Sri Lanka politicians pledge peaceful polls and papal visit, cardinal

We need to have faith and believe in what they both told us – Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo was quoted in Messenger, Sri Lanka’s Catholic newspaper.

The cardinal was sharing what he felt about the assurance he said leading candidates – incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his health minister, Maithripala Sirisena, the common opposition candidate – gave Sri Lanka’s Catholic bishops that there would be no trouble after the Jan. 8 polls and that a peaceful atmosphere would prevail for the visit of the Holy Father.

Click image for full story on ncronline.org

NCR story Sri Lanka polls papal visit NJ Viehland

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Catholic in Asia, don’t stop at baptism

Bishop Claver baptizes Aaron Viehland NJ Viehland

Bishop Francisco Clave baptizes Aaron / NJ Viehland Photos

Francisco F. Claver, S.J. (20 January 1926 – 1 July 2010) was a Filipino Jesuit priest, appointed and consecrated first bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Malaybalay in the Philippines.  He was the first member of the Igorot ethnic groups in the northern Philippines to be made a bishop. 

Claver completed a masters degree in Anthropology in the Ateneo de Manila and finished his doctorate in the University of Colorado. Ordained to the priesthood on 18 June 1961, he was appointed as the bishop of what is now the Malaybalay Diocese on 18 June 1969 and was consecrated on 22 August 1969. Claver resigned in 1984, but was appointed Apostolic Vicar of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontac-Lagawe, Philippines. He retired on 15 April 2004.

Much talk about Church renewal and change today under Pope Francis’ reform movement echoes some of Bishop Claver’s ideas articulated decades ago. In particular, he has asserted that lay people need to reform also. It is not enough for Church members to be baptized and take part in Sacraments. Laity need also to participate in leadership roles for the change that needs to happen. They are not only subjects who will be affected by change, but also key players who will effect the change.

Bishop Claver “Ikoy” was born in the province of Bontoc, Mountain Province and was one of the most influential people of the Cordilleras and courageous leader against martial law. In his activities and writings, he has emphasized the importance of a participatory Church that is necessary in carrying out the aggiornamento called for by the Second Vatican Council. For him, the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) or the Basic Christian Communities (BCCs) are the primary and particular embodiment and vehicles of participation and Church renewal. He died in Manila on July 1, 2010.

 

 

Flashback: Why Pope Francis’ supposed “revolution” isn’t new for some in Asia

By NJ Viehland

AMOR, NJ Viehland

Religious women postulants offer flowers at Mass at 2013 AMOR meeting in Tagaytay City, Philippines/ NJ Viehland Photos

Taking renewal in the Church as the overarching theme of its structure, reflection and activities through the past four decades, the FABC has drafted what Father Arevalo calls a “map for evangelization in Asia.”

        

NCR PCNE tagle arevalo by NJ Viehland

Father Catalino Arevalo (right) with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila at the 2013 Philippine Congress on the New Evangelization in Manila / NJ Viehland Photos

 MANILA — “It’s a new world,” Jesuit Father Catalino Arevalo, premier theologian of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), says 40 years after the Catholic association was formally established.

         Retracing the FABC’s journey in an interview at Loyola House of Studies in Quezon City, he marveled at how “the average Catholic person today with all the new media is very different from the ordinary Catholic person when I was a young priest at 40 in 1960.”

         He said he never imagined that people in the mountains of Bukidnon province would see the multi-awarded Grammy winner Lady Gaga on television nor the Philippine popular artists as they performed more than 560 miles northwest in Manila. In his view, this reflects a similar situation in many Asian nations.

         In bringing the Gospel to the peoples of Asia, “we are like Jesus and the first disciples,” said the priest who has advised Asian Church and other leaders. “We have to start anew.”

FABC, Mapping Evangelization in Modern Asia

          More than 50 presidents and delegates of the 19-member bishops’ conferences (were to be) guided by this same spirit of renewal and vision of evangelization when they gathered in Vietnam for the Tenth FABC Plenary Assembly (X FABC Plenary Assembly) Nov. 19-25, 2012 , [1] the latest of such assemblies. They represented local Churches stretching from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to East Timor (Timor Leste) in Southeast Asia. The theme of that year’s assembly was: “FABC at Forty Years – Responding to the Challenges of Asia: The New Evangelization.” 

         The delegates were joined by resource persons as well as observers from the Vatican, other continental bishops’ groups and funding agencies, all accompanying the bishops as they reflected on opportunities and pastoral challenges that society presents the Church in Asia in the 21st century.

         The FABC plenary assembly, held every four years, usually brings together about 100 bishop-delegates with about the same number of resource persons to study a particular theme, pray together and draft a statement at the meeting’s close.

X FABC group picture

Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc, Vietnam, Dec. 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

         The working document for the event invited the delegates to discern how the Church can spread the Gospel in societies of Asia impacted by dynamics triggered by globalization, cultural diversity, poverty and many other factors. They will also try to take account of concerns such as: migrants and refugees, indigenous peoples, population, religious freedom, threats to life, social communications, ecology, laity, women, youth, Pentecostalism and vocations.

         The Holy See approved the statutes of the FABC in 1972. This voluntary association of bishops’ conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia was formed “to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good.” 

        Since the start, Father Arevalo has served as a resource person, writing adviser and theological consultant for the FABC. Bishops who pioneered the federation were just settling back in their dioceses after the close of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965). They forged their plans for the FABC as local Churches in Asia grappled with questions on how to spread the Gospel in a “new world” being born after the colonial period

        Taking renewal in the Church as the overarching theme of its structure, reflection and activities through the past four decades, the FABC has drafted what Father Arevalo calls a “map for evangelization in Asia.”

Local Church

         “The FABC already made a general map of evangelization in Asia” in the 1970s, Father Arevalo pointed out, and its primary agent has always been the local Church.

          When Asian bishops came to Manila during the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1970, they met to discuss setting up a permanent structure by which Asian Church leaders could gather regularly to share their experiences and develop among themselves what local Churches could do to bring the realities of Vatican II to life in Asia. “Local Church” refers to the Church in each country, Father Arevalo explained, and the FABC gatherings were envisioned to “begin with bishops, but not just bishops.”

         Among those who gathered in 1970 were several prelates who would be instrumental in bringing the FABC to life, including Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Korea, Cardinal Valerian Gracias of India and Cardinal Justinus Darmojuwono of Indonesia, as well as Archbishop Mariano Gaviola of the Philippines and Bishop Francis Hsu of Hong Kong.

         In 1971, Bishop Hsu convened a meeting in Hong Kong for the presidents of 13 episcopal conferences, a gathering that would become the FABC Central Committee. Today, 19 episcopal conferences in Asia are FABC members : Bangladesh, East Timor, India – CBCI (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India), India – Syro-Malabar, India – Syro-Malankara, India – Latin Rite, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos-Cambodia, Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan (ROC), Thailand and Vietnam. The newest member is the bishops’ conference of East Timor, which was launched just this year. Previously, the youngest member was the Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan, which officially joined the FABC in 2008.

         The FABC also has associate members in nine Asian places that have no episcopal conference. Three are dioceses: Hong Kong and Macau in China, and Novosibirsk in eastern Russia. Four other associate members are in Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The remaining two are Mongolia and Nepal.

         In India, four distinct episcopal conferences belong to the federation. The bishops’ conference of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and that of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church represent the Oriental rite, while the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India represents the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. CBCI, the general body for the whole country, was among the FABC’s founding members.

         The first FABC plenary assembly in 1974 brought hundreds of bishops together in Taipei. The statement and recommendations they issued under the title “Evangelization in Modern Day Asia” spell out the perspective of the Asian context, as well as the FABC vision and approach to evangelization in the region.

         The statement stresses that the local Church immediately and primarily must be the agent, the subject of evangelization, in contemporary Asia. Father Arevalo elaborated that instead of always waiting for instructions from Rome on exactly what to do, “The Vatican Council already said it is time now for each of the local Churches to reflect and define how they see and how they prioritize the work that they must do.” Even so, he added, the FABC has always acknowledged that local Church activity would always work together with Rome.

         “It’s just like a man and a woman who are married now,” he continued. “Must they ask their grandmother or grandfather what they do each day of their lives? No. They get advice and direction from the grandfather or the grandmother, but it’s their responsibility to know what they must do with their own family, following with fidelity what their grandparents taught them also. So that’s the meaning of the local Church’s priority of responsibility.”

Part 2 Triple Dialogue

[Written for a project: 40 Years of FABC, September 12, 2012]

[1] The Xth FABC Plenary Assembly was actually held Dec. 10-16, 2012 to make way for a surprise consistory then Pope Benedict XVI set for Nov. 24 to create new cardinals, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.

published with permission, FABC Office of Social Communication Executive Secretary

Interview: Missionary nuns help shorthanded diocese minister to poor Filipino families

Sr. Bernadette de Silva Wijeyeratne, Holy Family of Bordeaux (HFB) directs fishermen's recollection, Bulan, Sorsogon, Philippines. / photo courtesy of HFB

Sr. Bernadette de Silva Wijeyeratne, Holy Family of Bordeaux (HFB) directs fishermen’s recollection, Bulan, Sorsogon, Philippines. / photo courtesy of HFB

Manila – Sr. Bernadette de Silva Wijeyeratne came to the Philippines 23 years ago through the mission program of the Sri Lanka province of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux. Sr. De Silva, as neighbors and friends now call her, knew bitter civil war and deep poverty in Sri Lanka. Still, living among poor families in Sorsogon province is full of demands.

She spoke with Global Sisters’ Report in Manila about her experiences among the country’s poorest families in Sorsogon diocese some 186 miles southeast of Manila, and her international institute founded in the early 1800s.

French Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles organized women and men volunteers of all conditions and vocations to proclaim the “good news” by imitating the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Read the full interview with Sr. de Silva

A new Silk Route to world peace and beyond? – Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka

China’s President Xi Jin Ping has just wrapped up a South Asian tour targeting a new Maritime Silk Route. And a papal letter reportedly invites him to retread Marco Polo’s original Silk Route, this time East to West.

A papal invitation

The news of Pope Francis inviting President Xi to visit the Vatican was reported by well-informed Rome journalist Gerard O’Connell. According to O’Connell, whose Argentine-born wife Elisabetta Pique has just published the recentmost papal biography, Pope Francis has sent the invitation through an Argentinian emissary.

The papal letter, reportedly, offers to meet with the Chinese president even in Beijing. It is a sequel to Pope Francis’ earlier-expressed readiness to “visit China tomorrow.” The unprecedented papal initiative independent of the Curia is reminiscent of Saint John XXIII’s innovative moves to build contact with then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Those prophetic moves can have subtle lessons for today as well.

Pope John XXIII and Khrushchev

Pope John was the only recent pope with wide diplomatic experience in Eastern Europe and Western Europe. He also had pastoral wisdom to act decisively and discreetly amid curial dithering. Then curial heavyweights like Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani said contact with the USSR would weaken the faith of Eastern bloc Catholics and give wrong signals to Western nations. 

Despite such curial misgivings, the pope welcomed Khrushchev’s daughter Rada and her husband Adzhuberi to the Vatican. The visitors conveyed warm greetings from the Soviet leader and his appreciation for the pope’s work for world peace. But when Adzhuberi proposed diplomatic relations between the Holy See and USSR, the pope was slow to respond. He used a metaphor, “God did not create the world in just one day!”

Diplomatic relations?

The onetime diplomat intimated his rustic Roncalli bias for people’s pastoral welfare over diplomatic links. “The Vatican has two hands, and we want to shake the two hands of the USSR, that of the State and that of all the members of the Russian Church,” he said.

Pope John’s gutsy pastoral foresight has much wisdom for today, especially for those who consider diplomatic links more important than China Catholics’ welfare.

His informal invitation, “I hope that if Mr Khrushchev visits Rome, both of us will find time for a meeting,” never worked out. Nonetheless, the two genial giants had taken the first steps toward the thaw. It was bigger than man’s first steps on the moon. History was in the making, and the world would never be the same again.

Patriotic Associations

The breakthrough following that thaw helped ease Church-State tensions in the USSR. Already, there had been token actions like the freeing of Ukranian Archbishop Josyf Slipyj from detention. Over time, other similar moves followed within the Soviet bloc.

Improved Church-State relations weakened patriotic Catholic associations such as Hungary’s Opus Pax, and Czechoslovakia’s Pacem in Terris. When Yugoslavia’s Church-State dialogue grew, groups like Cyril Methodius Society lost their grip over religious affairs.

Confucian insights

What started with Khrushchev greetings for Pope John’s 80th birthday launched a momentum in Eastern Europe. Its worldwide impact endures still even though the two leaders never met. Will Pope Francis’ letter to President Xi open another historic chapter in world history?

The leader of China’s 1.3 billion people may need time and space to reflect on and respond to the humble gesture by the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics. Whatever may be its outcome, the papal letter was a Jesus moment like Matteo Ricci’s overtures to Confucian culture. Once more, history is in via, with an invitation to leaven world peace with Confucian insights. The Lord of history knows that its ultimate end result lies beyond the control of either pope or president.

****************

Hector Welgampola has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.  Write himwelgampo@gmail.com 

UN officials hail role of cultural, religious dialogue in advancing peace, development

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City's observance of 3rd World Interfaith harmony Week. - screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube http://youtu.be/jIappGJ3V3k

Muslim contestant delivers her speech during the elocution contest on peace on Jan. 30, 2014 as part of Zamboanga City’s observance of 3rd World Interfaith Harmony Week. – screen grab from video by Silsilah Dialogue Center on YouTube

United Nations officials yesterday highlighted the important role played by the initiative known as the Alliance of Civilizations in building bridges to peace, especially amid the current instability in many parts of the world, as they kicked off a global forum in Bali, Indonesia.

The Forum hosted this past week for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region focused on the theme “Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values.” Discussions ran along the lines of  the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

Launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, the Alliance seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide.

“The Alliance is here for you to serve as a soft power tool for conflict prevention, reconciliation, and to advance sustainable development,” said the High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

“Globally, there is a persistent need for the work of the Alliance if we really want to pursue the future we want,” he told the gathering of government officials, business representatives, faith leaders, media professionals and young people from around the world.

Nasser noted that the Alliance retains a strong commitment to innovative approaches. For example, it is working with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote digital games and apps as avenues for cross-cultural dialogue and conflict resolution.

It is also working with private sector organizations such as the BMW Group and others to promote dialogue and intercultural understanding, while making vital contributions to prosperity and peace.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks noted that too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. “Too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines,” he stated, adding “We have much work ahead of us across a landscape of tension.”

In this context, the the alliance has supported grassroots initiatives, including encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao and helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. 

Read the full report here

View video of Nasser’s speech here

Bombay’s Cardinal Gracias’ Greeting to Pope – full text and photos

India's Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) led the opening Eucharist for the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly . The Holy See approved the statutes of the voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, and East Asia Nov. 16, 1972. The federation has been created to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good. Later, Churches in Central Asia also joined FABC. Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales (rear) served as Pope Benedict XVI's official representative to the 10th Plenary assembly in Xuan Loc and Ho Chi Minh City from Dec. 10-16, 2013 (N.J. Viehland Photo)

India’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) led the opening Eucharist for the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly Dec. 10-16, 2012 in Xuan Loc, Vietnam. The Holy See approved the statutes of the voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, and East Asia Nov. 16, 1972. The federation has been created to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good. Later, Churches in Central Asia also joined FABC. – N.J. Viehland Photos)

[updated Aug. 18, 2014, 4:45 p.m.]

…in many ways Asia is very central for the future of the world and for the future of the Church…”

                                                             – Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (Bombay)

                                                             President, Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences

                                                             Pope Francis’ meeting with Asian Bishops, Haemi Shrine

                                                             Aug. 17, 2014

Most Holy Father,

At this moment, our minds and hearts go back to that historic occasion forty four years ago when the Bishops of Asia met together in Manila on the occasion of Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to the Philippines in 1970. It was the first time that so many Bishops from Asia – around 180 were present – came together to exchange experiences and to deliberate jointly on pastoral issues facing this vast continent rich in its diversity.

Thrilled by this experience, the Founding Fathers established the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) with the blessings of Pope Paul VI. FABC today has 19 member conferences comprising 27 countries, and 9 associate members besides: Churches which do not yet have Episcopal Conferences.

Bishops, staff and office heads comprising clergy and lay people posed during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly held in Xuan Loc, Vietnam  from Dec. 10-16, 2012 - NJ Viehland Photos

Bishops, staff and office heads comprising clergy and lay people posed during the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly held in Xuan Loc, Vietnam from Dec. 10-16, 2012 – NJ Viehland Photos

Asia is a continent experiencing the hopes and joys of a constant rebirth in the Spirit. Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in Asia.

It is a young continent with a majority of the population young. Hence in many ways Asia is a very central for the future of the world and for the future of the Church.

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. - NJ Viehland Photos

Before Mass, Vietnamese Catholic youth cheerfully await a delegation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) visiting their parish as part of X FABC Plenary Assembly activities in Dec. 2012. – NJ Viehland Photos

Globalization has impacted Asia and this has brought new challenges to the Church: Asian people are religious by nature, yet a spirit of secularism and materialism is creeping in. Family ties once considered so important and so deeply rooted in Asian society are slowly being eroded.

Our Lady of Vietnam on wood. By NJ Viehland

Our Lady of Vietnam on wood. By NJ Viehland

Again, while the Asian soul treats life as sacred, there are rising threats to life that are disturbing in many ways. The Asian seeks and enjoys community. Now this too is being impacted upon with a strong sense of individualism.

We are in this beautiful land of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions. During this week 124 more martyrs are being beatified. It is the blood of these holy martyrs that has been the seed for the growth of the Church here.

The Asian Youth Day has shown how vibrant and enthusiastic the Korean youth are. Korea is a land where the laity has played a special role in Evangelization and this becomes a model for many of our Churches. We wish to be touched by the infectious passion of the Korean Church as we go back to our dioceses.

Young Catholics listen to Pope Francis' homily for the Mass at the close of the 6th Asian Youth Day, applauding when he declared, "You are the present of the Church!" - screen grab, live stream coverage

Young Catholics listen to Pope Francis’ homily for the Mass at the close of the 6th Asian Youth Day, applauding when he declared, “You are the present of the Church!” – screen grab, live stream coverage

Most Holy Father we thank you for this visit to Korea, your first to Asia. You have brought the person of Jesus to us by your Message. You have inspired us by your example. We thank you for your leadership and we pray for the continuous assistance of the Spirit to you and God’s protection on your Petrine ministry. While we ask you to bless and pray for us, we commit ourselves to make the person of Jesus and His Message continuously more known, more understood, more loved and more followed. This we will do by our word, by our lives and by our work. Bless the Church in Asia, bless us the leaders of the Church. May Mary the Star of New Evangelization, our Mother and the Mother of Asia continue to guide, protect and intercede for us.

Thank you.