Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of the Migrants and Itinerant People
II Asian Congress on Pilgrimages and Shrines
(Seoul, Korea, 21st – 23rd November 2005)
Pilgrimages and Shrines, Gifts of God-Love in Asia Today
1) The Event
The Second Asian Congress on the Pastoral Care of Pilgrimages and Shrines was held in Seoul, Korea, from 21st to 23rd November 2005, under the guidance of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, in collaboration with the Episcopal Committee for Migrants and Itinerant People of Korea (CPCMI-CBCK). The theme of the Congress was: Pilgrimages and Shrines, Gifts of God-Love in Asia Today.
There were about ninety participants: Bishops, pilgrimage directors, rectors of shrines, priests, men and women religious and laity who came from fourteen Asian countries: Bangladesh, China (Hong Kong and Macao), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Representatives of the Federation of Shrines of Latin America and the Association of the United States of America were also present.
The Congress analysed the work begun in the meeting of Manila, in 2003, with the aim of increasing communion and communication among those responsible for the pastoral care of pilgrimages and shrines in the Asian continent. There was an exchange of experiences gained on how to widen dialogue and discover common pastoral criteria while respecting the specific nature of each Country, in a continent so rich in religions, cultures, languages and traditions. Matters dealt with were also inculturation, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. A study was made for the creation of an Association of Pilgrimage Directors and Shrine Rectors on a continental level and for some countries on a national level.
The Congress was opened with the reading of the Holy Father’s Message by the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea, H.E. Msgr. Emil Paul Tscherrig. With this message the Holy Father gave his apostolic blessing to the participants, encouraging them to renew their zealous dedication to this important area of pastoral activity. He also reminded them that “History is rich in examples of the many spiritual benefits received in places touched by holiness. As centres of evangelisation and conversion, Shrines offer a precious contribution to the mission of the pilgrim Church”.
There followed by the opening words of welcome by the President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, the President of the hosting Episcopal Committee, the Bishop of Jeonju (Korea), H.E. Msgr. Vincent Ri Pyung-Ho and H.E. Msgr. Joseph Lee Han-Taek, the Bishop of Uijongbu, diocese where the Congress was realised.
Opening the meeting Cardinal Hamao outlined the themes to be studied. He spoke of pilgrimage centres, which he defined as places of great privilege, where God welcomes his people and gives them his love, and where human life is defended and the family protected. The Cardinal went on explaining that shrines also promote ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. In fact the shrines in Asia are visited by pilgrims of different Churches and ecclesial Communities and also by the faithful of various religious beliefs. His Eminence then referred to the inculturation of the faith on the Asian continent, speaking not only of faith expressed in the elements of local culture, but also of faith that invigorates and renews that culture.
There followed a talk by Bishop of Cheongju, Korea, H.E. Msgr. Gabriel Chang Bong-hun, on the theme: “Shrines and Pilgrimages in Korea”. He outlined the development of the Martyrs’ shrines and explained the theological nature of pilgrimage in soteriological, ecclesiological, and eschatological perspectives. Also he presented an example of the pastoral ministry in shrines focused on Baithi, a Christian Village of his diocese.
On the second day, Fr. Renzo De Luca, S.J., the Rector of the Japanese Shrine of the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki, spoke about: “Pilgrimages and shrines, where Christ is proclaimed and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue takes place”. This shrine pays special attention to its pilgrims with suitable liturgies and homilies. But it is also a tourist attraction visited by many non-Christians, Buddhists and Shintoists, interested in learning something of the story of Christianity. There is a humane rather than religious approach. Those among them who are motivated by the desire to have a so-called “healing experience” give the shrine an opportunity to offer them a deeper religious experience. Then there are also visitors who come for reasons of study or persons attracted by certain exhibitions, to whom the shrine tries to present religious realities too. Those responsible for the shrine are careful, however, to avoid ambiguity, because non-Christians are suspicious of knowledge used to proselytise. In fact, as Fr. De Luca concluded, the shrine has not yet found the just equilibrium between the answers to be given to the real needs of inquirers and an adequate proclamation of the gospel.
The second talk was given by Fr. Devasia Mathew Mangalam, CSSR, Rector of the Shrine of Fatima in Kolkata, India, on the theme: “Pilgrimages and Shrines, where inculturation and other issues of migration are dealt with”. In India there are hundreds of shrines and places of pilgrimage, many of which also attract tourists and give opportunities for dialogue and the proclamation of the gospel. As Fr. Mangalam stressed, many persons who come to these places have left their native lands, driven either by economic necessity or in order to escape violence and conflicts. When Christians understand that life on earth is a pilgrimage, they welcome these migrants in sign of comprehension and sharing. He finally concluded that when the Church engages in direct proclamation of the Gospel then there is encounter between the Gospel and other cultures.
In the afternoon the participants visited Jeoldusan Shrine and Museum (The Land of Martyrdom), following which H.E. Msgr. Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk, Archbishop of Seoul and the ecclesial community, received the participants in the Cathedral, where they experienced warm hospitality, culture, customs and traditions of the Korean people.
The third day was devoted to the study for the creation of an Association of Pilgrimage Directors and Rectors of Shrines on a continental level. In accordance with the recommendations of the First Asian Congress (Manila 2003), Associations have already been created at national level. The first talk on this subject, however, concerned Latin America; it was given by H.E. Msgr. Gaspar Quintana Jorquera, Bishop of Copiapó, Chile, who is the President of the Federation of the Rectors of the Shrines of Latin America. Msgr. Quintana informed the Congress of the progress made by the Federation, the aims that inspire it and the organisation sustaining it for the purpose of helping shrines perform evangelisation. He then explained the fundamental issues of the important theological and pastoral reflections carried out by the Federation and offered suggestions for the evangelisation of popular piety in the light of this Seoul Congress. The second talk was given by Fr. Cyril Guise, OCD, the President of the National Association of Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate in the United States of America (NASPA). He explained that one of the Association’s principal aims is to highlight the meaning of pilgrimage as a journey undertaken to deepen one’s spiritual life. He concluded that every shrine should “open wide the doors” and create an atmosphere where everyone feels at home.
After each session there were workshops to share and discuss, which enriched the participants and contributed to the drawing up of the final report. The three homilies delivered by Bishop Precioso Cantillas from the Philippines, Archbishop Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul and Cardinal Hamao were worthy complement to the Eucharistic celebrations.
2) Final Declaration
We, as Asian Shrine Rectors and Pilgrimage Directors, are grateful for the enriching inputs made by the speakers and participants to the Second Asian Congress, on the theme: "Pilgrimages and Shrines, Gifts of God-Love in Asia Today". Together we felt the deep sense of religiosity of our people. Asia has been the cradle of many founders of religions and has been bathed, purified and sanctified by the blood of Christian Martyrs. In his message of encouragement, sent to us at the opening of the Congress, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI expressed the hope that “the Good News destined to all peoples, might shine brightly in and from the Shrines and Holy Places of Asia, calling all to recognise and respond to Jesus Christ, God’s greatest sign of love for humanity”.
We, as Asian Rectors of Shrines and Directors of Pilgrimages, do resolve to commit ourselves:
1) to make our Shrines and Pilgrimages an encounter with God’s love in Christ through the proclamation of the Word and the meaningful celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the Reconciliation, and the Anointing of the Sick. Acts of piety could complement this holy work;
2) to promote and cooperate with pro-life movements, both ecclesial and non-governmental ones, which stand for life and defence of human dignity, keeping our Catholic identity;
3) to welcome families and groups of pilgrims, non Catholics and non Christians as well, in order to experience in our shrines God’s love, peace and the beauty of life, creating an environment to feel at home and welcome;
4) to provide pastoral care for migrants;
5) to form National and/or Regional Associations of Shrine Rectors and Pilgrimage Directors;
6) to establish a network for Internet communication, and to publish periodical newsletters, using also other electronic media.
We have agreed to create an Asian Association of Shrine Rectors and Pilgrimage Directors, whose members will initially be the representatives of the 14 nations present at Seoul. To this end we have appointed a Coordinator (Rev. Msgr. Peter Cañonero from the Philippines) to prepare the Third Asian Congress to be held if possible in November 2007, for which we proposed Japan as a host country.
Finally we remember the first pilgrimage made by the Magi in search of the Lord of Truth. So, in the same way, the pilgrims who come to our holy places must go back to their homes renewed in spirit and disposed to adopt a different style of life, through conversion. In fact, as the late Pope John Paul II said, pilgrimages have to be a “journey of authentic conversion”.
May our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, who presented the Lord to the Magi, accompany us and the pilgrims in this journey to the Promised Land. Having come together in the land of Korean Martyrs we may be inspired and encouraged to commit ourselves to the shrines and pilgrimages apostolate in the vision of these places as gifts of God-love in Asia.
Seoul, Korea, 23rd November 2005