Happy Lunar New Year of the Sheep, Asian families

Good Shepherd rice mural - NJ Viehland PhotosXuan Loc, VIETNAM – This mural of the Good Shepherd made of rice grains hung in the dining room of the Pastoral Complex of the Diocese of Xuan Loc, in Dong Nai, Vietnam, when the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) officials gathered there with delegates and resource persons from around east, south, southeast and central Asia on Dec. 2012 for the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly. 

This year’s celebration of Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 pulls the mural photo out of Catholic in Asia’s media library because the Chinese Zodiac sets the date as the start of the Year of the Sheep until Feb. 7, 2016, and sheep is one of the prominent symbols used in the Christian faith.

Some of the earliest depictions of Christ show him as the Good Shepherd. 

At the same time, lamb also represents Christ as sacrifice (Paschal Lamb) and also a symbol for Christians.

As Christ is Shepherd, Peter, as head of the Church, was told to “feed His sheep.”

For example: 

Jesus gave Peter a three-fold command to “feed my sheep” in John 21:15-17. Each time Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” it was in response to Peter’s three-fold declaration of love for Jesus. 

The three commands, although often translated the same way, are subtly different. The first time Jesus says it, the Greek means literally “pasture (tend) the lambs” (v. 15). The Greek word for “pasture” is in the present tense, denoting a continual action of tending, feeding and caring for animals. Believers are referred to as sheep throughout Scripture. “For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7). Jesus is both our Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and the Door of the sheepfold (John 10:9). By describing His people as lambs, He is emphasizing their nature as immature and vulnerable and in need of tending and care.

The second time, the literal meaning is “tend My sheep” (v. 16). In this exchange, Jesus was emphasizing tending the sheep in a supervisory capacity, not only feeding but ruling over them. This expresses the full scope of pastoral oversight, both in Peter’s future and in all those who would follow him in pastoral ministry. Peter follows Jesus’ example and repeats this same Greek word poimaino in his first pastoral letter to the elders of the churches of Asia Minor: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:2).

The third time, the literal translation is “pasture (tend) the sheep” (v. 17). Here Jesus combines the different Greek words to make clear the job of the shepherd of the flock of God. They are to tend, care for, and provide spiritual food for God’s people, from the youngest lambs to the full-grown sheep, in continual action to nourish and care for their souls, bringing them into the fullness of spiritual maturity. The totality of the task set before Peter, and all shepherds, is made clear by Jesus’ three-fold command and the words He chooses.

from http://rosemarieberger.com/2014/11/07/pope-francis-the-holy-people-of-god-living-on-the-peripheries-of-history/

from rosemarieberger.com click photo for full blog post

Pope Francis has also used the symbol of shepherd on various occasions. At his first Chrism Mass in 2013, he used the imagery to stress the need for priests to go out of themselves, reach out to their people in the name of Jesus, and also to allow their people to be media through which Jesus can touch and teach priests.

Pope Francis said:

A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men.

And so it is along these lines of Scripture and Pope Francis’ message to priests that we wish families in and from Asia celebrating Lunar New Year of the Sheep : may prosperity, peace and justice reign in everyone’s lives and in the world through our sacrifices, mercy, compassion and full pastoral care from our Church.

Pope Francis appoints Quevedo papal envoy in Japan ‘hidden Christians’ anniversary

 NJ Viehland Photos

NJ Viehland Photos

Vatican City, 17 January – Pope Francis has appointed Filipino Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the “hidden Christians of Japan”, to be held in Nagasaki March 14-17, Vatican Information Service reported.

Catholic missionaries St. Francis Xavier of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)  with Cosme de Torres and John Fernandes  arrived in Kagoshima, Japan in 1549, to spread the word of God. Eventually, the number of Christians rose to about 300,000 including members of the aristocracy, but by the beginning of the next century, Christianity was banned in the country and in 1612, the faithful were forced into practicing their beliefs in hiding. 

The “hidden Christians” are locally known as Kakure Kirishitan.

Today, about half a million Japanese identify as Catholics; roughly 0.5% of the population. There are 16 dioceses around the country. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo wrote last year about his church’s plan for the March anniversary celebration. Archbishop Okada said the existence of these Christians who kept their faith under severe persecution was revealed at Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki. He expressed his hope that Pope Francis would join the commemoration.

“We would be deeply grateful if Pope Francis would encourage us in deepening our faith and conveying widely the message of faith to others. We also expect that a visit by the pope would be an occasion for promoting and advancing inter-religious dialogue in Japan,” Archbishop Okada added.

The pope would be just coming from pastoral visits to Sri Lanka and the Philippines by the time of the Japan event. He chose to send Cardinal Quevedo as his representative .

The 75 year-old cardinal has been called a “powerful voice for inter religious dialogue” between Muslims and Christians especially those in Mindanao where an autonomous region with predominantly Muslim populations sits.

Quevedo also headed the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) from 2005-2011. The Japan bishops’ conferences is a member of the voluntary association of bishops’ conferences in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Pope Francis’ supposed “revolution” isn’t new for some in Asia, Part 2

“The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.” – Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ

children watch priests march Ed Gerlock

Manila scavenger children watch priests rally / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com

continued from Part 1 

Evangelization through “Triple Dialogue”

According to the statement issued by the first plenary assembly, “Evangelization is the carrying out of the Church’s duty of proclaiming by word and witness the Gospel of the Lord.” The assembly resolved to use dialogue as the approach to evangelization in Asia where Christians comprise only two to three percent of the population in most countries.

This thinking has persisted through the decades and infused programs and initiatives that have gained recognition from inside and outside the organization. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, a Salesian who served for many years in India’s troubled northeast region and currently chairs the FABC’s Office of Evangelization, is widely quoted for advocating an approach that involves “whispering the Gospel to the soul of Asia.”

FABC X Menamparampil Capalla

Indian Archbishop Thomas Meamparampil [front leftmost] sits next to retired Filipino Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, Dec. 2012, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

In the same spirit of dialogue, FABC-sponsored Radio Veritas Asia  today broadcasts programs with Gospel and moral values that attract non-Christian listeners. The station’s program director says its Myanmar service’s Burmese-language section listeners are predominantly Buddhists.

Asian Family buddhist hindu catholic NJ Viehland

Asian Conference on the Family 2014, Manila / NJ Viehland Photos

FABC documents have detailed an approach to evangelization through dialogue at three levels: with a people’s culture (inculturation), with a country’s religions (interreligious dialogue), and dialogue with the poor.

Subic,NJ Viehland

Indigenous Aeta youth at Franciscan sisters’-run school in Zambales, Philippines / NJ Viehland Photos

Children share corn Philippines Ed Gerlock

Philippines children share corn / contributed by Ed Gerlock edgerlock@yahoo.com

Fruits and challenges

 The FABC has explored various visions of how to deliver the Gospel to Asia. Apart from its Central Secretariat, it addresses regional concerns in a more focused way largely through its nine offices. Each of them shines the spotlight on a particular concern: evangelization, human development, theological concerns, interreligious dialogue, social communication, education and faith formation, clergy, consecrated life, and laity and family.

 Over the years, the FABC offices have organized activities addressing concerns related to the formation of basic communities, and the situation of youth and women. Last year, it conducted a seminar on climate change and produced FABC Climate Change Declaration.

Legarda BEC prayer by NJ Viehland

BEC members of Legarda urban poor community pray the rosary before meeting to discuss their housing and relocation concerns / NJ Viehland Photos

Marikina, NJ Viehland

Flood in Marikina, NJ Viehland Photos

“The most important fruit of the FABC so far is the gathering of all the bishops of Asia and providing them with a venue where they could share joys and problems,” Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the emeritus archbishop of Manila who worked with the former FABC commission on the missions, said in an Aug. 25 interview before the assembly.

FABC X / NJ Viehland

from left Cardinal Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh, Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampiln and Philippines retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales who served as Pope Benedict XVI’s papal legate in Vietnam, 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

FABC offices organize seminars and formation programs of various types and content, including some that are called Bishops’ Institutes. Many involve exposure trips to host countries. Cardinal Rosales quoted fellow bishops from India and Indonesia who expressed appreciation for such trips, especially those whose dioceses cover areas troubled by armed conflict. He also cited problems with clergy in areas where local Churches could use the FABC’s help. “Without the FABC, individual local Churches would find it hard to solve problems that are shared by other Churches,” he said.

 NJ Viehland Photos

Former officials of the Autonomous Region on in Muslim Mindanao under Moro National Liberation Front leaders joined celebrations for the birthday of Cardinal Orlando Quevedo in Cotabato City and his confirmation as cardinal / NJ Viehland Photos

The cardinal also acknowledged the help that the FABC offers in the formation of priests. “Instead of sending seminarians to Rome and other places in Europe, we were able to arrange through our contact in the FABC further studies of Asian priests and training of seminarians in the Philippines and other countries,” he pointed out.

Theologians have praised the scope and depth of theological reflection documented in FABC publications and FABC Papers. The challenge Father Felix Wilfred presented in volume 1 of the book “For All the Peoples of Asia,” remains “implementing the grand vision of the FABC.”

Pabillo, Egidio / NJ Viehland Photos

Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila with lecturer in Islam Abdulhusin Kashi at Sant’ Egidio-organized anti-death penalty dialogue in Mandaluyong City, 2014/ NJ Viehland Photos

Change has already been “very large,” Father Arevalo observed. “I have seen the changes and I am happy with the changes. Now we have many bishops who are very much alive to the problems of the country. Before, it was always in the devotional area only. Not that that is bad. It is very good. But it is not enough anymore in the modern world,” he said.

The renowned theologian acknowledges it is a waste to keep valuable FABC theology in books. “The books have to be read. The books have to be studied. The books have to be lived. The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.”

END

Merry Christmas to FABC delegates from Saigon, Chuc Mung Giang Sinh

By: N.J. Viehland

A Catholic volunteer from the Deanery of Peace in Binh An village in Ho Chi Minh archdiocese in his Christmas greetings described the visit of delegates of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) to his village last  Dec. 15 as “significant.”

Welcoming delegates and guest journalist for the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) to Binh An deanery, one of the sites selected for the Asian bishops' exposure to local Vietnam Church situations held Dec. 15, 2012. Plenary Assembly activities celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Holy See's approval of FABC's Statutes and examining challenges to the Asian Church took place Dec. 10-16, 2012 in Xuan Loc and around Ho Chi Minh. FABC delegates and participants also proposed responses that included those addressing demands of evangelization in this Year of Faith. Photo from Tien Thuy.

Welcoming delegates and guest journalist for the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) to Binh An deanery, one of the sites selected for the Asian bishops’ exposure to local Vietnam Church situations held Dec. 15, 2012. Plenary Assembly activities celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Holy See’s approval of FABC’s Statutes and examining challenges to the Asian Church took place Dec. 10-16, 2012 in Xuan Loc and around Ho Chi Minh. FABC delegates and participants also proposed responses that included those addressing demands of evangelization in this Year of Faith. Photo from Tien Thuy.

Tien Thuy in his Christmas greeting emailed Dec. 23 to the FABC’s Binh An exposure group, including bishops from Japan, the Philippines, Timor Leste, south Asia and Vietnam shared pictures of the exposure visit saying the images “captured all significant moments” that day in the deanery.

FABC bishops prepare for Mass with Vietnamese Catholics photo from Tien Thuy

Clergy, religious women, youth, officials of Ho Chi Minh parish pastoral councils, and other Catholics of various sectors welcomed the FABC delegation. One journalist covering Church in Asia for more than two decades accompanied the group.

Some delegates and a guest journalist of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) discussed with religious women during a visit to Binh An Deanery on Dec. 15, 2012. Photo from Tien Thuy

Some delegates and a guest journalist of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) discussed with religious women during a visit to Binh An Deanery on Dec. 15, 2012. Photo from Tien Thuy

They prayed with the people, who filled the church during the Mass concelebrated by Asian bishops with local clergy, they mingled with the people and posed for photos with them after Mass and dined with local clergy and Catholic officials.

FABC bishops journalist praying in Binh An Vietnam from Tien Thuy

FABC bishops say Mass at Deanery of Peace Binh An

“I hope all of you will not forget and keep in your heart those moments always,” Tien wrote.

His message said:

“May God’s Grace blanket on all of you with happiness and joy in your family and deanery. God will bless everything you do for people in mission through this Christmas season and Wonderful New Year. I hope to see you someday in somewhere.”

A group of bishop delegates and a journalist who visited local Vietnam churches met Catholic leders in the Deanery of Peace in Binh An on Dec. 15, 2012. Photo from Tien Thuy

A group of bishop delegates and a journalist who visited local Vietnam churches met Catholic leders in the Deanery of Peace in Binh An on Dec. 15, 2012. Photo from Tien Thuy

Vietnamese Catholics flock to the church for the Mass concelebrated by local clergy with delegate bishops to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences (FABC) who visited Ho Chi Minh archdiocese's Deanery of Peace in Binh An village on Dec. 15, 2012. Photo from Tien Thuy

Vietnamese Catholics flock to the church for the Mass concelebrated by local clergy with delegate bishops to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) who visited Ho Chi Minh archdiocese’s Deanery of Peace in Binh An village on Dec. 15, 2012. Photo from Tien Thuy

Young Vietnamese Catholics welcome Asian bishops and a journalist attending the10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) to Binh An deanery of Ho Chi Minh archdiocese. The exposure to local Church situations on Dec. 15 was part of the  December 10-16, 2012 plenary assembly. Photo from Tien Thuy.

Young Vietnamese Catholics welcome Asian bishops and a journalist attending the10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) to Binh An deanery of Ho Chi Minh archdiocese. The exposure to local Church situations on Dec. 15 was part of the December 10-16, 2012 plenary assembly. Photo from Tien Thuy.

FABC delegates and guest journalist get a view of Vietnam Church's journey in faith during their visit to the Deanery of Peace in Binh An village in Ho Chi Minh archdiocese. The exposure trip was among activities of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly held in Xuan Loc diocese and Ho Chi Minh from Dec. 10-16. Photo from Tien Thuy

FABC delegates and guest journalist get a view of Vietnam Church’s journey in faith during their visit to the Deanery of Peace in Binh An village in Ho Chi Minh archdiocese. The exposure trip was among activities of the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly held in Xuan Loc diocese and Ho Chi Minh from Dec. 10-16. Photo from Tien Thuy

Bishop delegates of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences shared a meal with clergy and other Catholics of the Deanery of Peace of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese in Binh An village. Photo from Tien Thuy

Bishop delegates of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences shared a meal with clergy and other Catholics of the Deanery of Peace of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese in Binh An village. Photo from Tien Thuy

Bishop delegates and a journalist attending the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences in Vietnam Dec. 10-16, 2012 joined a lunch prepared for them by Catholic leaders of Binh An deanery of Ho Chi Minh archdiocese on Dec. 15. Photo from Tien Thuy

Bishop delegates and a journalist attending the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Vietnam Dec. 10-16, 2012 joined a lunch prepared for them by Catholic leaders of Binh An deanery of Ho Chi Minh archdiocese on Dec. 15. Photo from Tien Thuy

A group of delegates of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences and a guest journalist met clergy of Binh An Deanery Ho Chi Minh archdiocese ont he second to the last day of the Dec. 10-16 plenary assembly. Photo from Tien Thuy

A group of delegates of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and a guest journalist met clergy of Binh An Deanery Ho Chi Minh archdiocese ont he second to the last day of the Dec. 10-16 plenary assembly. Photo from Tien Thuy

A deanery is a subdivision of a diocese, consisting of a number parishes, over which presides a dean appointed by a bishop. The duty of the dean is to watch over the clergy of the deanery, to see that they fulfill the orders of the bishop, and observe the liturgical and canon laws. He summons the conference of the deanery and presides at it. Periodically he makes a report to the bishop on conditions in the deanery.

Binh An is one of 14 deaneries of Ho Chi Minh.

More to come on the FABC website: Features on 10th FABC plenary assembly and Vietnam local Churches.