From the Synod for Asia
Note: I think it is fair to say that the basic dynamics of this synod involves two differing perspectives on the means to evangelize Asia. The Asian bishops have been presenting an approach that stresses dialogue with other religions and service to and solidarity with the poor. They have further argued that the local churches of Asia need more autonomy in order to better inculturate the faith -- "put on Asian clothes," as one bishops told me.
The second approach, stressed by members of the Roman curia, involves proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior. This approach stressed the need to express the unique role of Jesus in history before entering into dialogue with others. Members of the curia have also, in their declarations, resisted moves toward greater local autonomy, stressing the need for unity with the Holy Father.
Last week, in a summary report of the initial synod speeches, these tensions were again visible. The summary report was criticized by some Asian bishops as not adequately reflecting the views they brought to the synod. The report, in the eyes of many, seemed aimed at moving the discussions along the lines set out by the curial members of the synod. The report raised 14 questions, which were to have served as the basis for discussion groups broken down by language. What follows are summaries of the language working groups, as provided to the press by the Vatican. They are not complete by any means. A careful reading, however, shows that some groups, not surprisingly those with more curial members, favor the Vatican evangelization path while others, in which Asian bishops were dominant, favor the Asian bishops' path. You will find these basic tensions in the reports.
-- NCR Publisher Thomas C. Fox, May 4, 1998
REPORTS OF THE WORKING GROUPS
French group B
Coadjutor Bishop Emile Destombes, MEP, of Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
The church is the sign-sacrament of the love of God for all men and of the love of men, among themselves.
How can the church in Asia become this sign and bear witness to this love that she receives to live and share it? How to express Jesus Christ in her life, and present his message of love in Asia today? How must the church live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, to become attractive and significant to the men and women in Asia today?
First of all, it is by living herself the Good News in communion and humility of a service of freely given and selfless love. The church's works in the domain of teaching and education, of health care or social services, are a great service the church ensures to society and gives it an image of prestige and strength that is certainly effective, but some works are not always perceived as the realization of the Good News.
Moreover, the church has yet to present an Asian face in Asia, and inculturation of faith has yet to be achieved, even if promising outlines are being drawn up. This task can only be achieved through listening to Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and listening to the men to whom the church has been sent, in daily communion and sharing, in faithfulness to Jesus Christ, in answer to the aspiration of every man to live a life of fullness: "I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
English group A
Bishop Peter Remigius of Kumbakonam, India:
Belief in Jesus is very much connected with proclamation and bearing witness, and Bible stories are found to be the best means for evangelization. In Asian countries Jesus is presented as the most compassionate person, teacher of truth, healer, holy man, one who understands the sufferings of the weak and one who identified himself with the poor and oppressed. Transparency of the individuals and life witnessing are the most appealing methods of presenting Jesus. Lay people, especially teachers, are better instruments to bring people to Jesus. Presenting God as our Creator Father who loves us and forgives us is very appealing.
There was a unanimous view in the group with regard to the divinity of Jesus and his unique mediation of salvation. And the role of the bishop is to teach and safeguard the official teaching of the church. The theologians are making a lot of reflections and speculations, and that is to be encouraged. Regular dialogues between bishops theologians will be a good method of better understanding.
The suffering church should be supported by activities of solidarity, exchange of personnel, NGO operations, radio, the Internet and the press. By baptism, the laity have the right and duty to participate in the evangelization ministry of the church. Evangelizers have to have these attitudes: conviction borne out of the love of Christ, humility in the sense of openness to the truth, discernment, sharing personal experience, process -- total immersion into the life of people, the attitude of empowering the people, to have authentic discipleship of Christ, transparency, high morality and capacity to listen.
It was pointed out that in many of the Asian countries the women and children participate more in the liturgy and in the activities of the church. Women are more religiously minded, they pray for God's protection of the family. Contextualized liturgy and active participation move the people more, and it is very meaningful to them. Quite a few expressed their experience in greater delay in getting the texts approved.
Images of the church: well organized; powerful; line of authority; responsibility and accountability; church members are called upon for greater sacrifice; easily solves problems; admirable integrity cannot be manipulated; rich; a few say foreign, Western and for better-off people; the church is only for the scheduled cast; the church is very holy and very demanding, so some people want baptism only when they are old. The terms Universal and Particular churches require more clarification. It should be more participatory, keeping fully the understanding of hierarchy.
Globalization erodes the culture and economic values of the poor countries. Money makers and multinational companies destroy the values of family. As a pastoral response, the church should appeal that the debts of the Third World countries be cancelled or lightenend in the Jubilee Year.
Apostolic Vicar Armando Bortolaso, SDB, of Alep, Syria:
The synodal fathers in the Italian working group have noticed in the first part of the report, after the discussion, that one must speak about or, better yet, carefully conserve the mystery of Jesus Christ in the church, that is to say that the church is the sacrament of salvation, according to the assertion of Vatican Council II. The fathers noticed that one neither speaks about sacraments, especially the Eucharist, as the source and fullness of grace and reconciliation, nor does one speak about the proclamation of the Gospel to the peoples of Asia.
One therefore asks how the church is to bring salvation to all the peoples of Asia, in relationship to this.
The fathers noted that in the report, temporal salvation brought by the church through social works is mentioned, but eternal salvation is not mentioned. Let us not forget, therefore, that Christ came to save the world, giving his Life so that all men could be saved.
The fathers of the Italian working group stated how in points 48, 49, 50 and 51 of the report inculturation in the church in Asia is discussed clearly and fully. With regard to the meaning of inculturation, special reference is made to no. 40 of Gaudium et spes and no. 52 of Redemptoris missio.
The synodal fathers of the Italian working group emphasize how the Lord is blessing the church of Asia with the cross, that is to say with persecution and martyrdom, more than in other parts of the universal church, stressing the irreplaceable value of the theology of the cross and of the Resurrection.
Therefore, God is love. He manifested himself through the cross, making himself visible in Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us. The theology of the cross and the Resurrection is the response to suffering, persecutions, marginalization and injustice, which are perceived in the church in Asia as a sign of the presence of Christ.
Jesus Christ would therefore also be presented to the youth of Asia as the hope and giver of life who gave his Life for others. The fathers observed that in the interventions at the synod reference was made only once to the new commandment of love -- including love for one's enemies -- and that it is very important to include this in the document for Asia.
Furthermore, the fathers suggested delving further into the religious experience of Jesus Christ as the way to inter-religious dialogue, but to beware of some theologians, especially the Indian ones, who have too strongly emphasized the salvific value of other religions.
Then, the fathers underlined how the church in Asia should change from a static dimension of the conservation of the heritage of faith to a dynamic dimension of the proclaiming of the word of God, with the need for a new evangelization of Asia in the third millennium. Although Enlightenment rationalism and post-modern naturalism have dealt a blow to the heart of Christian soteriology by the denial of original sin and the sense of sin, the church must proclaim the Gospel in Asia more firmly and more dynamically.
In the second part of the Report one can observe that:
In the third part of the report, four points were discussed: promotion, reconciliation, globalization and the Gospel of Life.
Finally, the fathers of the Italian working group, as bearing witness had been for the evangelization of America, proposed that Our Lady be the star and guide of the new evangelization in Asia. This takes into account the fact that in Asia, not only do the Christian faithful have a great devotion to Mary, but also the believers in other religions see in her a model to imitate and a mother near their hearts. Therefore, "Ad Jesum per Maria."
English group G
Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP, of Caceres, the Philippines:
The group divided its report into some theological consideration and reactions to some of the questions contained in the Relatio post disceptationem. The theological consideration deals with the understanding of the statement "Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior and unique Mediator of salvation to all peoples." Being the one and unique mediator does not mean that there are no other mediators aside from Jesus Christ, although in a participative sense only. The uniqueness of Christ as a mediator is grounded on our conviction that all graces of salvation come from and are derived from Christ without any exception. The other precisions are about the word proclamation and the crucial importance of situating the discussion on Jesus Christ within the theology of the Trinity.
Jesus Christ is best presented to Asia either as an authentic human being, as compassionate Jesus, as the one who harmonizes through his incarnation, divine and human, as a prophet and teacher who spoke the word of God without fear of people, as the suffering servant, etc.
It was suggested, as steps towards communion and for dioceses to be more generous in allowing its priests to serve the universal church, to have greater consultation between local ordinaries and the religious superiors and to foster more pontifical mission societies wherever feasible. A particular desire touches on the personnel in the Vatican dicasteries. It was suggested that they exhibit more fully pastoral attention and charity to whom they minister. A warm and welcoming attitude does much to promote ecclesial communion.
The group asks the synod to call for a discernment in Asia of the phenomenon of globalization. It asks the synod to call upon sister churches in the first world to join the churches in Asia to appeal to international bodies for justice and equity.
French group A
Auxiliary Bishop Reinhard Marx of Paderborn, Germany:
The Synod of Bishops for Asia should be re-situated in the preparation of the jubilee proposed by the Holy Father. The evangelization efforts have already been outlined in the exhortation Tertio millennio adveniente. Freedom of religion, so delicate in certain Asian countries, sometimes even lacking, is a basis for evangelization; the rights of man are equally important as is tolerance between the great religions. One must look for different ways of proclaiming the Good News in the different cultures. Unity of faith can sometimes be expressed in different ways. It is always the church, the People of God, that must make visible the fruits of the Gospel, thus being the sacrament of salvation; this is why the image of the church as a servant, imprint of love, charity and service, is fundamental, even if the church, in the past, could have been tempted by triumphalism.
Dialogue with cultures and religions is necessary and fruitful, but can never substitute the proclamation of the Good News and evangelization. Thus evangelization must bear in mind the cultural context and use means dependent on the various situations existing in the Asian countries. Emphasis could be placed on the liturgy, on catechesis or, even more, on certain means of communication. Faith surpasses all cultures. Liturgy is the heart of life in the church, and many efforts have already been made to inculturate within the diverse contexts.
How are the unity of the church, collegiality and communion complementary? This is the reason why one must establish a true subsidiarity between the universal church and the particular churches within the Catholic church.
Charitable works are absolutely necessary for the church, making visible the freely given love of Christ. This charity continues in engagement for social justice within the different societies. This engagement is supported by the great treasure of the church's social doctrine; this is why formation in this domain is very important, for priests as for the laity. The process of globalization proves that capitalism without solidarity and without social justice is not acceptable; the church has the duty of contributing to the formation of upright societies thanks to the church's social doctrine.
In Asia, the church must also be the sacrament of reconciliation at all levels; she can be a sign and an instrument of peace in the different societies. Christians, especially bishops, must become true artisans of peace.
English group B
Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, SVD, of Romblon, the Philippines:
To proclaim Jesus to Asians in an appealing way, we have to use concepts that resonate with Asian cultural heritage, such as "sacred rivers". Asians are attuned to contemplation, so Jesus has to be presented as a mystery that gradually unfolds, giving people a religious experience. The portrait of Jesus in the Gospels with different dimensions such as the Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd, the Truth and the Suffering Servant is appealing to various situations in Asia. The lovely stories told by Luke fascinate even Muslims and Hindus. In every proclamation of Jesus arrogance is to be avoided. The proclaimer himself must have faith and personal experience of God, since proclamation is a dialogue of the spirit. There are efforts of contemporary theologians to explain Christ to other religions. These should be appreciated rather than be branded as unorthodox at the outset. Our faith is full of mysteries that need enlightenment provided by theologians. The danger exists when theologians do not dialogue or consult with the magisterium before they present their theological opinions, which tend to be uncritically received by the laity. A structure for an on-going dialogue between theologians and church authorities should be set up.
In order to present Jesus as savior of all, it is useful to find out the common denominator of all human beings and the common denominator of each country. Then let us ask: of what is Jesus the savior? From what does he save us? There is no need to dilute Christ in our proclamation just to make him more acceptable to others. Our duty to preserve our faith remains even in our interreligious dialogue. It is not true that the uniqueness of Christ as savior is hurtful to other religions. It is our arrogant way of proclamation that turns them off. In dialoguing with others we have to empty ourselves in order to accept the other. Prayer and self-renunciation is integral to the process of dialogue because the truth should go not only from head to head but from heart to heart.
It is strange that a dichotomy is made between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This dichotomy does not mean a denial of Christ's role but an acknowledgment that the Spirit has always been at work in other Asian religions. This trend is also seen in movements for justice and peace where even priests and religious hide their Christian identity on the pretext that they do the work of the Spirit at the human level. They proclaim a kingdom without a king. The "creative" ways of announcing the Gospel are those inspired by the Holy Spirit such as the Focolare Movement and the use of the media of social communications. Another way is to live and work as a Christian witness among people of other religions. By a truly Christian presence conversions are made. The biblical apostolate with its modern methods is an effective instrument of evangelization in many parts of Asia. Christian values are arousing the interest of Asians, who are disillusioned by materialism. This is an opportune time to explain to them the values of the Gospel through mass media. In many parts of Asia the church is only in a maintenance mode, not in a missionary mode. The laity can become effective evangelizers if they receive the right formation and if the clergy is ready to empower them with church responsibilities. One of the most effective ways of evangelizing both ad intra and ad extra is a beautiful liturgical celebration. However, an inculturated liturgy is still a dream because of the strict control over translations of liturgical texts and the slowness of the Roman dicasteries in giving them approval.
The church's image in Asia is ambivalent. For the majority of Asians the church is a well-organized institution that renders excellent social services, such as education. However, many Asians fail to see in the church the symbol of God's presence. It is still viewed as Western, foreign, a continuation of the colonization of the past. It is our challenge to correct this image of the church by presenting ourselves as the People of God, intended by Christ to preach his Gospel. Much is still to be done in the area of communion between the local church and the universal church. The Holy Father needs to be given a proper and objective communication regarding events in Asia. A lot of bureaucracy still exists in the Roman curia that hinders smooth and efficient service to national conferences of bishops.
All works of human promotion are an integral part of evangelization. They are God's work, not mere human enterprises. Many Christian institutions in Asia are overwhelmed with bureaucracy, so we have to create evangelizing movements that will act as leaven for Christian renewal. The church must be a mediator for reconciliation. She is effective as an agent of reconciliation in some parts of Asia, such as the Philippines and Lebanon. As church, we can remedy evils by joining grass-root popular movements, most of which are neutral and secular. We can join forces with them to fight evil and to inject into them the values of the Gospel. Although globalization may have some beneficial effects, it has certainly brought misery to many Asians because of its economic policies. As church, we Asians should denounce the evils coming from globalization and we are appealing to our sister churches of the First World to join us in our crusade for justice and solidarity among nations. A concrete issue is the cancellation of the Third World's staggering external debt, a suggestion of the Holy Father himself in his letter Tertio millenio adveniente.
English group C
Bishop Ignatius Paul Pinto of Shimoga, India:
Part I: Christology and pneumatology. Jesus should be preached in new ways that are intelligible and appealing to the Asian people in consonance with the teaching of the church. The human traits of the person of Jesus that appeal more to Asian sensibilities should be emphasized. Like Jesus, it is necessary for us to have God-experience in order to proclaim him both by word and witness.
Jesus had a deep experience of the Holy Spirit. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and anointed by him, and later he gave the Spirit as his gift to the church.
We experience growth in the understanding of Christology as a result sometimes of the differences arising among theologians inter se and between theologians and the magisterium. There should be sincere and open dialogue between the magisterium and the theologians.
The uniqueness of Jesus as savior will have to be unfolded gradually by first presenting him as a perfect human being, a healer full of compassion. According to the different circumstances obtaining, we must use different methods and modalities in proclaiming Jesus. Basic Christian communities, Lumko ASIPA methods, charismatic movements, parish renewal experiences and the neo-catechumenal way can be used with advantage. Interreligious dialogue should not be confused with proclamation. Whatever we say about Jesus should carry the mark of authenticity. At the same time, we must show due respect for the beliefs of others.
Part II: The church's evangelizing mission. The church is admired for its institutions catering to the educational needs even of non-Christians, for its health-care, social services and its administrative efficiency. It is unfortunate that our institutions, especially schools, have in general lost their Catholic character. We can and must use our institutions as avenues for the proclamation of the love of Jesus Christ. The local church must be looked upon as reflection of the universal church. The relationship between the local churches and the universal church is to be governed by the principle of unity of faith and morals and collegiality of bishops. The growth of the local churches contributes to, and ensures the growth of the universal church. Members of Vita Consecrata must integrate themselves more fully into the local church.Part III: The church's mission of love and service. Christians are known to be a peace-loving and forgiving people, and as such their role in reconciliation is generally acceptable to the fighting factions. There should be permanent peace committees with leaders of different religions as members.
Family values, the Gospel of Life and the culture of life are to be emphasized. The lack of values in society has led to abortion, divorce, euthanasia, drug-addiction and alcoholism.
The liturgy should pass on to the family in greater measure. The celebration of some of the sacraments is better held in the homes of the people than in churches.
Greater freedom should be granted to the bishops' conferences and regional councils of bishops in liturgical matters.
Some of our youth can be trained to become our messengers of the culture of love and of life.
English group D
Bishop Ramon B. Villena of Bayombong, the Philippines:
Part I: Proclamation. Jesus was born in Asia, and the scriptures were written in Asia. By our life witness we should evangelize Asians so they can say, "Jesus has come back to Asia." In early times, the witness of life brought many converts to Christianity: "See how they love one another." To proclaim Jesus, we must study and pray deeply about the reality of Jesus: "The Father and I are one." This is the reality of Jesus. No one before him made such a claim; it created a scandal among people and provoked the Jews. In Asia, we must face the reactions that Jesus provokes and respond to them.
The proclamation of the scriptures in word and deed is the best method to proclaim Jesus. The presentation of Jesus should begin with stories and parables. Jesus should be presented in ways understandable to Asian peoples: as the teacher of true wisdom, the way of the Spirit, the teacher of truth, the spiritual guide, the enlightened one, the one who shares the kenosis, the compassionate helper of the poor. Jesus can be presented as the fulfillment of the yearnings expressed in the mythologies and folklore of Asian peoples.
For effective proclamation, we must show ourselves as people of holiness and prayer who have experienced God. In Asia, where there are so many religious cultures, we should follow the model of the acts of the apostles: preach forgiveness and repentance. The reign of God is near: Turn away from sin to God. To make Jesus Christ appealing, we must show that he is not distant from Asian traits and situations. In this way, Christ, already present in Asian values, can be recognized emerging from those traits.
In the context of interreligious dialogue, one must be at ease, peaceful and happy about being a Christian. Someone who has problems with the faith cannot dialogue well. In dialogue, we should not argue or debate, but we must testify to our faith and not compromise it. Every religion is unique and we must not surrender the uniqueness of our own.
The uniqueness of Christ is not theoretical or doctrinal, but something lived. Through forgiveness and loving our enemies, we proclaim the uniqueness of Jesus because these are traits unique to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Proclamation of Christ's uniqueness can be explained by his unique teaching and example, and also by what the Father did uniquely in Jesus. We need to state that for us Jesus is not merely one of the manifestations of the divine. While not surrendering our belief in Christ's unique mediation, we can still dialogue with other religions. We do not need to start with the concept of uniqueness in dialogue; it can be gradually proclaimed.
Proclamation is not only living the Gospel but also preaching so that people are healed and made whole. The uniqueness of Jesus is his totally new experience of the father consisting in surrender and love. Christ can be proclaimed effectively through Eucharistic adoration. Time spent in prayer before the blessed sacrament can help greatly in sanctifying and converting people.
Part II: Creative ways of announcing the Gospel. Some ways suggested for creatively announcing Christ are:
Liturgy as evangelization. Meaningful liturgy should be developed through popular religiosity:
The use of sacred writings of other religions for reflection and prayer can sometimes be profitable for Christians, but the nature of the Christian liturgy demands that only Christian scriptures be proclaimed in it.
The church as communion and community. The Synod should also make a strong statement about the church as communion and community. Meetings where the laity participate together with religious and clergy produce more fruit than when the laity or the clergy hold meetings exclusively among themselves. The synods would be more productive if more lay people were invited. There should be broader national and diocesan pre-synodal consultations on synod topics.
Communion of the local church with the universal church should be affirmed and appreciated because it is the hope and strength of the churches of Asia, which are usually but small minorities. We should manifest this appreciation by propagating the encyclicals, works and teachings of the Pope. Others envy our unity and communion with the universal church. Our communion and unity is a blessing and gift of the Holy Spirit.
The concept of communion of communities can be clearly seen and understood in the small ecclesial communities of Asia. In these small communities, the religious, the laity and the clergy are called together by the Word of God, which leads them to form small Christian communities (e.g. neighborhood groups, basic ecclesial communities and covenant communities). There they pray and share together the Gospel of Jesus, living it in their daily lives as they love, trust and support one another and work together, united in "one mind and heart." These small communities must be communion with other communities, with the parish, diocese and universal church.
The church has the duty to be a peacemaker, a reconciler among conflicting ethnic, ideological, political, religious, and family groups. To do this effectively, the church must transcend racial and tribal differences and ideological and political beliefs. A reconciler must be able to ask pardon for one's faults and sins. We also reconcile people through works of love.
Recommendation: all our apostolates of love and service must begin with prayer and be sustained by prayer, which gives sustenance and Christian meaning to our involvement.
English group E
Bishop Emeritus Francisco F. Claver, SI, of Malaybalay, also apostolic vicar of Bontoc-Lagawe, both of the Philippines:
The Gospel of Christ must be preached in Asia in a way that appeals to Asian mentalities and cultures. A good approach would be to start with commonalities of the Christian message and the culture we seek to evangelize. The area of human values is a rich field for such commonalities. Christ in all his concreteness as God and man must be preached. Still, there are aspects and qualities of his person that may be more attractive to Asians -- his love for the poor, for instance, his role as teacher, healer, prophet, etc. These must be looked into. When we talk of Asian cultures, we mean the way of life of Asians now -- past and foreign influences included -- that make up their present way of life.
We believe Christ is our one and unique savior. It is a belief that can make us appear arrogant unless a more humble way is found by which to put across the same truth without watering it down. Some Asian theologians who are making the effort to present Christ in a way more suited to Asian mentalities and sensibilities are being accused of watering down the Christian faith, especially in regard to the uniqueness of Christ as the only mediator of salvation and the place of the Holy Spirit in God's plan of salvation. To resolve what often happens to be simple misunderstandings or misinterpretations, there must be more open dialogue between theologians and church officials at national and international levels.
The way we proclaim Christ's Gospel will differ according to whether it is being done to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or indigenous peoples. Direct proclamation is not always possible, but the doing of "works of mercy" and dialogue are.
Our Christian faith must by all means shed its reputation as a foreign religion and become better inculturated, taking on an Asian face everywhere without in any way compromising or diminishing Christ's Gospel teachings. The inculturation of the liturgy requires greater use of vernacular languages and indigenous symbols. In the translation of liturgical texts into the vernacular, the request is made that local bishops' conferences should be given more responsibility in their fashioning and approval in the spirit of subsidiarity and communion.
More creative ways of proclaiming the Gospel have to be found. The use of the modern media of communications is encouraged, but also that of traditional ones like puppetry, street drama, songs, mime, etc. The same kind of creativity should be used in the church's established works, ecumenism, her apostolates for the family, for youth, etc. Schools, for instance, are still valid and powerful instruments of evangelization. But where they have become elitist, ways must be found whereby they can also cater to poorer students. As for the family, the traditional high regard in Asian societies for it must be preserved in the light of all the disrupting factors coming from the rush towards "modernity." But even as this is being done, efforts must be made to inject a real sense of the common good in the family -- excessive family-centeredness can weaken that sense. Youth are seen to be the best evangelizers of their peers and they must be encouraged to play a stronger role in the church's evangelization work.
The church's mission of love and service finds expression in the works mentioned above. But other areas are getting growing attention too. The work of human promotion is centered in many churches on the work for justice and development and the protection of human rights. Thus the fight against discrimination and exploitation of all kinds touching tribal peoples, low caste or class groups, migrants, racial minorities, women, children, adherents of minority religions, etc. and the evil effects resulting from a globalized economy. But the work for peace and reconciliation is also getting more attention as a church work as endemic hatred among peoples continues to spawn violence. So too the acts of governments to control population growth by the legalization of abortion and other unacceptable means of birth prevention -- these are being opposed by the church in many countries. Other concerns like the AIDS pandemic and environmental degradation are being added to the church's concern for human promotion.
The work for human promotion as mentioned above often puts the church in conflictive situations with governments and other power groups. This development is pushing the church in many countries to look into the whole problem of her involvement in politics. A more nuanced approach is developing and likewise a greater appreciation of the church's social teachings. Where governments acts are seen to be destructive of the human person and his dignity, there the church as a whole, people and clergy/hierarchy, must speak out and act. And if she chooses to be silent or to do nothing, her silence and inaction must have a clear evangelical message.
English group H
Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat of the Syro-Malabars:
The presentation of Christ as the only mediator of salvation creates problems in the Asian multi-religious context. Nevertheless, when we start dialogue we should declare our belief that Christ is the only savior. It was observed that genuine interreligious dialogue seldom takes place in the countries where Christians are a minority. Dialogue for the promotion of human development, peace and harmony is found more practicable. In dialogue we should share with others not certain ideas about Christ but our experiences and personal convictions. Such a sharing will lead both the parties to deeper levels of dialogue.
The creative ways of announcing the Gospel were suggested by a life of witnessing, direct proclamation of the Word of God, means of communication such as radio, TV, Asian art and culture, comics etc. In communicating the Word, signs and symbols, stories and images that are familiar to the Asian mind are to be used. Promotion of human development is also an integral part of evangelization.
The liturgical celebrations should have an evangelizing effect. This, however, is not the case. The main reason is that the liturgy is not sufficiently inculturated. The celebrations are not meaningful, nor are they emotionally satisfying. Lay participation in the liturgical celebrations is minimal. Lay ministries are services the community needs. Most of the liturgical prayers do not touch the heart.
The educational institutions should have an evangelizing thrust. Formal education is to be promoted. Non-formal education also has a vital role to play in evangelization. It is an effective way of conscientizing and enlightening the people in the humanizing process. The parents, communities and societies that impart non-formal education are fulfilling thereby an evangelizing mission. The services of lay people, especially of youth, are to be made use of in the field of formal and non-formal education.
The group felt that many of the Asian traits that were found in the interventions are lost in the Relatio post disceptationem. Specifically, the practical questions have not taken into account the Asian thrust: the Asian emphasis on experience, harmony with nature, people and God, the family, the way, etc. All these orientations can be summarized in the word dialogue, which is a presence to one another and leads to communication through silence, listening to one another, and non-verbal and verbal exchanges.
It is unfortunate that the call and mission of priests find no reference in the Instrumentum laboris. The formation of the clergy, it was observed, is given according to the Western style. Their formation should be inculturated. The seminarians should be given a good spiritual, intellectual and human formation so that they may become holy and learned priests, and pastors of sound personality. Most of the seminary professors are trained in the West. What they give is information rather than formation. We need holy professors/formators who are real gurus. Only they can form holy priests. It would be good to have lay men and women and religious sisters on the staff of the seminary. The group strongly felt the need for textbooks in the seminaries. Ongoing formation, chiefly spiritual formation, to face the socio-pastoral realities of today, is very necessary. Bishops also need ongoing training.
Communion among the particular churches in Asia is to be promoted. In this connection it was pointed out that in India the right to evangelize and to attend to the pastoral care of the migrant faithful of the Syro-Malabar church was not respected. The Syro-Malabar faithful in Kuwait do not have an opportunity to take part in the liturgical celebration according to their rite. This situation calls for attention.
The group felt that part III of the practical questions puts too much emphasis on action. The church should concentrate more on being the church of Christ than on doing certain works. Doing flows from being. The role of the church is not to take over civil society and rule over it but to act as a leaven of society and to transform it from within. The globalization of the economy has affected the stability of Asian families. The Asian church should become aware of the seriousness of the situation and take precautionary steps. In order to build up families and to strengthen them,, every effort should be made to promote family apostolate. In order that the church may better respond to her mission of service to the poor, she should not only profess her option for the poor, but must herself become poor after the example of Christ, who became poor and lived in the midst of poverty and hardship. Promotion of human rights is a serious duty of the church. She should raise her voice against the violation of human rights whenever and wherever it is done and not only when her own rights are at peril. The globalization of the economy has had serious negative consequences. It has brought in its train a lot of exploitation of the poor by the rich, of the developing countries by the developed countries. The church should point out the negative consequences of globalization. She should promote justice and reconciliation and act as an agent to heal the wounds. She has a prophetic role to play in the modern world. The church of Asia as one church should take up the challenge and fulfill her mission in cooperation with people of other faiths.
English group F
Bishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don of Ratnapura, Sri Lanka:
The group first studied the Relatio post disceptationem (RPD) and found that it needed further improvement. While many of the submissions made by the synodal fathers and auditors have found their way into the RPD several important aspects of evangelization had been left out. Among these the role of the Word of God, formation to mission and missionary cooperation, the role of the religious and accountability. Some items already mentioned needed further elaboration. Several suggestions concerning the structure of the RPD too were made -- among these the need to start the process by speaking about the yearning for God, salvation in Asian realities and the need to speak of Jesus Christ as the redeemer who only brings to fulfillment God's own economy of salvation, the main protagonist being God himself.
The group also proposed that the Synod solemnly declare Jesus Christ the one and only savior and Mary, who is so precious to Asia, the guiding star of evangelization. The group also thought that the Synod should acknowledge with gratitude the self-effacing labor of all the past missionaries who sowed the seed of the Gospel in Asia.
In their study of the questionnaire, they suggested that the presentation of Jesus Christ be always made only in relation to the economy of salvation where the prime mover is God Himself. If this link is not accented there is a danger of Jesus being identified by the Asians as just another founder of a religion. Jesus is the Son of God, who came to call mankind back to a redeeming relationship with God and who in order to carry out the plan of God died on the cross and was glorified by him. This is the Good News of salvation, that "God loved the world so much that he gave His only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
In this sense the need for a correct theological formation of all sectors of the church was felt as a priority by the group.
The group also studied the evangelizing mission of the church and suggested the need to intensify lay participation in missionary activity and thus the need for the formation of the laity. Missionary activity is to be complemented by missionary cooperation, it was felt; and the importance of the pontifical mission societies in achieving that. The group also accented on the need to achieve a proper understanding of liturgy, which is not merely celebration but also praise and thanksgiving for the great deeds of redemption enacted by God through Christ. The Eucharist very specially ought to be seen also as a sacrifice, one that unites our own pains and sacrifices for salvation. The missionary value of the sacraments and of charismatic prayer and healing were acknowledged. The use of non-Christian scriptures in liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, was not acceptable to the majority of the synod fathers in the group.
The group affirmed the need for the local church to be firmly united to the Successor of St. Peter and suggested some ways to clear up any problems between the local communities themselves, between rites and dioceses and between the local churches and certain Roman dicasteries.
In the matter concerning the church's mission of love and service, it was felt that unless these are made to become expressions of the love of God, they run the risk of losing their interior dynamism. Among some of the areas stressed by the members of the group were:
The group proposed strongly a campaign against the horror of abortion by spreading the message of Evangelium vitae and organizing a day of prayer and atonement for the continuous murder of millions of innocents and the horror of its political institutionalization. It was also suggested that the members of the church should unite with other religions to bring back the moral and spiritual values now receding from society due to greed and selfishness.