Lebanon’s holiday revelry contrasts with the difficult daily lives of hotel and household workers from the Philippines.
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Lebanon’s holiday revelry contrasts with the difficult daily lives of hotel and household workers from the Philippines.
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Pope Francis has sent former nuncio to the Philippines, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to Iraq to deliver a message of support and aid to Christians suffering amid sectarian violence there.
Cardinal Filoni served as nuncio to the Philippines from 1992 to 2001. He served much of this term from Hong Kong where he also participated in the Holy See’s “Study Mission” that reached out to China’s bishops, official and non-official Churches and bishops, reconciling the vast majority to the Holy See.
“My mission in Iraq is to give moral, spiritual and psychological support” he is shown saying in Italian in an interview with Rome Reports.
Archbishop Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, offers this prayer to help Catholics worldwide join their brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq in daily prayer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Pope Francis first met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in the Holy Land on May 25. That encounter in the region of Jesus’ birth also paved the way for the two heirs of Peter and Andrew to pray in the Vatican for peace between Israel and Palestine. Spirit-led gestures!
Some observers were cynical that the two Christian leaders met with Israel’s Jewish President Shimon Peres and Palestine’s Muslim President Mahmoud Abbas only to pray separately, not together. Nonetheless, their June 8 peace prayers were addressed to the same God, God is one, though invoked by varied names. And the four believers prayed for peace. As admitted by President Peres, “The two peoples – Israelis and Palestinians – still are aching for peace.” President Abbas reciprocated by praying that the Holy Land be made “a secure land for all believers.”
In addition to his own prayer and words of welcome, Pope Francis thanked the Eastern Church leader, Patriarch Bartholomew, for attending the prayer event at the seat of the Western Church. On the next day, in an interview with the Spanish-language “La Vanguardia,” the pope spoke of the momentum of ecumenism. “Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has made efforts to become closer and the Orthodox Church has done the same,” he explained. “It is not conceivable that we Christians are divided, it’s a historical sin that we have to repair,” he added.
The focus on the “historical sin” of division came up again in papal discourse just one week later. This time, the pope was meeting with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, who was in Rome for an event marking Anglican-Catholic collaboration. The head of the worldwide Anglican communion expressed a desire for full communion between the two Churches. The pope spoke of their shared history, which includes, not only cooperation, but also division. “We cannot claim that our division is anything less than a scandal and an obstacle to our proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the world,” the pope said after the two men prayed in silence.
“Our vision,” he further noted, “is often blurred by the cumulative burden of our divisions and our will is not always free of that human ambition which can accompany even our desire to preach the Gospel as the Lord commanded.”
The encounter echoed a similar event in the Vatican, way back in 1960. It was a historic meeting between the predecessors of Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby. Pope Saint John XXIII was meeting then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffey Fisher. It was the first time the world’s Catholic leader met with the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
“John XXIII, the Official Biography,” says that the Vatican’s overcautious L’Osservatore Romano newspaper had used the smallest possible print type to downplay Dr. Fisher’s visit. Enduring curial fears with great charity, the pope had said, “Not everyone here understands these things: they want perfection or nothing!” According to Archbishop Fisher’s taped biography, the pope had shown even greater magnanimity as he listened to the Anglican leader. Quoting from his 1959 encyclical, “Ad Petri Cathedram” (toward the See of Peter) the pope had exclaimed how he looked forward to the time “when our separated brethren would return to the Church.”
“Not return, Your Holiness,” the Anglican head had interjected.
“Not return? Why not?” the pope queried, reportedly.
“None of us can go backwards,” said Archbishop Fisher, adding, “we are all running on a parallel course, but we are looking forward until in God’s good time our two courses come and meet.”
While we continue to live in such hope, November 21, 2014, will mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism and the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches. Yet, “God’s ‘s good time” still continues to be “blurred” by what Pope Francis called “the cumulative burden of our divisions.” And as the pope very realistically noted, human ambition seems to thwart God’s good time too, just as it thwarts the peace that humans long for.
It all calls for prayer, more prayer and togetherness in prayerful action as we await the Lord’s healing manna of consociation.
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!