Albertus Soegijapranata


November 30, 2021

Mgr. Albertus Soegijapranata, (Improved Spelling: Albertus Sugiyapranata; November 25, 1896 – July 22, 1963), better known by his birth name Soegija, was Apostolic Vicar of Semarang, later archbishop. He was the first indigenous Indonesian bishop and is known for his pro-nationalist stance, often referred to as "100% Catholic, 100% Indonesian". Soegija was born in Surakarta, Dutch East Indies, to the family of a courtier and his wife. The Muslim family then moved to the city of Yogyakarta when Soegija was a child. Because he was recognized as an intelligent child, in 1909 Soegija was asked by Pr. Frans van Lith to join Xavier College, a Jesuit school in Muntilan. There Soegija became interested in Catholicism, and was baptized on December 24, 1910. After graduating from Xaverius in 1915 and serving as a teacher there for one year, Soegija spent two years studying at the seminary in Muntilan before leaving for the Netherlands in 1919. He spent two years studying as a monk with the Society of Jesus at the Grave; he also completed his juniorate there in 1923. After three years of studying philosophy at the Berchmann College in Oudenbosch, he was sent back to Muntilan as a teacher; he worked there for two years. In 1928 he returned to the Netherlands to study theology at Maastricht, and was ordained on August 15, 1931. After that Soegija added the word "pranata" after his name. In 1933 Soegijapranata was sent back to the Dutch East Indies to become a priest. Soegijapranata started his priesthood as parish vicar for Pr. van Driessche in Kidul Loji Parish, Yogyakarta, but was given its own parish after St. Yoseph in Bintaran opened in 1934. During this period he tried to increase the sense of Catholicism in Catholic society and emphasized the need for strong relations between Catholic families. In 1940 Soegijapranata was consecrated as apostolic vicar of the newly established Apostolic Vicariate of Semarang. Although the number of Catholics increased after he was consecrated, Soegijapranata had to face various challenges. The Japanese Empire occupied the Dutch East Indies in early 1942, and during that period many churches were taken over and many priests were arrested or killed. Soegijapranata was able to escape this incident, and spent the period of occupation accompanying the Catholics in his own vicariate. After President Soekarno proclaimed Indonesia's independence, Semarang was filled with chaos. Soegijapranata helped finish the Five-Day Battle and demanded that the central government send someone from the government to deal with the riots in Semarang. Despite this request, Semarang became increasingly violent and in 1947 Soegijapranata moved to Yogyakarta. During the national revolution Soegijapranata tried to increase Indonesia's recognition in the wider world and convince Catholics to fight for their country. Not long after the Dutch recognized Indonesian sovereignty, Soegijapranata returned to Semarang. In the post-revolutionary period he wrote extensively on communism and sought to develop Catholic influence, as well as brokering several political factions. On January 3, 1961 he was appointed archbishop, when the Holy See established six ecclesiastical provinces in the territory of Indonesia. Soegijapranata joined the first session of the Second Vatican Council. He died in 1963 in Steyl, the Netherlands and his body was flown back to Indonesia. He was made a National Hero and was buried in the Giri Tunggal Heroes Cemetery, Semarang. Soegijapranata is respected by Indonesians, both Catholics and non-Catholics. Various biographies about him have been written by various writers, and in 2012 a fictional biopic by Garin Nugroho, entitled Soegija

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