Slavery, World Day of Peace 2015 theme – Why is it relevant today?

(Vatican Radio)  The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has announced the theme selected by Pope Francis for the upcoming World Day of Peace.  The theme, “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters” will be the title of the Message for the 48th World Day of Peace, celebrated on 1 January 2015.  It will mark the second time Pope Francis celebrates the Day of Peace since he has risen to the papacy.

Read the note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on why the theme is relevant today…

Asian bishops, clergy, pastoral workers and lay leaders through the tenth plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences  (X FABC Plenary Assembly) in Vietnam in 2012 had expressed concerns over old and “new forms of slavery,” including the abuse of human rights of refugees and migrant workers, as well as age-old traditions and cultural practices involving women and the girl child.

Asian bishops, youth pitch in to build, renew Church

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) walking during the welcome procession for delegates of the X FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center compound Dec. 11, 2012. - N.J. Viehland Photos

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) greets Vietnamese welcome team during the procession for delegates of the X FABC Plenary Assembly on opening day, Dec. 11, 2012 in Xuan Loc Pastoral Center complex. – N.J. Viehland Photos

[updated Aug. 18, 2014, 1:15 pm] 

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of  Mumbai (Bombay), who serves in the 9-member Council of Cardinal Advisers Pope Francis established in April 2013, carries out official tasks in the 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD) that closes near Haemi Castle, South Korea today because he is also President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

The Youth Desk of the decades-old voluntary association of Bishops’ conferences in the continent has coordinated the overall AYD events since the gathering of youth ministers and Catholic youth in Asia was launched in the 1990s. The host for AYD, however, serves as the team coordinating implementation of activities and events, explained Father Ramond O’Toole, a Scarboro missionary priest who serves as FABC’s Secretary General.

Cardinal Gracias was to address several of the events during the Korea visit, including AYD’s Aug. 15 Mass at 6:30 a.m. when he was to deliver the homily, Father O’Toole told Catholic in Asia on Aug. 10.

“The cardinal will also speak when the Holy Father meets with the Asian Bishops, and also at the closing mass of AYD to thank the Holy Father and to announce the venue of the next AYD,” FABC’s Secretary General added. Both of these events are scheduled today.

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who has chaired the FABC’s Office of Theological Concerns since 2007, Hong Kong’s bishop Cardinal John TongHon, the only Chinese cardinal to be born in Hong Kong, and a host of other bishops serving as presidents of bishops’ conferences in their countries, as heads of various dioceses around the region, or in the Vatican are also expected to join the pope’s meeting with Asian bishops.

For AYD, however, Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Bishop Chairman of the Office of Laity and Family (OLF) will represent the FABC Youth Desk, which comes under OLF. Filipino Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, member of OLF responsible for Youth Desk, and Bangladeshi Fr. Patrick Simon Gomes FABC Youth Desk Secretary also form part of the FABC’s delegation to AYD 2014.

Father O’Toole who is now with the FABC team in Korea had told Catholic in Asia organizers invited 2,000 people from across Asia to attend Youth Day activities, “but with the Pope’s visit, this number may increase.” 

A report from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), for example, estimated a crowd of 6,000 youths joined the Aug. 15 AYD gathering which Pope Francis addressed.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Seoul wrote:

There is something in the manner of Pope Francis that seems to win people over, Catholics and non-Catholics, wherever he goes. And he has done it again here in South Korea.
His lack of formality has shone through. On Friday he stopped in the middle of a prepared speech to a gathering of young Catholics and said he wanted to “speak directly from his heart, without reading from a piece of paper,” but that his English was not good enough”. “No!” shouted the 6,000 teenagers in one voice.

FABC’s statutes as a voluntary association of bishops’  conferences in the region approved by the Holy See in 1972 established the association to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in the region that now includes Central Asia in addition to the original membership from southeast, south and east Asia.

“The Asian Church, especially under the leadership of the late Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Seoul, wanted to have the local Churches of Asia in the various countries, first of all to appropriate the Second Vatican Council, (Vatican II1962-1965) and what were the new initiatives and the new directives of that Council with regard to the local Churches. That was the main purpose,” Filipino Jesuit theologian Father Catalino Arevalo said in a 2012 interview for FABC’s 40th anniversary.

Father Arevalo recalled Cardinal Kim, other bishops and priests at an initial meeting wanted to set up a permanent structure where the leaders of the Asian Churches, beginning with the bishops, but not just the bishops, would gather together regularly to share their experiences, to develop within the group itself what the local Churches (Churches in every country) would do to bring the realities of Vatican II into action in the Asian region.

“That was the beginning purpose of it. Therefore also, to find what was the vision in the Asian Churches precisely with regard to how to make the Second Vatican Council as effective and as creative within the local Churches of Asia and that the local Churches of Asia would begin also to see what they had in common,” Father Arevalo added. They also looked into how they could collaborate with each other in bringing the movements inside the Church that they had in common flourish to make Vatican II a reality in the local Churches of Asia.

Members of Missionaries of Charity, which is among those whose houses of charity were ruined by Typhoon Haiyan in Palo archdiocese, Leyte filled many pews on the Day of Lament and Hope service led by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in San Fernando de Dilao Church, Paco, Manila Nov. 16. NJ Viehland Photo

Philippine community members of India-based Missionaries of Charity joined prayers on the Day of Lament for victims of calamities led by Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila in San Fernando de Dilao Church, Paco, Manila Nov. 16. NJ Viehland Photo

He considers that meeting held when Pope Paul VI was making his first visit to Asia as the foundation of FABC, “and then it took about 2 or 3 years for it to come into realization, in the first meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Taipei in 1974.” 

By 1991, during the World Youth Day in Czestochowa (Poland), representatives from over 30 Asian countries attended the Third International Youth Forum during which they expressed their hopes of establishing different channels and networks for various kinds of exchanges and organizing activities especially designed for Catholic youths in Asia.

Later, youth representatives at the 1993 youth consultation conference in Bangkok, Thailand suggested that a youth working group be formed as a parish-based subsidiary of FABC to gather support for youth leaders within the organization and to enhance mutual cooperation and links among youth parish groups from Asian countries.

FABC’s Youth Desk was officially established in 1994 forming the team that has since  then organized a series of activities for Asian youths and youth leaders, including the Asian Youth Gathering during the World Youth Day, Asian Youth Ministers’ Meeting and AYD.

Multi-media publications and documentation of activities of Philippine Conference on New Evangelization were produced daily with help from young volunteers. By NJ Viehland

Multi-media publications and documentation of activities of Philippine Conference on New Evangelization were produced daily with help from young volunteers. By NJ Viehland

 

AYD is the coming together of Catholic youths from different Asian countries in weeklong activities including formation programs, workshops, prayer and worship, Bible sharing and sharing with people from other religious groups.

This year’s program centers on the theme: “Asian Youth! Wake Up! The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You.” 

Asia and the Pacific are reportedly home to 45 percent of the world’s youth amounting to 700 million young people, but disparities exist. For example, South Asia is home to 26 percent of the world’s entire youth population representing up to 20 percent of the south’s population, but in East Asia, only 17 percent of the population fall in the youth sector.

 

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.

Pope Francis pulls “whispering” Indian bishop out of retirement

FABC X Menamparampil Capalla NJ Viehland

Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil [front row, extreme left], Xth FABC Plenary Assembly, Vietnam, Dec. 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

I was reviewing documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) tonight when I received word that Pope Francis, in a surprise move pulled Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil out of retirement and appointed him to look after a diocese in northeastern India.

I’ve not been around long enough, so I can remember this happening only once when retired Bishop Francisco Claver was appointed to head Bontoc-Lagawe.

 

 

Watch out, retired prelates! We’ll never know what Pope Francis has in store for us.

In congratulating Archbishop Thomas, the prelate who for a long time led the FABC Office of Evangelization , and who coined the phrase “whispering the Gospel to the soul of Asia…”  , I share here excerpts from my interview with him last year shortly after Benedict XVI announced he was stepping down as pope.

The US bishops’ Catholic News Service (CNS) published the report that quoted some of his remarks. Here is the brief of the full report sent to their clients. Here is Catholic Universe  reprint of the story that appeared in a host of other publications.

Read excerpts from the raw version of the interview below and tell me. Prophetic?

NJ Viehland:  What are qualities, attitudes or particular traits or skills that the next pope must have to shepherd the Church though the rest of this post-modern era?

Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil: This is a question for which I can have no answer. The pope is a pope for me, whatever his nationality, character or competence. He is the Vicar of Christ.

But I can say what the world needs today. A violence-ridden world cries for a reconciling agency, force or inspiration in our times: an energy that will bring together nations, civilizations, cultures, traditions, societies, and communities that are in tense relationships; perceptions, philosophies, ideologies, and theological perspectives that are in opposition; one-sided conclusions of sciences and irresponsible ventures of technologies that are on a collision course.

Every insight is valuable for humanity, every school of thought has something to offer, everything that emerges in a context does so by the compulsions of history. They correct and complete each other in the processes of interaction and by the force of history. A holistic and integrative view is soothing.

Asians understand very well that things that seem contradictory can be brought into harmony, an undertaking in which Asians themselves have failed. That is where the power of the Gospel comes in, for Christ brings all things together. It is the mission of the Church to make this possible.

Even though I may not have phrased my idea in the ideal way, I long for a vision of this type emerging in Christian thought. It will be under the leadership of the new Pope that such things can take shape ensuring a hope-filled future for humanity.

Local Church – what is it?

“Local Church is more than a geographical reality. A local Church is a theological and spiritual reality with concrete socio-cultural dimensions.

AMOR musician nuns by NJ Viehland

It is after all the insertion of the mystery of Christ’s Church in a local culture…

Alleluia was sung in Vietnamese at the opening Mass for the 16th Asia-Oceania Meeting of Women Religious at the Benedictine Sisters' Saint Scholastica's House of Prayer in Tagaytay City, Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photo

Alleluia was sung in Vietnamese at the opening Mass for the 16th Asia-Oceania Meeting of Women Religious at the Benedictine Sisters’ Saint Scholastica’s House of Prayer in Tagaytay City, Nov. 2013. NJ Viehland Photo

AMOR lord have mercy chinese by NJ Viehland

‘the local church is the realization and the enfleshment of the Body of Christ in a given people, a given place and time (FABC Plenary Assembly I, no.9)…'” 

Nuns from around  the region opened their 16th Asia-Oceania Meeting of Women Religious  with a Mass at the Benedictine Sisters' St. Scholastica's House of Prayer, Tagaytay City, Philippines. NJ Viehland Photos.

Nuns from around the region opened their 16th Asia-Oceania Meeting of Women Religious with a Mass at the Benedictine Sisters’ St. Scholastica’s House of Prayer, Tagaytay City, Philippines. NJ Viehland Photos.

– Witnesses & Prophets Building Up the Local Church in Asia,
Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI
          The Role of Religious in Building Up the Local Church, FABC Paper 116

Drumming “future” nuns welcome delegates to the FABC’s 10th plenary assembly in Vietnam

Vietnamese women in formation to be religious sisters welcomed bishops and other delegates and guests to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) at Xuan Loc Pastoral Center, east of Ho Chi Minh during opening of formal sessions on Dec. 17, 2012.

Tran Ngoc Khoa captured their fiery performance here

Related stories:

Vietnam Diocese Grateful for “Miracle” of Hosting 10th FABC Plenary Assembly

 

Vietnam Diocese Grateful for “Miracle” of Hosting 10th FABC Plenary Assembly

Vietnam Monsignor Vincent Dang Van Tu, vicar general of Xuan Loc said the diocese’s hosting of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) was a wish come true for Xuan Loc officials.

Cardinal John-Baptist Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh broached the idea of hosting the gathering of Church leaders from around Asia four years ago when he inaugurated the buildings in Phase I of the construction plan for the Xuan Loc Pastoral Centre complex east of Ho Chi Minh City.

In an interview on Dec. 14, Monsignor Tu retold the story of the pastoral center that housed more than 100 plenary assembly delegates, staff and guests who were attending meeting and workshop sessions, and praying together during the assembly of bishops of Asia that took place from Dec. 10-16.

Monsignor Vincent Dang Van Tu (right), Vicar General of Xuan Loc diocese of Vietnam told the story of the 6-hectare pastoral complex east of Ho Chi Minh City that hosted the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) Dec. 10-16,2012. With him is Monsignor Pietro Nguyen Van Tai, assistant of the Papal Legate to the plenary assembly, who translated the priest's Vietnamese remarks into English. Photo by N. J. Viehland

Monsignor Vincent Dang Van Tu (right), Vicar General of Xuan Loc diocese of Vietnam told the story of the 6-hectare pastoral complex east of Ho Chi Minh City that hosted the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) Dec. 10-16,2012. With him is Monsignor Pietro Nguyen Van Tai, assistant of the Papal Legate to the plenary assembly, who translated the priest’s Vietnamese remarks into English. Photo by N. J. Viehland

Korean Bishop Apologizes for War Crimes in Vietnam

XUAN LOC, Vietnam – A Korean bishop attending the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) here has apologized for war atrocities committed by South Korean troops during the conflict that Americans refer to as the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War.

photos to follow

Cardinal Tong urges prayers for China-Vatican relation

XUAN LOC, Vietnam – Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong has urged fellow delegates at the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) to support and pray for the successful resolution of strained relations between the Holy See and the government of mainland China through dialogue.