STEPHANIE GARCIA WRITES – First a South American becomes the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and now he wants to bring an Asian onto his Council for the Economy? Oh, how times have changed!

In all seriousness, we couldn’t be happier for George Yeo, who was just appointed as a member of the Vatican’s new Council for the Economy earlier this month. The membership on the fiscally-focused council came after Pope Francis called him to be part of a special commission created last summer with the goal of ridding the Holy See of its scandalous reputation. Quite a tall order, but one Archbishop Goh believed Yeo was ready for: “We are pleased that Mr. Yeo has accepted this heavy responsibility and we have every confidence that he will make invaluable contributions to the Church through his work in this commission and do us proud.”

The creation of the new council not only acknowledges the blunders that have marred the Church’s image in recent history, but it is atypical structures in church hierarchy. For one, Yeo’s membership is a stray from the previously strictly-European Vatican (albeit he is the only Asian member). Also, the Holy See steps out of its comfort zone by allowing lay Catholics to participate. In fact, seven of the fifteen seat holders are laypeople.

Controversial? Singaporeans are ardent Christians, but they don’t seem to mind deviation from ordained-only membership. Upon Yeo’s appointment to the special commission last summer, he was met with overwhelming support in cyberspace, mostly via Facebook. Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan expresses the sentiment of many others: “They couldn’t have found a better man for this sensitive and difficult task. We are all proud of George Yeo.” Looks like regional pride trumps Church tradition when it comes to participating in Vatican stewardship.

Mr. Yeo, we congratulate you on this honorable appointment and look forward to seeing the influence of your reputable voice of integrity from a region underrepresented in the Church.