the book was made available for sale, many took the opportunity to get their copy signed by the prelate. With care and dedication, he signed each copy brought to him, making the moment special for every recipient. This personal touch reflected Archbishop Emeritus Murphy’s humility and warmth, endearing him to all who had the privilege of meeting him.

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