Pope Francis’ Homily at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day – full text

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. - screenshot from live stream coverage

Pope Francis at the Mass near Gwanghwamun Gate, central Seoul, South Korea on Aug. 16 during the beatification of 124 martyrs who were killed between 1791 and 1888, because of their faith. – screenshot from live stream coverage                                       

  “Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love!”

              – Pope Francis at Concluding Mass for 6th Asian Youth Day

                 Haemi Castle Square, South Korea, Aug. 17, 2014

 

Dear Young Friends,

The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!

These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time.

The words which we have just reflected upon are a consolation. The other part of this day’s theme – Asian Youth! Wake up!– speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility. Let us consider for a moment each of these words.

Participant leads prayers of the faithful at Mass presided by Pope Francis on the closing of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17, 2014. - screen shot of news coverage.

Participant leads prayers of the faithful at Mass presided by Pope Francis on the closing of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17, 2014. – screen shot of news coverage.

First, the word “Asian”. You have gathered here in Korea from all parts of Asia. Each of you has a unique place and context where you are called to reflect God’s love. The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!

screen grab live coverage of the Mass closing 6th Asian Youth Day in Korea Aug. 17, 2014 led by Pope Francis.

screen grab live coverage of the Mass closing 6th Asian Youth Day in Korea Aug. 17, 2014 led by Pope Francis.

As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism and sealed within you at Confirmation, and in union with your pastors, you can appreciate the many positive values of the diverse Asian cultures. You are also able to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.

Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: “Youth”. You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.

Religious men and women joined the closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day led by Pope Francis Aug. 17, 2014 in Korea. - screen grab from live coverage.

Religious men and women joined the closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day led by Pope Francis Aug. 17, 2014 in Korea. – screen grab from live coverage.

As young Christians, whether you are workers or students,whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are the present of the Church. Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church – a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.

Delegate prays for Churches in Asia during Prayers of the Faithful of the Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17 in Korea. - screen grab live coverage

Delegate prays for Churches in Asia during Prayers of the Faithful of the Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day Aug. 17 in Korea. – screen grab live coverage

In your Christian lives, you will find many occasions that will tempt you, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, to push away the stranger, the needy, the poor and the broken-hearted. It is these people especially who repeat, today, the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!” The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ. It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus: “Lord, help me!” Let us respond, not like those who push away people who make demands on us, as if serving the needy gets in the way of our being close to the Lord. No! We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.

Thousands of young Catholics from around Asia gathered for Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day, Aug. 17, 2014 near Haemi Shrine, South Korea. - screen grab from live coverage.

Thousands of young Catholics from around Asia gathered for Mass led by Pope Francis at the close of 6th Asian Youth Day, Aug. 17, 2014 near Haemi Shrine, South Korea. – screen grab from live coverage.

Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme – “Wake up!” –Wake up! speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel. Today’s responsorial psalm invites us constantly to “be glad and sing for joy”. No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice. It’s no good when I see young people who are asleep. No! Wake up. Go. Go. Go ahead. Dear young people, “God, our God, has blessed us!” (Ps 67:6); from him we have “received mercy” (Rom 11:30). Assured of God’s love, go out to the world so that, “by the mercy shown to you”, they – your friends, co-workers, neighbors, countrymen, everyone on this great continent – “may now receive the mercy of God” (cf. Rom 11:31). It is by his mercy that we are saved.

Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honor him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia. Amen.

Young people, Wake Up!

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Korea will give Pope Francis a peep into the mosaic of Asian Christianity, by Hector Welgampola

The Churches of the global South have begun to feature pretty well on the agenda of Pope Francis’ early travels. His first trip was to attend the World Youth Day activities in Brazil. Then came his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. Come August, the pope will travel to South Korea. He is due to attend the Asian Youth Day there and the beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs.

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea's website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

Korean martyr Paul Yun Ji-chung screenshot from Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea’s website. http://www.koreanmartyrs.or.kr/sbss124_en_view.php?num=1

 Outreach to North Korea?

Brazil offered Pope Francis a brief encounter with groups of youth worldwide: the future Church. In South Korea he will meet with the future Church of Asia. His visit venue is 200 kilometres away from the venue of the recent ferry disaster. But, the tragic tales of the ferry martyrs will be even more palpable than distant memories about the beati Martyrs. Yet, more eloquent than the silence of all these dead is the muffled cry of living martyrs.  The first Asian visit can offer Pope Francis an opportunity for pastoral outreach to the entire Korean Nation, which was divided six decades ago by outside intervention. Just as Pope Paul VI spoke to the Chinese Nation from Hong Kong in 1970, no doubt, Pope Francis could reach out to all Koreans of North and South with a reconciliatory message. Exposure to the last vestiges of political ideology that still linger in Asia may also help alert him to newer threats of neo-racism sprouting in the region.

Catholic Korean lay volunteers and Sisters of Mary nuns from Korean Boys Town and Girls Town joined Filipino Sisters of Mary and other Catholics led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in celebrating the 20th death anniversary of Fr. Aloysius Schwartz in Cavite Province. - NJ Viehland Photos

Catholic Korean lay volunteers and Sisters of Mary nuns from Korean Boys Town and Girls Town joined Filipino Sisters of Mary and other Catholics led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in celebrating the 20th death anniversary of Fr. Aloysius Schwartz in Cavite Province. – NJ Viehland Photos

Laity-founded Church

The laity-founded Korean Church has been unique in many ways. Like most early Asians, Koreans revered the written word. Some Korean scholars visiting China about 300 years ago, brought home Scripture texts including those of Jesuit missioner Matteo Ricci. Laypeople’s study of these texts led to further visits to China where they sought Baptism in 1784. Scripture-based faith sharing sustained the priestless lay Church. And when missioners first arrived nearly 50 years later, they were surprised to find a faith community of 4,000 Catholics.

Integrated faith and witness

Lay spirituality has been the backbone of the Korean Church. During the last century, the virility of Korean laity’s faith became evident in the founding of lay groups such as the Korean Catholic Farmers’ Movement and the Woori Theology Institute. Woori’s young lay theologians have engaged in theological research and sociological surveys related to the everyday life of the local Church. Their research projects have helped improve the effectiveness of pastoral programs. As need arose, these lay movements worked alongside the Korean Priests’ Association for Justice. The Jesuari prayer movement met another aspect of people’s spiritual needs.

Such faith witness was encouraged by the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, whom Koreans often described as “the Nation’s conscience.” The first Korean to receive the red hat, he prided that his Myeongdong Cathedral had become the rallying point of striking workers of various faiths. The Korean Church integrated people’s faith witness with solidarity in people’s struggle for human rights in a fast industrialised society.

Lay saints

In many countries, canonisation is considered a privilege of clergy and Religious. But the vast number of Korean saints are laypeople. In 1984, Saint John Paul II canonised 103 Korean Martyrs. And on the upcoming visit, Pope Francis will participate in the beatification of another 124 Martyrs. They all personify the faith journey of mostly laity among some 8,000 Catholics persecuted for their faith through 18th-19th centuries. More importantly, although the country is divided as North and South Korea, the Church is not. And so the martyrs include Northerners as well as Southerners.

While celebrating the faith integrity of such witnesses who died for the faith, the Church needs more the integrity of those who live it out in service. The late president Kim Dae-jung’s long political struggle as well as the earlier faith witness of poet Kim Chi-ha are just two examples of such Eucharistic service as bread broken to feed people’s contextual hunger for justice, peace.

Lived witness

Jesus’ multiplication of loaves “shows the future Heaven,” said Kim Chi-ha in the “Declaration of Conscience” he wrote in prison in his early years. This reality is further depicted in his poem:

“Food is heaven As you can’t go to heaven by yourself Food has to be shared Food is heaven As you see the stars in heaven together Food is to be shared with everybody When the food goes into a mouth Heaven is worshipped in the mind Food is heaven Ah, ah, food is to be shared by everybody.”

Kim’s earlier poetry was similar to that of Latin American Ernesto Cardinale, which cannot be unfamiliar to Pope Francis. More than any recent pope, he is equipped with the grace to grasp the native wavelength of people’s yearnings that are variedly tagged in Asia as Korea’s Minjung theology, Japan’s Burakumin theology or India’s Dalit theology, all of which reflect the Gospel’s call for sharing and justice. Will he listen to these Southern voices of the Spirit, which some Church leaders have heard but not heeded? END

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

Message to Youth of Asia ahead of Asian Youth Day – FABC office member

Screenshot of the message of Bishop Joel Baylon, member of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Office of laity and Family, to the youth of Asia preparing for Asian Youth Day in Korea in August that Pope Francis will be addressing.

Screenshot of the message of Bishop Joel Baylon, member of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Office of laity and Family, to the youth of Asia preparing for Asian Youth Day in Daejeon, South Korea in August 10-17  that Pope Francis will be addressing.

Bishop Joel Baylon message Asian Youth Day zoom in

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Cardinal Lourdusamy’s Indianness enhanced Church’s catholicity – Hector Welgampola

Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Feb. 5, 1924 - June 2, 2014.  Facebook Profile photo https://www.facebook.com/pages/Duraisamy-Simon-Cardinal-Lourdusamy/176416629127257?fref=photo

Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Feb. 5, 1924 – June 2, 2014.
Facebook Profile photo https://www.facebook.com/pages/Duraisamy-Simon-Cardinal-Lourdusamy/176416629127257?fref=photo

Hector Welgampola, veteran journalist specializing in Church in Asia, on the eve of the funeral service for Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy in Rome, reflects on the contributions of the late cardinal to the development of the Church in Asia and in the world.

Cardinal Lourdusamy, 90, died on Monday in a Rome clinic where he had been hospitalized due to failing health, the Vatican announced. 

Pope Francis in a message issued the same day expressed sadness over the death of the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches and former Archbishop of Bangalore. The pope will conclude the last rites at St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Cardinal Lourdusamy’s remains will be brought to India for rites and a funeral ceremony that will “most probably take place next Monday (June 9) or Tuesday (June 10) at Pondicherry,” Daijiworld news service in Bangalore reported.

Following is the commentary of Welgampola, who knew the cardinal in the prime of his life:

As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, it is timely to recall how the Second Vatican Council brought into limelight several new leaders including some recent popes, bishops and theologians. Deceased Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy was one of the first Asians among them. He attended the council fresh after episcopal ordination for India’s Vatican, Bangalore archdiocese.

The Tamil bishop was one of the youngest Council Fathers. Yet, he stood out among some 60 Indian participants by pleading for the holistic welfare of God’s poor. Jesuit Father Norman Tanner’s book “The Church in Council” cites how the Indian bishop urged that international aid be more than mere material aid. He said :

     * international support should push for “emotional integration, unity and equality among all poor people.”

Rescuers help villagers evacuate in Provident Villages during Habagat flooding with help from American donors. NJ Viehland Photos.

Rescuers help villagers evacuate in Provident Villages during Habagat flooding with help from American donors. NJ Viehland Photos.

     * He defined aid as “help that comes from the heart and goes to the heart,” the book claimed as if prophetically missioning a mandate for the then unborn Caritas.

Caritas Manila presentation at Manila archdiocese chancery. - NJ Viehland Photos

Caritas Manila presentation at Manila archdiocese chancery. – NJ Viehland Photos

It was a vision he had pushed as editor of the Tamil Catholic weekly of his native diocese, then named Pondicherry.

The young archbishop’s passionate call against discrimination, brought back to my mind what his brother, the late Father Simon Amalorpavadas, had told me about their own difficult path to the priesthood. But the new winds of the council boosted their spirits in their new home diocese in Karnataka. Together the two brothers helped make Bangalore archdiocese a regional venue for Church renewal. They set up the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. It was a hub of inspiration for all of South Asia. But as Archbishop Lourdusamy continued to be hassled by Bangalore’s unceasing language problems, providence led him where the council beckoned.

Conciliar thinking had already moved Pope Paul VI to reorganize the curia. Some of these innovative trends had already been explained during the 1969 All India Seminar by Archbishop Sergio Pignedoli, secretary of Propaganda Fide. The pope’s energetic emissary was scouting for fresh talent. Before long, this congregation’s responsibilities for the missions were entrusted to three prelates from the Third World – Latin American Cardinal A. Rossi, African Archbishop B. Gantin and Asian Archbishop D. S. Lourdusamy.

As the first Asian to hold curial office, the Indian prelate rose high in the service of the Holy See. After serving over a decade as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, he was made a cardinal in 1985. A new appointment followed. Cardinal Lourdusamy was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The Oriental congregation’s conciliar mandate regarding relations with the Eastern Churches was clear. But the new prefect had to work around the strong native Slavic sentiments of Saint John Paul II. The Vatican’s haste to make inroads into jurisdictions of Orthodox Churches in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse dampened their enthusiasm for dialogue. The temptation to saddle Eastern Churches with Latin-Church discipline was another attitudinal problem. For example, the move to impose the age 75 retirement rule on a Ukranian-Rite bishop became a sore point.

In such a scenario, as head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Lourdusamy tended to begin from his own home turf. By boosting and upbuilding relations with the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches, he was able to make a unique contribution to the Indian Catholic community. His pioneer move restored the country’s native Syrian Catholic Churches to their rightful place.

Every forward move evokes criticism. Some Latin-Church leaders tended to see his focus on the Syrian Churches as divisiveness to avenge past grievances. Eyes rolled when his friend the Latin-rite Bishop Anthony Padiyara of Ooctamund was invited to return home to head the Syro-Malabar Church. However, it was welcome as a wise move, when the genial Syrian-cum-Latin-experienced prelate was installed later as the first Major Archbishop of that Church.

In a message to the Constitution and Directives of the Missionary Society of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Cardinal Lourdusamy encouraged that Church’s missionary activities. He lived to see the native Church very successfully serve its followers scattered in about a dozen dioceses throughout India in addition to sending missioners to Western countries. That service to the universal Church has been Cardinal Lourdusamy’s enduring legacy.

Before making his peace with the Lord on June 2, the illustrious Indian cardinal lived to see the final approval of canonization process for two more Syrian Church members – Blessed Euphrasia and Blessed Kuriakose Chavara. They would have joined Saints Alphonsa and Garcia to welcome home their compatriot, Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy.

May his moksha (liberation) lead to the plenitude of beatific bliss.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would  work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

 

Interreligious dialogue – Let a thousand documents now bloom in action!

Pope Francis’ first visit to the Holy Land beginning Saturday has prompted veteran Asia Church journalist Hector Welgampola to revisit the long string of past efforts of Church leaders and offices related to interreligious dialogue and outcomes from these, why theologizing on interreligious dialogue fell short and what Pope Francis contributes to the Church’s movement towards dialogue and cooperation among followers of various religions.

Following is the full text of Welgampola’s commentary: 

Interreligious Dialogue – Let a thousand documents now bloom in action!

A Commentary by Hector Welgampola

A Jewish rabbi and an Islamic imam joined Pope Francis on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. That was more than a symbolic gesture. It brought back memories of Saint John XXIII’s wish to restore relations with Abrahamic faiths. In the early days of the Second Vatican Council, that wish made him whisper a council agenda item to Cardinal Augustine Bea. As then head of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, the cardinal had been working on the draft decree on ecumenism. Pope John asked him to include in that draft, a para clearing Jews of blame for deicide.

That was a pentecostal prompting. It helped Council Fathers see the need for a separate Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: Nostra Aetate. After Pope John’s death, Pope Paul VI set up a new secretariat to implement that declaration. The Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions, later named as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), was launched on Pentecost Sunday 1964.

Since then, PCID has held numerous conferences and symposia. Over the past half-century, such events have produced a thousand or so documents on interreligious dialogue. These days, PCID’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated worldwide, and more documents may be added to the collection. But what next?

Even amid such multiplicity of documentation, we still need to refocus on the original declaration’s historic call for “dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions.” Currently ongoing jubilations may lead to a salutary outcome, if they help evaluate the futility of sterile monologues about dialogue.

True, modalities for dialogue-based collaboration with other religionists have been discussed by Church leaders, particularly in Asia, where the major religions originated. Especially during the 1970s and 1980, various institutes (BIRA, BIMA) of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) noted that interreligious dialogue must lead to interreligious cooperation. Later on, some of these moves helped Church leaders discern that such interaction has to embrace the cultural, socio-political and economic aspects of people’s everyday life. Asian theologians urged all religions to provide a complementary moral and religious foundation for Asian societies struggling for liberation. But theologizing failed to be translated into action.

Such discernment was unproductive due to several factors. Here are a few:

* Firstly, the Church’s theological approach to dialogue still speaks a language alien to other religions.

* Secondly, absence of a mutually acceptable practical agenda for dialogue failed to ease other religionists’ long-standing suspicions about proselytism.

* And thirdly, in spite of all the documented discernment on the need to embrace the cultural, socio-political and economic aspects of people’s everyday life, the Church failed to build on people’s interpersonal collaboration already prevalent in the public square.

The public square is the venue where followers — not just preachers — of various religions live and work together. It is an interactive forum where persons of various religions witness to their respective values and develop a social ethic enhanced by cultural commonalities. It is pluralism in action. Hence, 50 years after all the theological cud chewing about dialogue, now it is time to overcome these and other hurdles to interreligious collaboration. It is time to learn from the lived witness of Christians collaborating with fellow humans in everyday life.

A small lesson about the enduring praxis of interreligious collaboration can be learned from the antecedents of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Rabbi and the Imam accompanying him on the visit are two persons who had interacted with him in the public square in his native Argentina. The grace of their interpersonal witness is now at the service of the entire Church. May this small Pentecostal flame help lead us beyond the theological maze of high-profiled dialogue!

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would  work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

What can Asia expect of upcoming papal visits?

Commentary by Hector Welgampola 

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Pope Francis addressed the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization speaking publicly in English for the first time in a video message screened at the end of the closing Mass Oct. 18, 2013 at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

India’s bishops have invited  Pope Francis to visit their country. Other Asian invites too have been reported from South Korea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. More may follow.

Will such journeys offer the innovative pope opportunities to downplay the diplomatic aspect of papal visits and focus on pastoral outreach? If political fanfare are axed, the visits will give the Holy Father more access to people for two-way sharing — a model for bishops’ pastoral visits, as well. In hindsight, past papal visits may shed some light on what began as a papal pilgrimage to Asia.

Amid the first flush of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John XXIII agreed to hold the 1964 International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai). He knew, though, he was not fit to travel there, much less for an elephant-ride planned by Cardinal Valerian Gracias of Bombay. After the good pope’s death, his successor, Pope Paul VI, chose to be the first papal pilgrim to Asia.

It was not mere grandeur of traditional Indian hospitality that made the event memorable. As the then editor of “Bombay Examiner” told me, from the initial Namaste on, Pope Paul’s Mahatma-like simplicity won hearts. Catholics’ fervor of Eucharistic worship impressed the Hindu nation. So did the conference on “Christian Revelation and non-Christian Religions.”

A pre-congress seminar on “Food and Health” focused on the problem of poverty. Pope Paul had invited the FAO head to speak there on “Freedom from Hunger: the Challenge of the Century.” America magazine said the congress: “created in Asia a hitherto unappreciated image of the Church: that of a compassionate Vicar of Christ – a Christ born poor – more at home in the slums of Bombay than in the magnificence of the papal court.”

Children in impoverished communities around Manila survive with very little food and other basic needs. (Ed Gerlock photos published with permission)

Children in impoverished communities around Manila survive with very little food and other basic needs. (Ed Gerlock photos published with permission)

The papal court too had begun to change by the time of the next noteworthy papal visit to Asia. It took place in 1970, a week after Pope Paul set the 80-year retirement age for cardinals. Leaving behind the restive old guard, the pope took his longest trip in time and distance.

In Manila, his main stopover, the pope joined 180 Asian bishops to set up plans for the FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences). After the historic event, came a symbolic gesture: Speaking as “a humble apostle of Christ,” he broadcast from Hong Kong a message of love for the Chinese people.

But thereafter, cares of office including negotiations to end the Vietnam War as well as efforts to contain the backlash of Humanae Vitae limited Pope Paul to routine travel.

Blessed John Paul II was the widest travelled pope. Some 15 of his 219 travels included Asian destinations. Prayer at the Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi, on the 1986 visit to India, inspired him to set the annual interreligious prayer day in Assisi.

The 1998 Asian Synod in Rome and release of the synod document Ecclesia in Asia in India engaged many Asian bishops. The synodal boost to local cultures was in sync with what his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope had said: “It was necessary to set about the work of inculturation, as Father Matteo Ricci, the apostle of China, proposed….”

Some of the more than 15,000 Catholics in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh religiously went to Sunday Mass at various buildings. Here's how we went to church: shoeless, pewless. NJ Viehland Photos

Some of the more than 15,000 Catholics in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh religiously went to Sunday Mass at various buildings. Here’s how we went to church: shoeless, pewless. NJ Viehland Photos

However, even as of then, a move was afoot on the very outskirts of China to retire the Ricci concept of inculturation. It all began with a theological conference in Hong Kong under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Invitees from doctrinal commissions of Asian bishops’ conferences were introduced to “interculturality” in place of the popularly accepted teaching on inculturation. Our religion has a culture as much as other religions have their own cultures, bishops were told. Inculturation was called a misnomer diluting Christian culture with extraneous elements. These directives stifled future efforts toward dialogue and adaptation. The rest is history.

AMOR South Asia Postulants NJ Viehland Photos

Will these memories encourage Asian papal visit organizers to set such stalled pastoral issues on the agenda for Pope Francis? Meeting laypeople also will help the Holy Father understand their genuine needs. In addition to support on issues of justice and poverty, Asian Catholics need a faith boost through meaningful worship. Will the pope’s Latin American experience lead him to restore the trend of worshipping God in words, symbols and music that resonate the joys, sorrows and yearnings of Asian peoples?

"Lord, have mercy" was sung in Chinese at the XVI Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious women in Tagaytay, City, south of Manila in Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

“Lord, have mercy” was sung in Chinese at the XVI Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious women in Tagaytay, City, south of Manila in Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photos

Girls and boys perform to the theme song for Year of Faith at the launching of the celeberation at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila Nov. 3 led by Cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle / N. J. Viehland Photo

Girls and boys perform to the theme song for Year of Faith at the launching of the celeberation at San Fernando de Dilao Church in Paco, Manila Nov. 3 led by Cardinal designate Luis Antonio Tagle – N. J. Viehland Photo

As much as feasts of medieval saints are less meaningful to Asian Catholics, liturgy desacralised to suit post-christian societies has lost the sense of mystery cherished by Asians. And, Pope Francis’ recent remarks on the need for liturgical reform hold out hope.

In earlier conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the future pope had said that: “Each nation picks up the vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system.” No doubt, such a mindset will help the pilgrim pope see the need for freedom to adapt and develop worship styles to suit the genius of Asian peoples.

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (w/ red shash), Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) follows behind Vietnam Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh during the welcome procession for delegates of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai (w/ red shash), President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) follows behind Vietnam Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh during the welcome procession for delegates of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. [N.J. Viehland Photo]

May upcoming papal visits encourage the FABC to update the Holy Father about the stalling of inculturation and the push to homogenize liturgy. If genuine inculturation is to resume, worshippers’ faith-based living traditions should take priority over post-christian viruses cultured in alien theology labs. And may Asians be freed up from curial shackles that inhibit their yearning to de-Helenize Jesus’ message and restore its original authenticity.

Fifty years after the first papal pilgrimage to Asia, we pray that upcoming Asian visits will help Pope Francis see the elephant in the room and not be led on white-elephant rides.

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Faith of Vietnam Catholics offers bright future for Church – Cardinal Rosales

By N.J. Viehland

Recently appointed Vietnamese Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao of Xuan Loc Diocese, while serving as rector of the diocese’s Saint Joseph Seminary last December addressed delegates and participants of the Xth Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) Plenary Assembly during a cultural program held in the diocesan pastoral complex.

He expressed gratitude to the FABC  “…for the joy of faith you have brought to us…” and “have inspired in us.”

Bishop Dao told us the presence of so many bishops, priests, religious women and lay Church workers in their country at one time “… opens up our mind and heart to the whole Church of Asia, and reminds us that we have other brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord as we do, scattered in the whole of Asia.” 

The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) is an association of conferences of bishops of Catholic Churches in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia. The federation fosters solidarity and joint responsibility for church and society welfare in the region.

The conference includes sixteen Bishops’ Conferences from Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos-Cambodia, Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Churches in places where there are no bishops’ conferences have been included as associate members, including Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia, Nepal, Novosibirsk (Russia), Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

FABC gathers in plenary in various countries, and the 2012 assembly was the first to be held in a country under communist rule.

Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales (in front), Archbishop Emeritus of Manila was welcomed by a drum and bugle corps and a reception line stretching through the main roads of Xuan Loc Pastoral Complex in the diocese east of Ho Chi Minh City on Dec. 11, 2012, after he delivered his address citing Pope Benedict XVI's message to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC). He is accompanied by Assistant of the Papal Legate Father Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit, Jr. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales (in front), Archbishop Emeritus of Manila was welcomed by a drum and bugle corps and a reception line stretching through the main roads of Xuan Loc Pastoral Complex in the diocese east of Ho Chi Minh City on Dec. 11, 2012, after he delivered his address citing Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). He is accompanied by Assistant of the Papal Legate Father Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit, Jr. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Two months after the FABC plenary assembly on Feb. 28, Pope Benedict appointed Monsignor Dao auxiliary bishop for Xuan Loc. He was the last bishop appointed by Benedict XVI before he stepped down as pope.

Bishop Dao said the presence of FABC delegates “… reminds us of our responsibility to share with other brothers and sisters in Asia the joy of faith in Christ.” Less than 3 percent of the population in most countries in Asia are Catholics.

The presence of Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales as special envoy for then Pope Benedict XVI , along with Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples and Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, resident representative of the Holy Father to Vietnam “connect us to Rome and the Holy Father, and through the Holy Father with the whole Church,” Bishop Dao said.

He appealed to them, “Please, eminence and excellencies, convey to our beloved Holy Father, our love, our respect and our obedience. Please tell him that he has children here who are faithful to Christ and to the Church.”

In response, Cardinal Rosales promised bishops, priests, religious men and women and lay members of the Vietnam Catholic community gathered for a cultural presentation in the diocesan pastoral complex in Xuan Loc that he would convey their message of faith, love and loyalty to the Church and to Rome.

“I want to tell him (Pope Benedict) when I see him and report to him next month what I have seen, what I have witnessed and felt about what it is really to be Church of Jesus Christ, yes, in the whole of Asia, but in particular here in Vietnam. And I will assure you…I will remind him, ‘Do not forget, your Holiness, that you have children in that part of Asia.'”

Cardinal Rosales said he would tell Pope Benedict “I know you keep them (Vietnam Catholics) in your spirit, in your prayer, in your blessing, but they want me to remind you that you have children there who not only obey the Church, but they love you.”

He said one gift he will give the pope is an embroidery he received from a Vietnam government official during his visit to Hanoi prior to the FABC assembly. “…No less than the minister interpreted it and he said, ‘Look, Your Eminence, there are two islands in a big sea. This is Vietnam, and the other one is the Vatican. All you need is a bridge.”

Cardinal Rosales, however, told hundreds of people attending the cultural program, ” I am going to explain this to the Holy Father: A bridge is about to be built, but I think I saw a boat there. If there is no bridge, there should be a boat. After all, the Holy Father is pontifex. 

In Cardinal Rosales’ view, the FABC experience showed “how bright the future is that God is preparing for Vietnam.”

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