Will Pope Francis’ visits awaken the Asian Church? – Commentary

By: Hector Welgampola

Within the first 22 months of his papacy, Pope Francis has gone on pilgrimage to the Churches in three Asian countries: South Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. As part of a fast awakening vast continent, these countries represent three religio-cultural streams and three varied socio-political realities.

Over recent months, and especially since his return form Colombo and Manila, the Holy Father’s words and actions have evidenced the impact of such exposure to vignettes of Asia’s rich plurality. More than any of the three predecessors who went on pilgrimage to Churches worldwide, Pope Francis keeps recapping and interpreting such pastoral experiences. Just as Saint John wrote the Apocalypse to the Churches in Asia, Pope Francis is using the Asian revelation to enunciate his Francisocalypse.

While enhancing the catholicity of papal teaching with Assisian aura, his spontaneity and off-the-cuff theologizing continue to endear him today to a broader church beyond traditional borders. No wonder, while on pilgrimage, often he went beyond limits set by tour planners as much as he ignored the drafts of papal speechwriters. More important than scheduled speeches were hisfrom-the-heart interventions. Far more significant than diplomacy-imposed hobnobbing with politicians and fraternizing with prelates were his Jesus-like skirmishes “into the multitude.” Quite unsurprisingly, they all jived together as a passionate pastoral embrace of the needy and the suffering.

Pope Francis korea

He first visited Asia to attend the 6th Asian Youth Day in Daejeon, South Korea. And while there, he brought alive the theology of Eucharistic sharing and solidarity by grieving with Koreans mourning youths killed in the 2014 ferry disaster.

During his visit to Sri Lanka, he travelled to Madhu Marian Shrine on the Northern border to pray with and console survivors and mourners deeply affected by the country’s 30-year ethnic war. On the Philippine pilgrimage, the Holy Father braved very stormy weather to visit and embrace Tacloban residents grieving the impact of Typhoon Yolanda. His outreach of pastoral presence radiated Jesus.

Papal Visit pope with Anak children press release

Contributed photo of Pope Francis with street children at Anak-TNK center.

Such intimate encounters and empathy with the suffering and afflicted endure in people’s memory as a fatherly outreach. Their healing impact may even wipe out bad memories of papal galas or exorcising handshakes with corrupt politicians. And it was encouraging to read that Asian Church leaders have learned from the example set by the Holy Father.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias,of Mumbai led the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences in Vietnam Dec. 2012, NJ Viehland Photos

According to a media report, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias has admitted that the papal visits to Asia have given a big boost to the “self-confidence” of the Asian Church. The cardinal, president of the Asian bishops’ federation, has said that the pope’s example will encourage the Asian Church to take forward the mission to the poor. Such enthusiasm rekindles hope of a renewed outreach to people harried by multiple forms of poverty and deprivation.

HFSB, Sorsogon,contributed

Sri Lankan Sr. Bernie De Silva, HFSB, leads seminar for fishermen in Sorsogon [contributed photo, HFSB]

In fact, just like Pope Francis’ own home Church in Latin America, the Asian Church used to be a pioneer in social apostolate and outreach to the poor, a few decades ago. Committed social apostles such as Japanese Cardinal Fumio Hamao, Korean Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, Filipino Bishops Julio Labayen and Francisco Claver and Japanese Sister Filo Hirota were among stalwarts of the Asian bishops’ Office of Human Development (OHD). A few still survive in ecclesiastical backwoods. Although that office is struggling for survival today, hopefully, the grace of papal visits may herald a new springtime!

May the pope’s Gospel witness be a new Revelation even to latter-day Church leaders dismissive of pro-poor movements such as OHD and shift focus from regional commitment by withdrawing into juridical ghettos. The lived witness of the pope’s Asian pilgrimages is further affirmed by his Lenten message 2015, which urges Christians to overcome the scandal of globalized indifference. Time to live that message!

END

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

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.

 

Gearing up for Papal Visit 2015, Bl. Vaz canonization – pastoral letter

WELCOMING THE VICAR OF CHRIST ON THE OCCASION OF THE CANONIZATION OF BLESSED JOSEPH VAZ

PASTORAL LETTER ISSUED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka, screen shot

Sri Lanka, screen shot

We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of His Holiness Pope Francis on our soil on January 13, 2015 as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter. It is with great joy that we welcome our Holy Father into our midst.

Already by the simplicity of his life, his sense of evangelical poverty and Christ like compassionate love, specially for the poor and the suffering, the Holy Father has become a much revered and loved spiritual leader of the whole world. The Pope’s visit therefore, is a great blessing not only to the Church in Sri Lanka but also to the whole Nation. All preparations are underway and are progressing smoothly to welcome the Holy Father.

The Holy Father will arrive on January 13, 2015 at 9.00 am at Bandaranaike International Airport and after the preliminary State Welcome, the Holy Father will proceed to the Archbishop’s House for a meeting with the Bishops. On the 13th at 5.00 pm, His Holiness will pay a courtesy call on the President of the country and at 6.00 pm the Holy Father will meet Religious Leaders of all faiths, at the BMICH. The highlight of the Holy Father’s visit undoubtedly will be the Canonization of our Beloved Apostle, at a Holy Mass to be presided over by the Supreme Pontiff, at Galle Face Esplanade on January 14, 2015 at 8.30 am. The same afternoon His Holiness will proceed to the Hallowed Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, for a prayer service. The following morning. after a short visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of Lanka at the Benedict XVIth Institute at Bolawalana, Negombo, the Holy Father will leave our shores at 9.00 am.

We, therefore, exhort all our faithful, Clergy and Religious, to flock to Galle Face Esplanade for the Holy Mass, during which we shall receive the First Saint of Mother Lanka, on January 14, 2015 in large numbers, as this is a unique occasion for all of us.

Our Joy of the visit of the Universal Shepherd is further enhanced by the decision of the Holy Father to Canonise our beloved Apostle, Blessed Joseph Vaz.

Joseph Vaz devotion card

We have prayed earnestly and yearned for this day to dawn. We thank God our loving Father for His unfailing providential care in saving the faith of our forefathers through the indefatigable labours of this great missionary.

We are deeply indebted to Blessed Joseph Vaz for his zeal, heroic sanctity and unquenchable thirst for souls that made him to come to our land and to help our forefathers to be strengthened in their faith.

We, therefore, exhort all our faithful, Clergy and Religious, to flock to Galle Face Esplanade for the Holy Mass, during which we shall receive the first Saint of Mother Lanka, on January 14, 2015, in large numbers, as this is a unique occasion for all of us.

In the coming weeks, we exhort all our faithful, Clergy and Religious to embark on a program me of deep spiritual preparation for both events, namely the Canonisation and the Papal Visit. For this purpose, we urge that all our parishes and Catholic institutions organize programmes of spiritual preparation:

a. The special thanksgiving prayer to be recited in our Churches and Institutions, after the Holy Mass. (If you do not have sufficient number of prayer cards for this purpose, each parish is requested to get them printed in the relevant languages and distribute it to all the faithful).

b. Exhort the faithful to light the altar lamp in every home and after the Family Rosary for the intentions of the Holy Father, recite the prayer of thanksgiving and sing the hymn of Blessed Joseph Vaz.

c. Encourage and provide opportunities for all our faithful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and make a good Confession before the Papal Visit and the Canonisation.

d. Organise an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on a chosen day of the week and urge the faithful to pray intensely for a deep renewal of our families and our Christian commitment to love, to serve and to proclaim the Lord by our lives and witness.

e. In the coming weeks in the Sunday homilies, make the faithful aware of the heroic sanctity and burning zeal and the life and ministry of the Apostle of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz.

f. During the period of preparation, encourage the faithful to visit the sick in the parish and pray with them and pay special attention to the poor and the marginalised. Let parishioners who can afford, assist financially those who have no
means to make the pilgrimage to Colombo on Januar 14.

g. Animate the faithful to be agents of peace and reconciliation in their own environment.

h. We exhort all our parishes to organise the joyous pealing of Church Bells in the whole Island, when the Holy Father makes the declaration of Canonisation during the Holy Mass.

i. Let us participate actively in the Holy Mass of Canonisation with great fervour and devotion by joining in the Mass prayers and the singing.

(Our spiritual preparation committee will be giving further directions for this purpose.)

The Assembly for the Holy Mass of canonization presided over by the Holy Father, would be a great manifestation of our gratitude to God Almighty and our profound gratitude to the Apostle of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz, who was sent to us by Our Loving Father through the intercession of Our Beloved Mother.

May this unique occasion draw down numerous blessings upon all of us and our families and our beloved Motherland by these precious events, which we eagerly await.

Signed

His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
President – CBCSL, Archbishop of Colombo.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph
Vice President – CBCSL, Bishop of Mannar.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Valence Mendis
Secretary General – CBCSL, Bishop of Chilaw.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Kingsley Swampillai
Bishop of Trincomalee.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Savundranayagam
Bishop of Jaffna.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando
Bishop of Kandy.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Winston S. Fernando, S.S.S
Bishop of Badulla.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Norbert M. Andradi, O.M.I
Bishop of Anuradhapura.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold A. Perera
Bishop of Kurunegala.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Cletus C. Perera, O.S.B
Bishop of Ratnapura.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ponniah
Bishop of Batticaloa.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Raymond K. Wickramasinghe
Bishop of Galle.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Marius Peiris
Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. F. L. Emmanuel Fernando
Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.
h Rt. Rev. Dr. Maxwell G. Silva
Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady 8th December 2014.

[text of pastoral letter reprinted raw from Messenger, Sri Lanka’s weekly Catholic Newspaper, Dec. 14, 2014 issue]

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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