Malaysia’s first saint? Catholic Church here starts bid to beatify Perak WWII hero Sybil Kathigasu

  • Sybil Kathigasu was a World War II hero from Perak, who aided and sheltered resistance fighters during the Japanese occupation, for which she was tortured
  • The Penang diocese has taken early steps towards Sybil’s canonisation, which would make her Malaysia’s first-ever saint
  • Sybil was conferred the George Medal in 1948, the only Malayan woman to receive the award during the war

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Malaysia could have its first saint as the Catholic Church here is seeking to nominate Sybil Kathigasu, a nurse in Perak who has been recognise as a World War II hero for her efforts in aiding the anti-Japanese forces back then, for sainthood.

The Penang diocese is responsible for the push for Sybil’s Sybil’scanonisation, the formal process to declare a deceased person as saint, in recognition of her courage and sacrifice during the war.

“She lived a life of service in love and compassion for the sick and suffering in the town of Papan in Perak, Malaysia,” Bishop Sebastian Francis of the Penang Diocese was quoted as saying by the Catholic newsletter The Herald.

“Her story continues to inspire many people from all walks of life in society till today.”

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Sybil, born to Irish-Indian parents, ran a free clinic in Papan, Perak, with her husband, Dr Abdon Clement, during the Japanese occupation of Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia).

The Papan Memorial House where Sybil Kathigasu and her husband aided the resistance during the Japanese Occupation. — Picture by Farhan Najib

The Papan Memorial House where Sybil Kathigasu and her husband aided the resistance during the Japanese Occupation. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Sybil provided medical aid, shelter, and intelligence to resistance fighters and civilians during the occupation, enduring severe torture for her efforts.

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She was awarded the George Medal by King George VI in 1948 for her role, becoming the only Malayan woman to receive this honour during World War II.

Sybil died in 1948 and was buried at the cemetery in the Church of St. Michael in Ipoh, near her clinic-cum-house in Papan.

If canonised, Sybil would become Malaysia’s first saint.

Sybil, an independent movie on Sybil ’s life, is slated for screening in mid-2025, according to media reports.

In 2010, Sybil’s grandniece, local model, actress and former Miss Malaysia Elaine Daly, played the title role in an eight-part TV drama titled Apa Dosaku? (What is My Sin?) that featured Sybil’s life and works.

Google Malaysia also honoured Sybil on September 3, 2016, by dedicating a doodle with the patterned ribbon of the George Medal on her 117th birth anniversary.

Google Malaysia has also honoured Kathigasu on September 3, 2016, by dedicating a doodle with the patterned ribbon of the George Medal on her 117th birth anniversary.

Google Malaysia has also honoured Kathigasu on September 3, 2016, by dedicating a doodle with the patterned ribbon of the George Medal on her 117th birth anniversary.

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