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Malaysian diocese opens beatification cause for war hero Sybil Kathigasu

Malaysia’s Cardinal Sebastian Francis has called for the beatification and canonization of Sybil Kathigasu. (Photo Credit: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images and Mzdannial, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Diocese of Penang in Malaysia has officially opened the cause of beatification and canonization for Sybil Kathigasu, a nurse and civilian war hero.

In a diocesan notification issued on July 1, Cardinal Sebastian Francis, Bishop of Penang, noted that Kathigasu’s life continues to inspire people even 76 years after her death.

“I see this as an opportunity to bring together and reflect on her life for us as people of faith,” said the cardinal.

Kathigasu was renowned for providing medical assistance to resistance forces during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in World War II.

She also secretly listened to BBC broadcasts using shortwave radio to supply valuable intelligence to the resistance.

In 1943, Kathigasu was arrested by the Japanese military police, tortured, and imprisoned for two years. She was eventually freed by communist forces in August 1945 and brought to the United Kingdom for medical treatment.

King George VI awarded Kathigasu the George Medal for Gallantry, making her the only Malayan woman to receive this accolade.

She passed away in the United Kingdom in 1948 and was initially buried in Lanark, Scotland. Her remains were later re-interred at the Catholic cemetery beside St. Michael’s Church in Ipoh.

Cardinal Francis emphasized that Kathigasu’s legacy transcends cultural and religious boundaries.

“Her life example draws us to the fact that what motivated her is the faith instilled in her by her family, enabling her to live a life marked by a spirituality of dependence on God’s grace,” he said.

Additionally, the cardinal announced the appointment of Fr. Eugene Benedict from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur to assist with the initial process of Kathigasu’s sainthood cause.

“I wish that efforts be made to gather, compile, study, reflect, and make available her life and work as a testimony to us. I hope to advance her cause for beatification and canonization by God’s grace,” stated Cardinal Francis.


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.