S Y N O D O F B I S H O P S
S P E C I A L A S S E M B L Y F O R A S I A
JESUS CHRIST THE SAVIOUR AND
HIS MISSION OF
LOVE AND SERVICE IN ASIA:
"...THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE,
AND HAVE IT ABUNDANTLY" (JN 10:10).
© The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
This text can be reproduced by Bishops' Conferences, or at their authorization, provided that the content is not altered in any way and two copies of the same be sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, 00120 Vatican City State.
The initiative of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II to convoke a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, set forth in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, appears in a series of continental synodal assemblies called in light of the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The first such assembly was held for the African continent in 1994. The Special Assembly for America recently concluded in December, 1997. The remaining special assemblies for Oceania and Europe are to be celebrated in the closing years of the Second Millennium.
The Synodal Assembly for Asia is to take place in 1998, after a period of preparation characterized by some significant moments: the consultation for arriving at a synod topic, followed by the Holy Father's approval of its formulation; the publication of the Lineamenta with its series of questions, sent to the interested parties (3 September 1996); and the publication of the present working document or Instrumentum laboris, which, taking into account the responses to the preparatory document, is the proposed agenda for synod discussion.
The announcement of the celebration of the Special Assembly for Asia generated great interest in the Universal Church as well as among the particular Churches on the Asian continent. This is seen in the many responses and observations to the Lineamenta which arrived at the General Secretariat. Many particular Churches took full advantage of the preparatory period and the Lineamenta document to devote time and prayer to a common reflection on various aspects of the synod topic, thereby providing for the richness of the content of the Instrumentum laboris.
In possession of all the material submitted to the General Secretariat resulting from the preparatory stage, the Pre-Synodal Council proceeded, with the help of experts, to draft the working document during the Fourth Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, held in Rome, 30 September - 2 October 1997. At this meeting, the members studied the draft text which was composed on the basis of the responses and was structured according to the main topics suggested in the questions of the Lineamenta. The observations of the members of the Pre-Synodal Council at this meeting were incorporated into the various parts of the final text which follows.
In the work of arriving at a text which reflected the contents of the responses and observations, three aspects were given consideration, all of which are found in some form in the definitive text: 1) shared points of view 2) contrasting aspects and 3) possible oversights in the responses. Moreover, it is worthwhile to state that the document contains not only the above points but also those subjects which, according to the responses, should receive further examination and development. In these cases, even though they may not be given an extensive treatment in the present text, they are mentioned so as to become part of the agenda for treatment in synodal discussion.
The Instrumentum laboris, presented in the two official languages of the Special Assembly (English and French), is structured according to a logical progression of ideas based on elements in the synod topic: "Jesus Christ, the Saviour and His mission of Love and Service in Asia, ?that they may have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10)'". Following this plan, the working document is composed of an Introduction, Seven Chapters and a brief Conclusion.
The Introduction, first alluding to the synod as a moment of grace for the Church as well as for the Asian continent, immediately focuses attention on the Person of Jesus Christ and His life-giving mission, a mission in which the Church and each of her members takes part.
Chapter I, entitled Asian Realities, treats the vastness of the Asian continent and its rich variety of peoples, religions, cultures and living situations.
This brief description is followed by a similar treatment, from the Church's perspective, in Chapter II, Ecclesial Realities in Asia.
Chapter III, A Brief Evaluation of Catholic Mission History in Asia, attempts to provide highlights in the Church's missionary activity on the Asian continent as a vantage-point for the succeeding chapters, treating various elements in the formulation of the synod topic.
Jesus Christ: The Good News of Salvation, the title of Chapter IV, describes the central aspect of the Church's message of evangelization and her mission, i.e., the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour and Son of Man.
Chapter V, God's Salvific Design: The Holy Spirit at Work is a panoramic view of the role of Holy Spirit from Creation throughout history as a preparation of peoples, religions and cultures for the encounter with Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Within the context of the Second Vatican Council's ecclesiology of communion, Chapter VI, The Church as Communion, describes the life and mission of communion at the various Church levels: the relations existent in the particular Church, the sharing among particular Churches, the particular Church and the universal Church, and the Church's mission of communion in the world.
The Seventh and final Chapter, The Church's Mission of Love and Service in Asia, is an outward look to the sources and means of the Church's mission of love and service on the Asian continent, ending with an invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mother of Evangelisation and Model of Mission.
The brief Conclusion takes up anew the synod topic in the context of the new evangelization on the threshold of the Third Millennium.
Jan P. Cardinal Schotte, C.I.C.M.
A Moment Grace for the Church
1. The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia comes at a very important time in the history of the universal Church and the Church in Asia. The worldwide Church is looking ahead to the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, when she will cross the threshold of the Third Millennium. While joining the universal Church in this forward vision, the Church in Asia is also looking backwards over two millennia of her history in Asia, in thanksgiving for the gift of salvation and in joyful hope as she journeys forward into the future towards her Lord, Jesus Christ.
This synodal gathering is taking place three decades after the Second Vatican Council. During this period the Church in Asia, in union with the worldwide Church, has been striving to assimilate and live Vatican II's ecclesiology of communion in Jesus Christ. In order to strengthen the bonds of communion among the bishops and to foster the pastoral concerns of the Church, episcopal conferences and oriental synods have proven to be beneficial and fruitful structures for the Church in Asia. In a similar way, the establishment of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C.) is proving of assistance to the member bishops of central and southeast Asia in their treating mutual pastoral concerns.
Furthermore, following the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, the Church in Asia has also sought to increase the communion of her members as well as to be an instrument of communion with other Christian Churches and with followers of other religious traditions and cultures. To achieve this end, she has embarked upon many new activities in Asia.
In the Western part of the Asian continent, the Church and the testimony of her members has existed for almost 2000 years. Many traditions hold that from Christianity's beginning in this part of Asia, various apostles set forth to evangelize other parts of the Asian continent. In the succeeding centuries, other disciples went forth in true missionary spirit to spread the Gospel in distant lands. Indications exist in China, for example, which bear witness to the presence of Christian communities as far back as the 7th century. In still other parts of Asia, this Special Assembly for Asia is taking place after only five centuries of evangelization work.
A Moment of Grace for Asia
2. The Special Assembly for Asia is also an important moment for the people of Asia. During the last fifty years many countries in Asia have gained their independence. A modern and more self-confident Asia is emerging with its ancient cultures, philosophies and religious traditions. The twenty-first century and the Third Millennium will offer new challenges and opportunities to Asian peoples in shaping their own destiny and taking their places on the world scene.
The Special Assembly for Asia, therefore, comes at a crucial moment in the history of the Asian continent, coming about in accord with the intention of Pope John Paul II as expressed in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente(1) and in his extensive treatment of the subject at the Plenary Assembly of the F.A.B.C. at Manila in January, 1995, in conjunction with his Apostolic Visitation to Asia for World Youth Day.(2)
The Topic of the Synod
3. The topic chosen by the Holy Father for the synod, namely, Jesus Christ the Saviour and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: "...that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10), is most appropriate for Asia, especially in the context of its plurality of religions and cultures, as well as the variety of socio-economic and political situations. This plurality and variety provides fertile ground for the saving message of Jesus Christ the Saviour and opportunity for Church initiatives to demonstrate the Lord's love for Asia's peoples through various acts of loving service aimed at putting into action the Lord's gospel of life.
The Church came into being as a result of the salvific act of Jesus Christ in the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection. Her faith in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world is the centre of her faith, determining her mission of bringing the gift of eternal life to all. In Christ--the Church believes--all peoples, including those of Asia, can live as brothers and sisters in one large family of God in authentic freedom and newness of life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
The mission of Jesus is to give fullness of life to all, especially to those in circumstances where life is threatened by sin, evil, selfishness, injustice and exploitation. In every human instance, Jesus wants to bring his life to bear. His mission concerns the life of the Spirit, the gift of eternal life: "Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes...Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God, and those who hear will live" (Jn 5:21, 25).
A Mission of Love and Service to Life in Asia
4. The Gospels attest that Jesus offered life through deeds of love and service on behalf of all. Love and service take specific forms in Asia. They mean having a genuine regard for all Asia's peoples, appreciating their deep religious nature as well as their many cultures. This love is translated into action through various forms of service to the many peoples of Asia, especially the poor and those in need, so that all might share in the fullness of life which Jesus came to offer. Jesus' mission is that of bringing to all those in any form of captivity the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Such is also the mission of the Church as she seeks to renew herself through the celebration of the Jubilee of Redemption in Jesus Christ and as she prepares to enter the Third Millennium. Her mission today in Asia is to be at the service of life, particularly as lived by those suffering from the effects of sin and injustice.
The Synodal Pilgrimage
5. The Church in Asia is presently involved in a synodal journey, a journey which, it is hoped, will lead to internal renewal and a revitalization of the commitment to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ through a new evangelization. In keeping with the etymological meaning of the word,syn-odos, "a walking together", this synodal journey is done in the company of Jesus Christ, in communion with all the particular Churches of Asia and with the worldwide Church, and in a spirit of unity not only with the Christian Churches and communities in Asia but also with the followers of the Great Religions and religious traditions in Asia.
Along the way, the Church wants to recognise the presence of the Spirit who reveals Jesus Christ in Asian realities. She wants to recognise the presence of Jesus Christ through humbly sharing in the life-experiences of the Asian peoples and through service to all. The Church in Asia seeks to do this, not as a stranger in a foreign cultural, organisational and liturgical garb but through means of Asian cultures, making her own "the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people(3) of Asia.
Asia in General
Geographic Area and Population
6. The vast continent of Asia extends from West Asia and the Gulf countries to the East Asian countries. The southern portion includes South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia. In the north, there are the Central Asian Republics and in the north east, Siberia and Mongolia. In this large land mass, the great distances are gapped by a multiplicity of races, religions and cultures.
The responses to the Lineamenta confirmed that Asia is a continent with numerous populations. Three-fourths of the world's population is in Asia, a significant number of which is youth. In this way, Asia is rich in human life and human potential.
Contrasts within Asia are equally striking at the level of social organisation, political life and patterns of economy and standards of life, both within the countries of Asia and between the countries themselves. Various responses point to the fact that where there is human life, the Church is present in varying ways and seeking to increase that presence in response to her mission of spreading the Gospel of Life.
Religions, Cultures and Ancient Civilisations
7. Asia is home to the great religions of the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is also the birthplace of other religious traditions such as Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, etc. Most are soteriological in character(4) and offer interpretations of the Absolute, the universe, the human person and his existential situation as well as evil and the means of liberation. It is in this religious context that the Church in Asia lives and bears witness to Jesus Christ.
Analysis of Asian realities would be incomplete without reference to what is today called Primal Religion or Traditional Religion. Across Asia there are millions of people who belong to Traditional Religion and other Primal Religions. Some of them have accepted the Christian faith. Many responses point to this fact and mention that the Church needs to enter into dialogue with the followers of Traditional Religion and seek to apply to the cultures which have developed in association with these religions the principles of inculturation in areas of theology, liturgy and spirituality, as a tool in announcing and living the message of life in Jesus Christ.
The religions of Asia have moulded the lives and cultures of Asian people for several millennia and continue to give meaning and direction for their lives even today.(5) In this sense, many responses indicate that the religions of Asia are indeed living religions, permeating every aspect of the life of the individual, family and society. A deep religious nature is one of the main characteristics of the Asian people, expressed in various ways in the family and social life at critical moments through rites of passage such as birth, marriage and death. Such moments are accompanied by prayer, rituals, sacrifices, reading of the Scriptures, fasting, pilgrimages and almsgiving. According to various responses, these positive elements of religion in Asia readily dispose the people to the saving message of Jesus Christ.
Asia is also the cradle of many ancient civilisations. They have had a significant influence not only on Asian cultures, but also on many cultures outside of Asia. Furthermore, some of them still show an extraordinary vitality today. These also require attention in the Church's mission on the continent.
Distinctive Characteristics and Situations Socio-economic
8. As expected, the responses to the Lineamenta portray a continent with many unique characteristics and a vast variety of situations.(6) From country to country, and even within countries themselves, many contrasting differences exist among peoples, cultures, and the circumstances and details of life.
Though a few countries of Asia have made considerable economic progress, a degrading and inhuman poverty, along with its consequent inequalities in many parts of Asia, is perhaps one of the most glaring and saddening phenomena of the continent. Though today's poverty can sometimes be traced back centuries, even millennia, certain injustices and other circumstances seem to be perpetuating this state of affairs. Certain responses have suggested the following: an unjust distribution of resources, unequal opportunities, unwillingness to carry out land reform, poor literacy campaigns, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, state socialism which inevitably leads to corruption, economic waste and poor governance.
In some areas of Asia, despite rapid economic growth and development, poverty still remains the fate of whole sections of the population. In an ironic twist, in some countries of Asia where the living standard is increasing, cultural values are gradually being eroded, leading to egoism and the breakdown of family and social relationships. In such circumstances, many insist that the Church, besides providing a voice for the poor and oppressed, needs to provide pastoral services which will assist people, not only materially but spiritually in their course of development.
Industrialisation and urbanisation also figure into this situation. Rapid industrialisation, absence of land reform, diminishing prospects for livelihood in rural areas, the attraction of great cities and other such causes are changing the economic and demographic landscape of many Asian cities. Forced eviction of rural people to make room for mega industries and projects, financial and economic policies that favour the urban elite ignore the rights of the poor. Unplanned urbanisation is turning some cities of Asia into large slums where human dignity is oftentimes being lost.
Introduced into the economic situation is the question of bonded labour and child labour. All across Asia there are instances of several million bonded labourers, that is, workers under bond to work even for a lifetime for debts incurred in the past. Bonded labour is prevalent mostly in the brick- making industry, in stone quarries, the tobacco-cigarette industry, the carpet industry, etc. Despite national and international legislation, and commercial and political pressure, the problems related to the socio-economic situation in many countries of Asia remain unchanged, and in some cases, are even worsening. In her mission of love and service of life, the Church's message of the inviolable dignity of each human person and works commensurate with this teaching can serve the cause which can help improve such situations and lead to a process of development which respects human life.
9. Some responses indicate that the economic state of affairs is having collateral effects. New forms of culture are resulting from an over exposure to the mass media, books, magazines, music, films and other forms of entertainment. Although the media has the potential of being a great force for good, many responses mention that what seems to be reaching the Asian market is having an opposite effect. Its images of violence, hedonism, unbridled individualism and materialism is striking at the heart of Asian cultures, at the religious character of the people, families and whole societies. Many responses lament the fact that the sacredness of marriage, the stability of family, and other traditional values are being threatened by the media and entertainment industries on the Asian continent. Such a situation is posing a serious challenges to the Church's message.
Influences from outside Asia are resulting from the movement of peoples for various reasons. Tourism, for example, is a legitimate industry and has its own cultural and educational values. However, in some countries the situation is described where it is having a devastating influence upon the moral and physical landscape of many Asian countries, manifested in prostitution and the degradation of young women, child abuse and prostitution.
In a similar way, responses indicate that migration within Asian countries, between the countries of Asia and from Asian countries to other continents, is posing increasing human and pastoral problems. Poverty, civil war, ethnic conflicts and economic factors are some of the causes of migration. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are often exposed to harsh treatment as well as economic and moral exploitation. Migrant foreign workers are often paid unjust wages and are sometimes required to work in inhuman conditions. They are also exposed to many health hazards and often left without the protection of law. Many call upon the Church in Asia to be sensitive to the pain and human drama caused by migration in and from Asia.
In many parts of Asia, persons belonging to ethnic groups such as tribals, indigenous peoples and minorities based on race, religion, culture, etc., are victims of the injustice of discrimination. In some countries, caste practices have isolated for centuries whole sections of populations, leaving a consequent psychological, cultural and economic trauma on the social conscience. Certain responses give attention to the particular problem created by discrimination against women and girl children. Despite recent efforts from many quarters to lessen this problem, such attitudes still prevail, affecting educational opportunities, work and wages for women. In such situations, the Church, as small as it might be in a given area, is seen as an instrumentÂthrough word and deed--of the saving message of Christ which can lead people to a greater awareness of the dignity of each human person and thus to a greater justice and harmony between people.
A number of responses to the Lineamenta touch on several other life- threatening and destructive tendencies in Asia. There is a growing lack of respect for human rights and human life itself, abortion, drug trafficking, addiction to various kinds of drugs, spread of AIDS, criminalisation of politics, use of violence to settle disputes, depletion of natural resources, disregard for ecological balance, absence of basic health services, fundamentalism in various forms, etc. These are all new areas in which the Church in Asia has an opportunity to carry out her mission of service of life.
Signs of Hope in Asia
10. Everywhere in Asia there is visible a new awareness carrying the Asian people to liberate themselves from the legacy of negative traditions, social evils and situations associated with the past. The ancient cultures and religions and their collective wisdom form the solid foundation on which to build the Asia of the future. Levels of literacy, education, research and technology are rising daily. Skilled workers, specialists in various sciences, technicians, researchers, inventors are on the increase. Democratic institutions are taking firm root in many countries.
Many Asian countries are regaining a sense of self-confidence. There is a growing awareness of human dignity, despite failures in some areas. People are growing in their respect for human rights and they want to demand their rights from governments and institutions of power whether national or international. Regional co-operation is on the increase, especially with continental bodies such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Disputes between countries are more and more frequently settled through negotiations rather than armed conflicts. Mutual cooperation and trans-national investments within Asian countries is growing. These and similar factors provide much hope for the Asia of the future, and consequently, for the Church as well.
ECCLESIAL REALITIES OF ASIA
11. The ecclesial situation of Asia is as diverse and distinctive as its secular realities, as seen in the rich variety of Churches. Among the Churches of West Asia special mention must be made of the Churches of Antioch of the Syrians, Antioch of the Greek Melkites and Antioch of the Maronites as well as the Latin Church of Jerusalem. There are also the Chaldean Church of Babylonia and the Armenian Church. Today, most of these Churches live among predominantly Jewish or Islamic populations and cultures, serving their faithful who continue the Christian presence in these countries since the first centuries, and are witnesses to Jesus Christ among other religions.
Many responses mention that their work of evangelization is devoted mostly to works of charity and Christian witness through schools, hospitals and other apostolic works. They seek to project the image of a servant Church. While these Churches are inculturated in Islamic cultures and in the Arabic language, and hence well placed for dialogue with Islam, they are also in a region of conflicts and are threatened by religious fundamentalism.
Apostolic Churches, coming from the Syrian tradition, exist also in India, i.e., the Syro-Malabar Church and the Syro-Malankara Church. Responses indicate that these Churches are well rooted in the Indian soil and are generally flourishing with a large number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. They have a significant presence in the field of education, social and health services and mass media. Large numbers of faithful from these Churches have migrated to many parts of India, the Gulf countries, Europe, Canada and the United States. According to some responses to the Lineamenta, however, certain situations related to liturgical tradition, rites, and synodal forms of Church organization and administration are still posing difficulties for these Churches.
The Latin Church extends throughout the continent in varying stages of development. For the most part, her presence has depended on the Church's missionary efforts which have taken place in the last 500 years. The work of missionaries has seen varied success in the course of the centuries. Recently, the Holy Father has established three missions sui iuris in the Central Asian Republics: Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In Siberia the Church is happily discovering communities which have kept the faith alive despite the adverse circumstances created by the past communist regime.
A Variety of Living Situations
12. In addition to the great number of Oriental Churches in Asia, there is a great variety of situations in which these Churches are required to live.
In some parts of Asia, the Church lives in a predominantly Hindu milieu, posing great philosophical, theological and methodological challenges to the Church's mission in Asia. At the same time, modern Hindu reformers are great admirers of the person of Jesus Christ. In some cases, theologians in India have been attempting to interpret Jesus Christ in terms of the dominant India philosophy. Some responses mention that, in this and similar situations, the Church needs to engage in a healthful dialogue and to seek to apply the principles of inculturation in her attempts at evangelization.
With the exception of Indonesia, the presence of the Church in Muslim countries is small; in some cases communities have to deal with discrimination and prejudice. Responses mention that certain communities have often to live in difficult situations where the only type of evangelization which can be done is daily witnessing to the faith and charitable works. In some countries, the Church's members are being put to a real test.
In predominantly Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist countries, the Church is for the most part in the minority. Some responses mention that for the past few decades communities have been living under many restrictions to freedom of worship, missionary work, and movement, and even persecutions. Despite these obvious difficulties, responses mention that in some of these countries there are signs of growth in the work of evangelization and human development. In many cases, the championing of the cause of workers and the marginalised classes as well as the example of the laity in the everyday life of the Church have contributed to a good image of the Church within society.
The Church in the Philippines, the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, has a unique history of evangelization and growth through different periods of its five hundred year-old history; this has taken place with varying cultural influences. Certain responses mention that various events within the decade have served to assist the Church in a great movement towards renewal. As a result, the Church has a better understanding of evangelisation ad intra and ad extra, with all its social and spiritual dimensions. The Catholic character of the Philippines is an important factor in the Church's work of evangelisation on the Asian continent.
It is only recently that Central Asian Republics, Siberia and Mongolia began to receive attention at the international level, especially after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. This is true also of the Church. Missionary work has started in these countries. Some responses mention that the occasion of the Special Assembly for Asia is an opportunity to give greater attention to this region and to the work for the evangelization in these countries where there is a very limited Christian presence.
In some countries the Church lives amidst civil wars, caused by ethnic, communal or ideologically inspired conflicts. The Church as a community of communion, harmony and reconciliation has a mission to people in conflict situations, providing a special opportunity for her to preach in action her message in service to life.
A special situation is created for the Church as a result of sects and other religious movements which are becoming increasingly present and active in Asia. As in other parts of the world, certain social patterns and changes are causing people, especially young people, to embark on a search for meaning in their lives, oftentimes looking to the sects and religious movements because they give an immediate sense of well-being, community feeling, and fellowship. Many responses see the great need of the Church to respond this situation, especially in revitalising her pastoral commitment to the spiritual needs of people, strengthen Christian fellowship and education to prayer and use of the Scriptures.
The Image of the Church in Asia
13. Many responses relate that, in the work of evangelisation, the Church in Asia needs to be aware of the image she has among believers of other faiths and non-believers. While the Church is admired for her organisational, administrative, educational, health services, and developmental works, these people often do not see the Church as totally Asian, not simply because much financial support comes from western countries, but also because of her western character in theology, architecture, art, etc. and her association with the past history in some sections of Asia. Therefore, some people are reluctant to accept Christianity fearing a loss of national identity and culture.
Aware of this fact, the bishops in Asia are attempting to address the matter.
With few exceptions, the Church in Asia is seen as a clerical institution, e.g., in administration, liturgy, formation, etc. Many responses mention that the laity, especially women and young people, are eager to become more actively involved in various levels of the local Churches. They also wish to take part in programs of catechesis and ongoing formation so as to fulfill their role in the mission of the Church in Asia. In some cases, the responses sought a greater cooperation among the various states in the Church so that the evangelising mission of the Church might be more effective.
Christian Mission and Asian Religions
14. The Western Christian missionary approach to other Asian religions, popular devotions and spirituality, with the notable exception of people like Ricci and Valignano in China and Japan, and De Nobili and Beschi in India, oftentimes lacked a full appreciation of these elements. At times, there was also an inadequate regard for Asian cultures. Even though the missionaries efforts met with many successes, it is felt that a proper understanding of these elements in the work of evangelisation would have led to a greater acceptance of the faith by the people of Asia. Therefore, some responses mention that the Church's rediscovered appreciation of other religions and cultures should find greater expression in her missionary approach.
Positive Elements and Signs of Hope
15. The responses to the Lineamenta indicate many positive elements in the particular Churches in Asia. Most of the Church faithful can be termed "practising Catholics," who for the most part give priority to a sacramental and devotional life. The fact that Asians are religious by nature seems to be of assistance in this regard. In many parts of Asia, family prayer, reading of the Scriptures and family devotions nourish the religious life of the faithful. In a particular way, Catholics put their faith in action in moments of natural calamities and communal strife.
The emergence and growth of Basic Christian Communities, charismatic movements and Basic Human Communities are also very positive elements in a number of particular Churches. Some events sponsored by charismatic movements, such as days of spiritual retreat, prayer meetings and gatherings of spiritual renewal, have attracted national interest in which several thousands of the followers of other religions have participated. Ecclesial movements also offer an opportunity to many to enter into dialogue with the followers of other religions.
Certain responses refer to the migration of Christians in and outside Asia whose regular religious practice assists in spreading the faith. In this regard, missionary sisters, brothers and priests from Asia are sent to serve these people and the local Churches in several parts of the world, such as Africa, Latin America, Oceania, etc. This is a most welcome missionary phenomenon in Asia. It is estimated that several thousand priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay persons are working as missionaries in countries other than their own in Asia and elsewhere.
In a number of particular Churches in Asia, the laity increasingly exercise their role in the life and mission of the Church, as exemplified by lay institutes in Japan and the Philippines. In some countries, the laity play an important role at the national level in politics, education, healthcare, etc. There are permanent structures in many countries of Asia for the formation of the laity in theology, spirituality, and other related subjects. There are also centres where the laity, the clergy and bishops come together for pastoral planning and work. These are very promising initiatives for the future of the Church in Asia.
16. Certain parts of the Church in Asia have shown a steady increase in the number of vocations during the past decades. While many vocations go to traditional religious congregations and institutes which are western in origin, in recent years a number of new local religious congregations have sprung up in Asia. In general, the percentage of vocations to the priesthood, the religious life other forms of consecrated life and missionary institutes is higher than in most other parts of the universal Church.
The Christian witness of love and service to the poor shown by Mother Theresa and her Missionaries of Charity as well as by many other religious women and men have contributed greatly to reveal to the peoples of Asia the authentic countenance of Jesus Christ and the true nature of the Church. Many responses mention how greatly welcomed and appreciated is the Church's presence in homes for the handicapped, orphanages, leprosaria, rural dispensaries and in movements which seek to meet the needs of the marginalised..
In many cases, this service provided by missionaries has led to martyrdom. Their testimony in the history of evangelization has enriched the life of the Church in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and many other countries of Asia. The witness of the martyrs of the past and the present is a great means of evangelisation. Therefore, certain responses voice a hope and desire that the Church will consider more Asian martyrs in the canonical process leading to sainthood.
Witness in Asia has also come from a great many of the Church's religious orders and congregations who have made a major contribution to the growth of the local Churches in Asia during the last five hundred years of evangelization. Tens of thousands of religious sisters and brothers, by their love and unselfish service to those who suffer from poverty in its many forms, have contributed to nourishing the faith of many in the Church in Asia. Some of these have given an invaluable service to local Churches by establishing houses of formation, especially seminaries. They have been able to reveal the compassionate, loving and caring face of Jesus to the peoples of Asia. Religious brothers have given an outstanding service to the cause of general education, vocational training, technical education and developmental works Contemplative religious have also made a unique contribution to the Christian mission in Asia by their prayers and their witness of complete dedication to a life of union with God.
Some responses refer to missionary institutes of diocesan clergy which have had a great share in the work of evangelization in Asia. Some of them have sent thousands of missionaries to Asia during the last four hundred years. Today, they are followed by several Asian-born missionary institutes. A good number of diocesan priests is volunteering for missionary work in other countries. Some of the earliest seminaries for local clergy in Asia were established by them.
17. The Church in Asia has a large network of various kinds of institutions, despite the fact that in some places Christians form a tiny minority of the population. In some countries, where the Christian population is as low as 2%, the percentage of Church related institutions is as high as 30% of non- governmental organisations and voluntary organisations operating in the field of social services.
The Church has a formidable instrument in its hands to bear witness to Christ's compassion, love and concern for the poor of Asia. Perhaps the greatest among these are her educational institutions, i.e., primary schools, high schools, colleges and universities. The Church also has healthcare institutions, such as hospitals, medical colleges, dispensaries and other health centres. There are homes for the elderly, the handicapped, the blind and those with speech and hearing disabilities. Moreover, the Church has a good number of publishing centres for books, reviews, news papers, weeklies, popular magazines.
In recent years a number of renewal centres, ashrams, spirituality centres, audio-visual centres and broadcasting stations have also been started by Christians in Asia. Nearly every country in Asia has now pastoral and catechetical centres. Furthermore, the Church has established institutions for human promotion, human rights, inculturation, etc.
The Church in Asia has not only institutions, but a relatively large number of very qualified, dedicated and efficient personnel to run all its institutions. However, certain responses pose the question: "Are all Church institutions also centres of Christian values and witness in a largely non- Christian environment?" and "How can these institutions serve as a tool of Christian witness and service to life in Asia?"
18. The Asian continent is characterised by a diversity of religions, cultures and peoples as well as of ecclesial realities. Their coming together in Synod is itself a grace and an example for the peoples of Asia which can work for the welfare and progress of the continent and all its peoples. It is in this continent that God has called together Christians in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is in the context of the socio-economic realities, its political history and present situation, and in the context of its multi-religious traditions that the little flock of Jesus Christ must live and carry out its saving mission.
A BRIEF EVALUATION OF CATHOLIC MISSION HISTORY IN ASIA
The Faith and Its Impact
The Gift of Faith
19. From Apostolic times to the present faith in Jesus Christ is the gift brought by the missionaries and offered to all in Asia. The term 'missionary' includes not simply missionaries from outside Asia, but all native missionaries, clerical and lay, diocesan clergy and those in consecrated life, and Christian communities which witness to Jesus Christ and carry the Good News to their neighbours within the Asian continent or to far off lands. Their example of Christian charity, spirit of dedication, service and sacrifice plants the seeds of faith in the hearts of countless Asians. The fact that tens of thousands of Christians gave their lives in times of persecutions in many Asian countries, especially in Vietnam, Japan, China and Korea, is proof that the faith has taken deep root in the hearts of the Asian people. For this, the Church in Asia rejoices and expresses her gratitude to missionaries who are bringing the faith to various parts of Asia. She also rejoices in the great number of Asian missionaries at work outside their own areas and countries.
Today, in almost every Asian country a Christian presence exists; in some it is a significant number of people, in others, a small minority. By and large, the particular Churches of Asia are well established and have their local clergy and religious to carry out their pastoral and missionary duties. Thanks to missionaries, local communities were established; they were nurtured with continuing catechesis and developed ecclesial structures, a sacramental life and devotions to support their Christian life. At present, these communities have become self-supporting Churches in many ways, though not fully.
Leaven in Society
20. Because of the presence of the local Church in a given country, the Gospel is being announced, becoming a leaven in Asian society, even if not always acknowledged as such. The Gospel has the power to transform Asian societies. It has challenged many social systems and evils in Asian society and acted as an agent of critical judgment. As a result, a number of reform movements within several Asian countries have come about.
Though the Church was not fully involved in independence movements, indirectly she has inspired such movements. In many cases, independence movements were initiated by persons educated in Christian institutions in Asia and abroad. Several outstanding personalities at the highest levels of national life, past and present, were taught in missionary institutions.
Christian mission in general has been an agent of the advancement of culture. In fact, many missionaries were men and women outstanding as linguists, scholars, historians poets and scientists. Many Asian languages were put into writing and foundational books, such a grammars, dictionaries, etc., were done by missionaries. Besides making significant contributions to existing Asian languages, both classical and modern, missionaries also translated many Christian classics into several Asian languages, thus enriching many languages. In this way, they also gained the respect and gratitude many non-Christians. They also became engaged in the publication of popular magazines, scientific reviews, weeklies, daily newspapers, and scholarly books. In some cases, missionaries were also the instruments and channels of introducing modern science into several countries in Asia. Some distinguished themselves as anthropologists, sociologists, and historians of tribal peoples, indigenous peoples, minorities, and marginalised sections of society. In several parts of Asia, missionaries are responsible for the establishment of libraries at the popular and scholarly levels.
In a related manner, higher rates of literacy and education have also accompanied the spread of the Gospel, particularly in Asia where in many areas education was limited to the higher classes of society. The Church has undertaken programs to help eliminate illiteracy in Asia and increase the level of education of its people, providing educational opportunities at the elementary level as well as at higher levels of learning. In many places in Asia, girls and women, who were formally excluded from this field, are now receiving an education. Along the same lines, the Church has been instrumental in introducing and encouraging technical, professional, vocational and industrial education in several cases. It has also brought new attitudes and values to manual work and its inherent human dignity.
21. Wherever the Church's mission has gone, the care of human life and service to life have followed. Missionaries, particularly religious sisters and Christian nurses, have distinguished themselves in their evangelical witness to the healing ministry of Jesus. As a result, the Asian continent can boast of hundreds of hospitals and thousands of dispensaries run by the Church, primarily in the midst of the poorer classes. Such action has led to alleviating malnutrition, the curing of various illnesses and the providing of better child care, preventive medicine, diagnostic services, etc.
Missionaries and Christians in general have been present in rescue operations and resettlement works in times of natural calamities like earth quakes, floods and drought. In times of famine they have been very generous with personnel and means. In a number of cases, Christian missionaries have been, and still are, in the forefront for the development of small scale cottage industries, employment schemes, co-operatives, rural banks, etc. By establishing co-operative and rural banks they offer assistance to persons in personal economic matters, with many families benefiting from such self-help projects.
22. The Gospel contains the seeds of human dignity, freedom and human rights. Thus, the Church has been able to show herself on the Asian continent to be a defender of human dignity and rights. In this way, the presence of Christian mission has led to reforms in several areas social life. In a number of cases, the missionaries and their Christian followers have provided the impulse towards the formulation and application of legislation relating to prison reform, total hours of work, the health and safety of workers in mines and health-hazard industries, protection of women and children in certain industries, etc. The support given to marginalised peoples, tribals, fisherfolk, refugees and the working classes is generally acknowledged throughout the Asian continent.
Through introducing the education of girls, the Church in Asia has given a great impetus towards the emancipation of women in general and in many specific areas. It is mainly education that enables women to have an equal status in society. With the entry of religious sisters into the Asian missionary scene, the process of social emancipation of women gained a fresh momentum. In challenging a number of religious and social customs, the announcement of the Christian Gospel has led to legislation against caste practices, permitting temple entry to the so-called untouchables (Harijans), and discouraging the practice of self-immolation by widows (satti).
Christian mission in Asia has also brought about an increase in vocations among women. They in turn have been instruments of social change through their work as teachers and other educational works, health services as teachers, nurses, dedicated to the service of the poor, the sick and the handicapped.
23. Where several Churches in Asia can trace their roots to Apostolic times, the spread of the Gospel in Asia has met with difficulty. The missionary efforts of the early Church towards Central Asia and China made by the Syrian Church did meet with some success. In fact, in the first eight centuries of the Church, the Gospel had reached the farthest ends of Asia, to China as far as Beijing. The western missionary efforts of the Franciscans in the XIII century led by Giovanni da Montecorvino in China also had some limited success. Nevertheless, most of the particular Churches founded as a result of the Syrian missionary efforts and by the Franciscans were practically destroyed because of various causes, such as the Islamic invasions, difficulties in encountering ancient religious traditions, an inadequate appreciation of Asian philosophic, religious and cultural systems, etc.
Most of the present day particular Churches in Asia are the fruit of modern missionary efforts originating in the West from the 16th century. Taking advantage of the European colonial movement, the Church sent missionaries to spread the message of the Gospel. In the course of their work, these missionaries encountered ancient and highly developed philosophical systems, social organisations and religions traditions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, which over the centuries have developed profound religious and philosophical explanations concerning the absolute, the universe and the person, seeking to illuminate humanity's present condition, its final destiny and the ways to reach that destiny. These teachings were supported by deeply moving scriptures, liturgical rites, prayers, methods of contemplation, the practice of virtues for every stage of humanity's pilgrimage to salvation and self-realisation. Sacred art, architecture, and worship also belonged to a highly developed system.
The lives of the Asian people of today, at the individual, family and social levels, are deeply permeated by religious sentiments and practices. Popular religious practices, places of pilgrimage, centres of prayer and dialogue, myths and stories bring the philosophical religion to the level of the masses. Thus every aspect of social life is imprinted with a deep sense of religion. On the other hand, there is no compelling hierarchical structures to determine and guide religious beliefs. A wide spectrum of faith and morals is permissible. Religious authority is based not on official position, but on the religious leaders' experience of God and his ability to communicate it to others.
Asian religions propose to give an answer to man's search for the meaning of life, values, and an explanation and interpretation of the universe, his actual state of religious and moral ambivalence, his situation of brokenness, self-alienation, and evil. They also offer concrete means of liberation from the present existential predicament of evil, suffering, death, and provide spiritualities for self-realisation. Moreover, they hold to the nobility of their religious traditions, interpretations and means of liberation- salvation.
This is the context in which the present Christian mission is to take place. Therefore, the new evangelisation is called upon to consider not simply the content of the Gospel message, but those to whom it is directed. This was the conviction of great missionaries like Francis Xavier and Valignano in Japan, Ricci in China, De Nobili and Beschi in India. Among the causes in the past why the efforts of the Church's missionaries in Asia met with limited success, might there be a lack of proper understanding of Asian religions, their inherent values and strengths, their centuries-old teachings, their inner power of self-renewal as well as a reluctance to adopt methods which were suited to the Asian mentality?
In evaluating the Church's program of a new evangelisation in Asia, the question of properly understanding an Asian mentality might also be raised in conjunction with past historical experiences which colour the present situation. Among these are such historically sensitive issues as colonialism, the padroado, inculturation of the Gospel, reaction to a perceived Westernisation, etc.
JESUS CHRIST: THE GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION
Some Perceptions of Christ in the Church
Jesus: Son of God
24. The Church in every age looks to Jesus Christ so as to come to an understanding of her vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. The first encyclical of Pope John Paul II, setting the theme of his pontificate, states: "The Church's fundamental function in every age and particularly in our own is to direct man's gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus.(7)
In this spirit, the Church in Asia, engaged in the synod process, wishes to look to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, in order to come to a proper understanding of the life she shares in Him, to strengthen her union with Him and to renew her dedication to her mission to all peoples of Asia to share that fullness of life in Him, now and in the world to come.
For Christians, Jesus Christ is the centre of salvation history going back to the very first moment of creation. It is in him that everything is created and in Him everything reaches fulfilment (cf. Jn 1:3ff). The Church believes that Christ is the firstborn of all creation, in whom all things were created and in whom all things are also saved, for he is the firstborn from the dead and the head of the body, the Church or the community of the redeemed. It is in him that all things are reconciled to God (cf. Col 1:20). Using cultic terminology, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that Jesus Christ is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being. It is He who achieves "purification" for the sins of all (cf. Heb 1:1- 3). Thus, in him all of creation is saved. The faith of the Church in Jesus Christ has been passed down beginning with the Apostles' experience of the Risen Lord who breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples on the day of resurrection. That same Holy Spirit came to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, compelling them to go forth into the world to bring others to the new life which they came to know in the Lord Jesus Christ. Participation in the mystery of the One God as a Community or Trinity of Persons is the beginning, sustaining force and goal of the Church's mission.
25. Many responses to the Lineamenta recall that the Christian message is not simply a set of teachings but a dynamic relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, died and risen, who introduces, sustains and brings to fulfilment the life intended for humanity from the moment of creation. In this regard, much of the success of the new evangelisation in Asia depends on how people come to recognise Jesus so as to respond to the perennial invitation to experience fullness of life in Him through participation in the communion of the Church, His Body.
Most are in agreement that the program of a new evangelisation begins with a proper catechesis of the Church's members. In this regard, various responses have noted that Christ is seen in a variety of ways by Catholics in Asia. For most people in the Church community, there seems to be little difficulty in viewing Christ as divine, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God. Flowing from this acknowledgment of Jesus as Son of God, the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt 16:17) comes various associated roles, i.e., teacher, shepherd, healer, miracle worker, etc,
In some areas, the viewing of Christ solely from the divine perspective by some faithful in the Church has the potential of setting Christ apart from the world with its problems and difficulties. In placing over-emphasis on the divine, the unique role of the individual and personal responsibility are weakened, if not totally relinquished. In some cases, especially among converts, where there seems to be no difficulty in intellectually making an act of faith in the Lord, sometimes there is difficulty in allowing the faith to have an impact on daily life.
To counteract such difficulties, many responses insist that catechesis include a complete and total presentation of the Person of Christ, based on the Scriptures and the Church's Tradition throughout the centuries. Since all agree that the most compelling announcement of Jesus Christ is through the witness of His followers, they further insist that, given the Asian mentality, the catechesis received by the faithful be so devised as to allow them to experience and celebrate their relationship with the Lord within the Church in order to be better able to witness to the faith in everyday life.
Jesus as Saviour
26. By his own admission, Jesus came that all might have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10). He declared Himself to be the Way to be followed, the Truth to be believed and the Life to be experienced in its fullness (cf. Jn 14:6). In announcing the birth the Christ, the angel indicates his mission from God in bestowing his name, "..and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). As a basis for accepting Him as Saviour, the Scriptures indicate that Jesus preached repentance for sins and conversion of heart: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15).
The definitive act of salvation is accomplished by Christ through his Paschal Mystery, i.e., His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Throughout the ages, in obedience to her Lord, the Church has offered this gift to all in Christ's name, to all who believe and are baptized. Through His exaltation on the cross, He draws all peoples to himself (cf. Jn 12:32). His body was broken in death and his blood shed for all for the remission of sins. (cf. Mt 26:28 ; Mk 14:24).
The Risen Christ sent forth his disciples on a universal mission to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His Name to the ends of the earth (cf. Lk 24:47-49), and to make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:19). On Pentecost, His disciples are empowered through the power of the Spirit to go forth and witness to this new life in Christ (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:1-11). Since that day, people of every nationality have accepted the proclamation of Jesus Christ and experience that new life in the community of the Church.
27. Responses to the Lineamenta indicate that the overriding title for Christ among his disciples, associated with his mission to all humanity, is that of Saviour and Redeemer, who in freeing a "people" from sin and all its effects--particularly deathÂ, has established a Church, or worshipping community, called to give praise to God in Christ and through the Holy Spirit. Acknowledging Jesus as Saviour involves not simply confession of sin but a change of heart, that is, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of one's life in an ongoing process of conversion. As many replies indicate, this is a solid basis for undertaking an apostolate which seeks to apply and extend the values of Gospel to the living situations prevalent in Asia, particularly those which deal with the effects of sin as experienced in society.
For this purpose, many call for a living witness by the Church community: through the celebration of the Sacraments, particularly the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist; through attitudes of forgiveness and reconciliation towards others; and through efforts as a community to combat the effects of sin in society so as to bring about peace, harmony and fellowship. Most agreed that achieving this end will require not simply a proper catechetical program to instruct individual members of the Church, but formation projects for whole communities, where others may come to see the visible effects of acknowledging Christ as Saviour and experience them first-hand in their lives, the most convincing form of witness to Christ.
On this topic, many responses mention that Christ is not simply one of many "Saviour" figures among the many Asian religions and philosophies, but the "one and only" Saviour. Certain responses see a need to present and explain more clearly and frankly that Jesus Christ is not only Saviour, but Saviour in a manner which is entirely different from those to which the Asian mind is accustomed. However, in this regard, some responses caution that the term "Liberator" in reference to Christ should be avoided, since it is too restricted to a worldly philosophy and outlook.
Some maintain, that in the past the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in relation to other religions was not adequately presented. Today there is an urgent need to present this topic in the context of the universal salvific will of God for all peoples, especially in missionary proclamation or kerygma. Some suggested one of many ways of doing this, in a particularly Asiatic manner, would be through the use of stories and parables coming from the Bible. The Church is motivated by the desire to bear witness to Jesus Christ in contemporary Asian society, and therefore, as many insist, any presentation should be done without any sense of superiority or a condescending attitude towards other religions.
Jesus as God-made-Man
28. In Jesus Christ the story of humanity and the story of each human being become a divine story. His life, death and resurrection has a salvific meaning and value for all human beings. The Second Vatican Council states: "By his incarnation the Son of God united himself in some sense with every man."(8)
Jesus presented himself to his contemporaries as the Good Samaritan, the sower of the Word, and the Good Shepherd. Though he identified himself with the Father as His Son, he also identified himself with every human being, in each person's longing for fullness of life, and with every form of suffering, mental and physical. Thus the author of the Letter to the Hebrews states: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weakness, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). The community He founded was to follow his example and be characterised by such human qualities as mercy, forgiveness, simplicity and authenticity of life, brotherly love and charity in mutual service and sharing of goods, spiritual and material. Thus St. James writes : "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world " (James 1:27). Any other form or expression of religion would be like a body without its life-giving soul. Solidarity with those who suffer and compassion for all human beings and all creation were to mark the new community of believers.
Jesus, as the Prophet inspired by God, preached human dignity and equality of all human beings as God's children and as brothers and sisters of one heavenly Father. His actions incarnate God's mercy, love and goodness towards humanity. His teachings are the foundation for the right ordering of family and society.
In His earthly life, He stands as the great teacher of union with God the Father through prayer and contemplation, the source, sustaining power and motivation for his life of identification with sinful humanity and of his life of service to others, to the point of giving his life so that humanity might be redeemed from sin and all its effects.
29. Some responses to the Lineamenta mention that if there be a difficulty among Church members in viewing Christ, it is in seeing Him as "Son of Man", i.e., in his humanity, as God-made-man, who took on the human condition in all things but sin, thereby consecrating the world and all things human, save sin. To counteract this tendency, many felt that greater emphasis needed to be given to the Passion and the Cross of Jesus Christ as the way to Wisdom and true salvation, not simply in catechesis, but in preaching and in the Church's daily life.
There was general agreement among the responses that the disciples' personal understanding and living experience of Christ was directly related to witnessing to Christ in daily life. For this reason, the Church's members need not only a proper academic catechesis about the Person of Christ in the mystery of His Incarnation and Redemption, but also opportunities to experience Him in the reading and study of Sacred Scripture, in the fellowship of the Church community, in the person of the Church's ministers, and above all in the celebration of the Sacraments, particularly the Sacred Eucharist.
As a consequence, several responses to the Lineamenta point to the need to present Jesus Christ with love and compassion for the poor. They insist that the image of Jesus as a brother, who shares his life with the suffering, that will appeal to Asian peoples more than any other. Moreover, these same responses maintain that the Church, as a community of believers, needs to make a greater effort to identify herself with the society's poor by being a voice on behalf of human life for those who have no one to speak for them, by taking up the cause of those suffering from injustice of any type, by providing trained personnel to assist those in need, to care for those suffering any manner of physical, mental or spiritual ills, etc. Many argue that the action of service by the Church, after the example of her Master who became poor for the sake of all so as to bring people to God, is the most compelling and credible form of witness that the Church can render in the continent of Asia.
Some Perceptions of Christ in Asia
30. As for the image of Christ among other Asians, many responses point out that by natural disposition most Asians have a positive outlook towards Christ, seeing him as a deeply spiritual, compassionate and loving person. Some consider Him a great Teacher. A particularly favourite image for Christ among Buddhists is that of the Sacred Heart.
If some Christians have difficulty in properly understanding the human nature of Christ, most Asians would view him exclusively from this perspective. To respond sufficiently to this fact, the Church needs to place greater emphasis on presenting Christ in the wider context of salvation history and the master plan of God the Creator for the universe, a plan, fulfilled in the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ, and still being worked out in Christ, through His Church, in the present moment in time. To achieve this, some insist that a greater attention should be given to presenting Christ "in Asian garb", that is, using the support of various philosophical and cultural concepts. Such an approach seems all the more important in the context of the Church's dialogue with other religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. The question then is: "How can the Church in Asia explain that Christ is the one and only Saviour and unique mediator of salvation distinct from the founders of Asia's other great religions?(9)
In some cases, followers of various Asian religions are increasingly prepared to accept Jesus Christ even as God. However, this does not seem to be a reason for them to accept him as the only Saviour. The trend among the followers of these religions, especially the Hindus, is to consider all religions as equally good. For them, the Hindu gods and Christ are only the different manifestations of the same God. Even those who believe in Christ as God do not see the necessity to embrace the Christian religion, much less the Church, despite the fact that the Church and her institutions do much for society in general.
Asian people, both of the classic religions and traditional and cosmic religions seek to live in harmony between heaven and earth, between the realm of the divine and the human, between the transcendent and the immanent. These apparently contrasting and contradictory realities paradoxically merge into one in many Asian religions. The distance between them is overcome philosophically and liturgically. Christian liturgy expresses it wonderfully when it says: "Would that you rend the heaven and come down" (Is 63:19). Such an encounter between the divine and the human, the absolute transcendent and the finite has definitively taken place in Jesus Christ.
Based on the above situation, many responses state that there is a need to present Jesus in the context of this search by Asian religions and cultures for harmony between apparent paradoxes which confront human existence: between transcendence and immanence, emptiness and fullness, death and life, suffering and joy, the finite and the infinite, poverty and riches, weakness and power, the temporal and the eternal, the historical and the cosmic. In Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, crucified and risen, the above paradoxes find a point of convergence. Some responses to the Lineamenta speak of a need for developing a Christology of kenosis, namely, a Christology based on the self-emptying of Christ in the mystery of the Incarnation and his glorification in the Paschal Mystery.
However, many responses mention that beyond intellectual arguments, true witness to Christ among the Asian people will result when the gap between religion and service is surmounted, in other words, when believers truly become the living signs of the Lord Jesus Christ through the exercise of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way, for the Asian, who sets high priorities on such concepts as community, harmony, peace and deliverance from evil, the faithful's living of the Christian faith will be a compelling form of witness to Christ. At the same time, the rites of the sacraments, devotions, prayers, etc. also reveal, in their own way, the person of Christ, making his saving message known and providing a powerful invitation to the unbeliever towards participation. In this regard, certain responses suggest that greater attention be given to the inculturation of the faith, so as to search for ways among Asian mentalities and cultures--while remaining faithful to the essential content of the faithÂto express more clearly and effectively what it means to live in Christ.
GOD'S SALVIFIC DESIGN THE SPIRIT AT WORK
The Spirit of God in Creation and History
31. God's plan of salvation for all human beings, revealed in Jesus Christ, is not an isolated event. It is part of one single salvific plan which began with creation. From the very moment of creation, God's Spirit was at work in the world and in the hearts of all human beings. In a mysterious way the Spirit of God prepared for the coming of the Son, Jesus Christ. God's plan of salvation is reflected in creation. "The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe, and chose to raise up men to share in His own divine life."(10) According to St. Bonaventure, the purpose of creation is communication of divine life and goodness to all human beings: "God created all things not to increase His glory and goodness, but to manifest them and to communicate them."(11)
Creation is also an act establishing harmony from chaos as the story of Genesis recounts (cf. Gen 1:1ff). Therefore, the cosmos reveals God and is the sacrament of his love for all things: "Because the Spirit of the Lord has filled the world and that which holds all things together..." (Wis 1:7). All of creation is a reflection of God's truth, goodness and harmony as the New Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness."(12)
Sin brings disharmony, division, hatred and death itself. Human history touched, from the very beginning, by the transcendent power of the Spirit of God is also affected by the power of evil (cf. Rm 1:21). Original sin became the root of all disharmony in man and in the world: "At the same time man went out of harmony within himself, with others and with all created things."(13) Despite division and the power of sin and death, God continued to reveal himself in manifold ways to humanity (cf. Hb1:1-3). All human beings are touched by the Spirit of God: "The Spirit, therefore, is at the very source of man's existential and religious questioning, a questioning which is occasioned not only by contingent situations but by the very structure of his being."(14)
The Spirit of God touches, purifies and saves not only individuals, but through them, also cultures and religions. Hence they have a salvific role to play as Pope John Paul II states: "The Spirit's presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions. Indeed, the Spirit is at the origin of the noble ideals and undertakings which benefit humanity on its journey through history: 'The Spirit of God with marvellous foresight directs the course of the ages and renews the face of the earth.'"(15) The Spirit of God at work in creation and in human history does not cease his salvific activity at any time. He continues to sow the seeds of truth and grace among all peoples, their philosophies and religions as Vatican II clearly affirms: "He generously pours out, and never ceases to pour out, his divine goodness, so that he who is creator of all things might at last become all in all."(16) The Spirit of God is at work in the world as the Vatican II document Ad gentes states: "Doubtless, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified."(17)
Recognising this fact, the Church seeks to respect all religions, on the basis of the following words of Pope John Paul II: "The Church's relationship with other religions is dictated by twofold respect: respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man.(18) The Church has always believed that the hidden salvific presence of the Spirit of God gives to all men life and breath and every other gift.(19) At the same time, the Spirit leads the way to Jesus Christ by revealing him in concrete historical experiences. Salvific revelation in Christ is not parallel or superfluous to that of the Spirit, but remains its fulfilment and public authentication. Furthermore, whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood in reference to Christ. Every form of the Spirit's presence is the responsibility of the Church, to which Christ gave his Spirit in order to guide her into all the truth.(20)
The Spirit of God at Work in Asia
32. It was in Asia that God chose to speak to the people of Israel through his chosen servants, the patriarchs and the prophets. And finally he spoke through his Son, Jesus Christ. Today, He continues to speak to the peoples of Asia in a variety of ways.
Many responses point out that all which has been said about the salvific presence of the Spirit among peoples is particularly true of the Asian continent, home to most of the great religions of the world. These religions have been, in a concrete manner, the way to God for a majority of the peoples of Asia and God's way to them. The Spirit of God was at work in the minds and hearts of the ancient sages of the Asian continent. They have left to its peoples the record of their spiritual enlightenment in their sacred books. Their teachings still govern the religious, moral and social life of many peoples of Asia.
For this reason, other religions in Asia constitute for the Church a positive challenge. They stimulate her both to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ's presence and the working of the Holy Spirit, as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and bear witness to the fullness of Revelation which she has received for the good of all.
This gives rise to the spirit which must enliven dialogue in the context of mission. Those engaged in this dialogue must be consistent with their own religious traditions and convictions, and be open to understanding those of the other party without pretense or close-mindedness, but with truth, humility and frankness, knowing that dialogue can enrich each side.(21) With other religions there is a giving and a receiving, a listening and a sharing. On the level of human experience and faith, much can be learned from the deep religiosity of people and from their religions.
33. In this regard, responses to the Lineamenta recount a variety of situations on the Asian continent. In rare cases, some particular Churches mention little or no dialogue activity with other religions. In some of these instances dialogue began with a certain enthusiasm, but subsequently a mistrust and suspicion set in, resulting in difficulties and even hostility. For the most part, however, dialogue with other religions is taking place on the Asian continent with much benefit to all the parties concerned.
At the same time, some responses are eager to point out that dialogue involves more than discussion over belief systems. The task of dialogue also involves placing persons in touch with other persons. Fears, mistrusts and suspicion cannot be overcome simply by discussions. The heart cannot be earned simply by words, but it can be conquered by gestures of love. Thus the interreligious dialogue in Asia requires a capacity of love which is great, patient and perseveringÂa work of the Spirit--, before which every Christian may experience many positive aspects as well as shortcomings. In this context, the interreligious dialogue is a human and spiritual pilgrimage in which the witness of Christian conversion is decisive because it gives to the Christian the strength and light to continue the adventure of dialogue and to invite the non-Christian interlocutor to the same process of conversion.
Among the more concrete and programmed initiatives in this field taking place in Asia are the following: courses on Asian religions in seminaries, houses of religious formation, lay formation centres and academic institutions; active involvement in social issues with the followers of other religions, where there is a sharing of values; joint charitable programs on behalf of those in need, open and public gestures of mutual respect at special religious periods, etc.
In this movement of the Spirit towards interreligious dialogue, some responses explained a number of difficulties to be considered, e.g., the highly social character of religion, permeating and regulating every aspect of life; a general suspicion of all things Western, in some cases, including the Church, etc.. These same responses mentioned the above elements can be used as challenges for the Church in presenting her message, using elements from society in the process of inculturation, emphasising the universality of the Church over Western associations, etc..
At the same time, some responses hasten to mention that dialogue itself can provide the Church with elements which can be beneficial in her programme of a new evangelisation, in presenting Catholic truth to the Asian mind, e.g., cultural elements, language, thought patterns and rites. Harmony, for example, is a great value among the Asian people. This intended idea of harmony can find a counterpart in the concept of the Kingdom of God in the Bible, where God's justice reigns. To the Asian mentality, harmony is not a matter of simply living in peace, but a creative and dynamic force in relationships. In other words, harmony is not a matter of adding indefinitely to what one already has, but placing one's goods and talents at the service of others so as to make up for what is lacking in another, all in order to reach a perfect proportion. This proportionality is operative primarily in the person in the family, then in society and its institutions, and then in relation to the world. Such an idea of harmony would find resonance in Christ's proclamation of the Kingdom of God where he invites reconciliation of the sinner with God, the person with humanity and the whole of creation. Most responses agree that Catholic truth can be served by a similar borrowing of concepts and ideas which are particularly Asian, all the while remaining faithful to the Catholic faith as presented in Sacred Scripture and the Church's Tradition.
Many responses point out that contemporary Asia, while clinging to many traditional ways of life and values, is undergoing a very swift and radical transformation.(22) Many value systems and meanings which supported the lives of people in Asia are now threatened and shaken. The Church in Asia is part of this transformation and is bound to its peoples through a common history and destiny: "We know that in the hearts of our brothers there are these quests today: to find new meanings in their lives and endeavours, to overcome destructive forces and to shape a new integration in our societies, to free themselves from structures which have created new forms of bondage, to foster human dignity and freedom and a more fully human life, to create a more genuine communion among men and nations."(23) In the Asian peoples' search for meaning to sustain their quest for fullness of life, the Church wants to recognise the presence of the Spirit who leads them to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf.Jn 14:6). The First Plenary Assembly of the F.A.B.C. highlighted this fact in the following words: "It is our belief that only in and through Christ and his Gospel, and by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that these quests can come to realisation. For Christ alone, we believe, is for every man 'the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6) 'who enlightens every man who comes into the world' (Jn 1:9). We believe that it is in Him and in His good news that our peoples will finally find full meaning we all seek, the liberation we strive after, the brotherhood and peace which is the desire of all our hearts.(24)
At the same timeÂas a variety of responses mention--Christians in Asia can profit from considering elements shared with the followers of other religions and cultures of Asia, e.g., the centrality of the will of God with Islam; with Hindus, the practice of meditation, contemplation, renunciation of one's will and the spirit of non-violence; with Buddhists, detachment and compassion; with Confucianism, filial piety and humanitarianism; with Taoists, simplicity and humility; and with Traditional religions, reverence and respect for nature. The Church in Asia has much to offer believers of other faiths, e.g., the values of reconciliation and peace, obedience to God's will, the sacred dignity of each person, the love and service of neighbour, the Church's social doctrine, human promotion in its many forms, the value of suffering and service which are central to the mystery of Jesus Christ.
The recognition of the presence of the Spirit among all peoples should in no way make any one blind to the presence of evil and sin in manifold ways. Sin leads to all forms of idolatry of the self, wealth and power. Such idolatry refuses to acknowledge the image of God in self, in one's neighbour and in the universe. For this reason, humanity stands in need of salvation. The Church believes that this salvation is a free gift offered to all by God in his Son Jesus Christ.
The salvific presence of the Spirit among all people is, in the saving plan of God, to lead all peoples to a new creation, of which Jesus Christ is "the first born and the first fruits of those who have died" (I Cor 15:20). The "seeds of the Word" sown by the Spirit become ripe for eternal life through the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The universal plan of God for salvation and wholeness of life takes a concrete shape and human form in the incarnation of his Son Jesus Christ. Vatican II had this in mind when it declared: "The universal plan of God for the salvation of mankind is not carried out solely in a secret manner, as it were, in the minds of men, nor by the efforts, even religious, through which they in many ways seek God in an attempt to touch him and find him... their efforts needs to be enlightened and corrected... God decided to enter into the history of mankind in a new and definitive manner, by sending his own Son in human flesh...."(25)
THE CHURCH AS COMMUNION
The Church and the Salvific Design of God
34. The one salvific design of God for the salvation of humanity does not end with the death and resurrection of Christ. In virtue of the gift of Christ's Holy Spirit the effects of his salvific work in his passion, death and resurrection are extended to all peoples of all times, through the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the work of Christ and the Spirit finds its realisation within the communion of the Church: "The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.(26)
The Church is included in the salvific plan and will of God. It is the same with her mission in the world : "Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but it is a sacrament...(27) The Church's mission is constantly to strive to make visible the Kingdom of God on earth, to bear witness to it and to be its servant in all her activities. This is the teaching of The Catechism of the Catholic Church: "...in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity.(28)
Even today, the presence of the Spirit at work in the world, its cultures and religions is intended to lead all to the mystery of Jesus Christ and to Trinitarian communion within the Church. The Church's mission is to continue Christ's mission of salvation and communion in the Holy Trinity. Her task is to strive to sow the seeds of the Kingdom of God, to strive towards its perfection in her members, and to be a sign and instrument of the Kingdom of God to all. The more she strives to extend the Kingdom of God through the witness of all her members, the better she will be a sign and instrument of salvation to all, and thus more credible and effective in proclaiming that Kingdom to all, in imitation of Jesus Christ, her founder.
Ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council
35. The Second Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1985) speaks of the ecclesiology of communion as the central insight of all the conciliar documents and the motivating force of all post-conciliar renewal. The final statement of the Synod summarizes the main points of this ecclesiology: the Church as communion is founded on Trinitarian communion. She is the sign and binding force of communion between God and humanity. She is a communion of all the disciples of Jesus, and she is the locus and symbol of communion among all peoples.(29)
In a similar way, Vatican II also called the Church the Pilgrim People of God.(30) The Church is seen as related to peoples and believers of other religions: "Finally, those who have not yet received the gospel are related in various ways to the People of God.(31) In its declaration on the Church's relation to non-Christian religions Vatican II states:"In our times...the Church is giving deeper study to her relationship with non-Christian religions.(32)
The responses to the Lineamenta make reference to attempts by local Churches in their mission of evangelisation to apply the concept of the Church as communion to the particular circumstances in Asia. This reflection on the Church in Asia from the viewpoint of the ecclesiology of communion can be divided into the following categories: 1) The communion shared in particular Churches; 2) joint endeavours at the local level towards expressing and fostering communion; 3) the ways the local Churches relate to the Universal Church; and 4) the Church's attempt to promote a communion of life among peoples of various cultures and religions in a common pilgrimage towards fullness of life in God. Communion implies inter-dependence within each particular Church and among all the particular Churches in Asia. The responses offer the following reflections on the four above aspects of ecclesial life.
The Particular Church
36. At the level of the local Church, various responses note that a Church of communion is called to be a Church in which all the baptized are engaged actively and fruitfully, according to vocation, in every area of the Church's life and mission, and where the gifts and charisms bestowed by the Holy Spirit on each one are mutually recognized and put to the service of building up the Church and carrying out Christ's mission.
Several responses note that this spirit of communion must first be evident and operative among the hierarchy, particularly the bishops within a certain region or nation, the bishop with his clergy, both diocesan and religious. In some cases, a better coordination with the local bishop is needed in the work accomplished by religious congregations in Asia. In a similar vein, where many particular Churches are mentioning the increasing active participation of many of the lay faithful in various areas of Church life (prayer and study groups, family gatherings, basic Christian communities, etc.), there seems to be a growing need to turn these believing and worshiping communities into sharing communities, where the lay faithful are made more aware of their role in the Church's mission towards others. In some cases, the lay faithful on the parish level are unaware of, or are not sufficiently involved in, the Church's relief organisations and development activities at the diocesan level.
In this regard, several responses insist that participation in the Church's mission is directly a result of a person's ecclesiology or idea of the Church. For example, Church members need to be taught that communionÂboth personal (the individual with God) and communal (the community of the Church)--is everyone's responsibility. The visible effects of communion are service to others or solidarity. Some insist that if each memberÂbishops, clergy, religious, consecrated and lay faithfulÂwould indeed live the implications of Church communion, the Church would increasingly be seen as a "serving Church," where all her members would seek ways of identifying with humanity, as "Christ, the Suffering Servant", through works of love and service in Asia. It is felt that such a image of Church would manifest communion in Asia better than any other. The responses suggest that such a form of communion can be best achieved in relatively small groups whose members know each other personally and whose leaders can share intimately in the sufferings and joys of the daily struggles of the members.
The Communion of the Local Churches
37. Each particular Church has a vocation of being in communion with each other and the Universal Church. Relations between local Churches are expressed as an inter-ecclesial communion in which the local Church incorporates elements from the local socio-cultural environment, while remaining faithful to the uniqueness and unity of one, holy catholic and apostolic faith.
In all parts of Asia, post-Conciliar structures are seen as playing a important role in developing the sense of Church as a communion of faith communities. In West Asia, the responses noted that, among these ecclesial structures, the Council of Oriental Catholic Patriarchs (C.P.C.O.) has facilitated theological reflection and made possible pastoral planning in both inter-ritual and international contexts. The responses from South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia were in agreement that the creation of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences was an important factor in developing a sense of communion among the local Churches. The wide range of its theological and pastoral institutes has enabled Christians from various local Churches in Asia to know one another personally, to share experiences, to confront problems together, and to propose common pastoral strategies and "action plans" for the entire region.
Many responses insist that the Church's program of a new evangelisation in Asia could receive assistance by engaging in a "three-fold dialogue", that is, a dialogue with the poor, a dialogue with other religions of Asia and a dialogue with Asian cultures. This three-fold dialogue would provide the concrete manner for announcing the person and message of Jesus through acts of love and service. Such a dialogue would also inspire and provide a method for the Church's mission.
Most agree that the program of a new evangelisation in Asia requires ongoing conversion and renewal of the Church's members, and a renewed commitment to incarnate the Church of Christ in Asian cultures. This vision was set forth during the Fifth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C.): "...Built in the hearts of the people, it is a Church that faithfully and lovingly witnesses to the Risen Lord Jesus and reaches out to people of other faiths and persuasions in a dialogue of life towards the integral liberation of all"(33)
The Local Church and the Universal Church
38. The question of the relationship of the local Church to the Universal Church was raised in several responses. Relationships between the local Church and the universal Church are guided by the principle of unity of faith, charity, collegiality and subsidiarity. Unity and collegiality are important gifts of the Spirit in the Catholic Church and are appreciated by other Christian Churches.
Some responses mentioned that more autonomy should be given to the local Churches in areas of dialogue, inculturation and adaptation. While maintaining the unity of faith, more room could be made for diversity in the ways in which the local Church, through prudent discernment of local needs, determines pastoral priorities and its related structures. All this would be done in the spirit of communion and dialogue between the local Church and the universal Church. In this way, the many Catholic Churches in Asia as well as the local Churches will be better assisted in making contributions to theological, spiritual, pastoral and missionary programs for the well-being of the people of Asia.
The Mission of Communion
39. As the Third Millennium approaches, the Church in Asia seeks to address the phenomenon of disunity in its many forms and to walk towards greater unity, as an expression of her mission of communion. This calls for a sincere examination of conscience, reconciliation, a renewed commitment to dialogue, and expressions of unity.
Responses to the Lineamenta sadly point out that Asian societies all too often display the reality of disunity, including tensions between ethnic and religious groups, economic imbalances, conflicts in the political order between the powerful and the powerless, between majority groups and minorities, social distinctions and discrimination, and cultural differences between generations and between people of modern urbanized societies and those of rural societies. In many cases, certain groups of people, especially women and children, suffer more than most not only from attitudes of discrimination and oppression but from various forms of physical and psychological violence. Often these situations within societies simmer unresolved under the surface and occasionally explode into open violence.
The Church too, made up of human persons, is not immune from this reality of disunity. Certain responses note a lack of communion at times between clergy, religious and laypeople. Most admit that the greater the unity in the local Church, the greater will be the unity in other areas and levels of Church life. At the same time, some point to the effect of divisions within the Church on those of other religions. The scandal of a divided Christianity is seen by many in Asia as a counter-witness to Jesus Christ. New tensions have also arisen in many parts of Asia by the proliferation and tactics of some evangelical groups. In other places, religious movements and sects are creating difficulties.
On the other hand, there are signs of improved relations among the certain Churches. Catholic and Orthodox Christians in West Asia often feel a cultural unity among themselves, a sense of sharing important elements of a common ecclesial tradition. The constructive working relationship fostered by many ecclesial structures, including the national episcopal conferences and Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C.), offers hope for new ecumenical initiatives in Asia, an outlook which is reflected in the effective collaboration on peace and justice issues in various Asian countries. The Church's participation in other ecumenical initiatives is leading to cooperative pastoral ventures with other Churches in certain parts of Asia. However, the reality remains that much work needs to be done in this area.
The responses to the Lineamenta also recount the divided manner in which Christians are sometimes viewed by their neighbours of other religions. For example, Christians are respected and admired for the quality of schools, healthcare facilities, and social programs for the poor; yet some people suspect the motives of the Church in these activities.
In these various situations of disunity, the ecclesiology of the Church as communion has relevance not only for the internal relationships within the Church; it also underlines the nature of the Church's mission to build communion among all peoples. In the rich diversity of Asian ethnic groups, nations, social classes, cultures and religions, many responses maintain that the Church is to be a sign and sacrament of the unity desired by God among the peoples of Asia. The struggle to build unity and bring about reconciliation, to promote dialogue with religions and cultures and to break down prejudices and engender trust is to be considered an essential part of the Church's evangelizing mission in Asia.
This vision of the Church as agent of communion in Asia was expressed during the Sixth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C.). Noting that Christ's mission is essentially one of "nourishing life to its fullness," the bishops affirmed: "With our Asian sisters and brothers, we will strive to foster communion among Asian peoples who are threatened by glaring economic, social and political imbalances. With them we will explore ways of utilizing the gifts of our diverse religions, cultures and languages to achieve a richer and deeper Asian unity. We will build bridges of solidarity and reconciliation with peoples of other faiths and will join hands with everyone in Asia in forming a true community of creation."(34)
Some Initiatives towards Communion
39a. The Church in Asia is a "little flock," living among millions of followers of other religions. As such, the Church in Asia, according to many responses, has the special potential, in virtue of her catholicity, of being a "sacrament of unity" not only for the Church herself but for the peoples of Asia.
Throughout Asia, religious believers of all faiths are confronted with strikingly similar crises posed by globalisation and economic situations, by counter-values such as individualism and materialism, by the erosion of traditional values of family and community, by a consumerism in which a person's worth is assessed by what one owns, by development projects which endanger the environment and marginalised indigenous populations, and by the media pressure of an alien "pop" mono-culture. Despite being a "little flock," the Church in Asia is called to address and respond to such sweeping issues. Many times this will involve programs of dialogue and cooperation with other religions.
In this regard, many responses insist that the Church must search for partners, particularly with other Churches and Christian communities, who share common values. She must, on the one hand, seek to bring together like-minded believers to work together, not on a sectarian or partisan basis, but with each offering perspectives which arise from their respective faiths. On the other hand, Christians must be open to taking part in the initiatives of others to confront problems that cut across confessional lines. In this way, Christians in Asia can make a more effective contribution to society in matters of ethics and values. By becoming fully immersed in the problems of the societies in which they live, Asian Christians can pursue an important element of the Church's evangelizing mission.
The unity which the Church seeks in the midst of disunity and in the face of serious challenges is one which is oriented towards life. It involves a rejection and struggle against the death-dealing forces that enslave people and cause suffering to millions, and it means an affirmation and struggle in favor of human life. Christians, who find the fullness of life in the power of Jesus' Paschal mystery of suffering, death, and resurrection, want to share their vision of a communion of life through dialogue and cooperation with their neighbours of every faith and cultural background. In this way, the Church in Asia can truly become a sacrament of unity, united with all in the task of proclaiming and working for one goal: "That they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).
THE CHURCH'S MISSION OF LOVE AND SERVICE IN ASIA
40. Most responses to the Lineamenta emphasize the need and urgent character of the Church's program of a new evangelisation in Asia. As seen in the recent Magisterium of the Church in Vatican II, Evangelii nuntiandi,Redemptoris missio and recent trends in mission theology and practice, the concepts of mission and evangelization have acquired a wider meaning and contain new dimensions and emphasis. This is clearly noticeable in the various initiatives mentioned in the responses which deal with promoting the values of the Kingdom of God, human dignity and human rights, justice and peace issues, dialogue and sharing of religious experiences, and collaboration in the struggle for a more just and humane society. All of these are seen as essential elements in today's new evangelisation, which is part of the service of life rendered by the Church in Asia.
The Liturgy: The Wellspring of Mission
41. Some of the responses coming from the local Churches in Asia, especially those of the oriental liturgical traditions, stress the importance of the role of the liturgy in the Church's evangelising work in Asia. Mission has its origins in God and his desire, in goodness and love, to share his life with all of humanity and creation; Jesus Christ's mission springs from the liturgy of his life, his act of worship of the Father in prayer and contemplation. In his final act of self-giving on the cross the Church was born and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the Church set out to fulfill her mission: "..that they might have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).
In the Church's mission, the liturgy is absolutely necessary to assist all the faithful in their communion with God in Jesus Christ, so that they might draw on that communion as a source, means and goal of their mission. Thus, many responses insist on the need for liturgical renewal in Asia, so that the liturgy might really become the source and summit of the evangelizing activity of the Church. In this regard, some mention that ways need to be sought to see if the liturgy can be more adapted to the missionary needs of Asia, i.e., to its languages, cultures, etc.. Therefore, its seems that formation in the liturgical life needs greater attention in all the Churches, both as the means for the faithful to experience the mystery of Jesus Christ and for the Church's members to become truly missionaries in Asia.
The Word of God and Mission
42. Some responses ask for a greater attention to the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God, in all areas of Church life, especially by bishops, priests, deacons, those in consecrated life, catechists and lay missionaries. Preachers, especially missionaries, should draw from the Bible and lead their hearers to take up the Word of God for personal study and inspiration.
Likewise, the Sacred Scriptures should be utilised more in the evangelizing efforts of the Church in Asia, since God's Word has an inherent power to touch the hearts of all peoples, both Christians and believers of other faiths. In all Asian religions, the word is highly venerated. Religious leaders, profoundly shaped by the sacred words of their religions, use them widely in their own missionary work. At the same time, the Sacred Scriptures are shown great veneration by believers of other religions.
43. Several responses also called for a greater emphasis on missionary spirituality and asceticism as a basis for mission. Docility to the Holy Spirit transforms the missionary into a true disciple and witness of Jesus Christ, as happened to the Apostles at Pentecost. Imbued with the Spirit, the missionary can live the mystery of Jesus Christ in life, have the mind of Christ, and become a true servant of all. In this way, the missionary becomes one with all peoples in charity:(35) "As such, he overcomes barriers and divisions of race, caste, or ideology. He is a sign of God's love in the world-- a love without exclusion or partiality.(36)
For this purpose, several responses ask that all people engaged in missionary activity receive a formation in missionary spirituality, especially among seminarians and religious. By the same token, an understanding of the spirituality of the other religions in Asia would also be helpful in missionary work. The Church's mission of love and service in Asia will depend on the kind and the depth of formation which is given at all levels of the Church in Asia.
44. In a similar way, many responses call for greater attention to the formation of the laity. The Second Vatican Council and the years after the Council have brought about a renewed understanding of the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church. By virtue of their baptism the laity share in the threefold office of Jesus Christ and fulfill that role in the family and secular society, the specific area of their mission.(37) To assist the lay faithful in fulfilling their role, various particular Churches as well as national and international episcopal conferences have established programmes of formation for the laity, especially for women, so that they can exercise their proper role in the life of the Church and in her various apostolates.
Several responses to the Lineamenta stress the need for systematic lay catechesis at various levels of Church life, in the initiation into various sacraments, pastoral catechesis of whole Christian communities, etc.. Changing times and cultures in which Church members live call for a continual renewal of catechetical methods. The missionary catechumenate, catechesis and pastoral catechesis require good catechists. Special attention is required, therefore, for the basic and ongoing formation of lay catechists, especially in missionary contexts.
45. According to some responses, the Christian family is not only the object of pastoral care, it is an agent of evangelization. Since the family is the heart of Asian cultures, family values are held in very high esteem not only by the Church in Asia but also by the followers of other religions in the continent. Family is also the first place of catechesis in traditional religions. Some mention, however, that tendencies in Asian society are threatening the family with disintegration, e.g., mass migration, forced resettlement of peoples, search for work, absence of parental presence when both parents are working, and other such factors. Many insist that the strengths and weaknesses of the Asian continent can be traced back to the Asian family. Such situations as poverty, exploitation and degradation of women, children forced to hard labour, a growing number of unwed mothers, prostitution, child abuse, abortion, etc.,(38) are threatening the very foundations of family life in Asia.
The family is the domestic Church. Thus, the first witness to Jesus Christ is given by the Christian family. It is also the first missionary Church among the non-Christians of the neighbourhood. In this context the apostolate of the family and the apostolate by the Christian family assumes a great significance for the future of the Church's mission of love and service in Asia. Such a mission should also be mindful of the many positive values in the Asian society, values cherished by long-standing traditions, e.g., filial piety, love and care for the aged and the sick, etc.. Some note that the generous service of families is the source of the abundance of vocations in Asia. Hence, many feel that an apostolate on behalf of the family is needed in the Church's evangelising mission on the continent.
Youth as Evangelisers
46. Considering the great number of young people in Asia, youth have an important role in the life of the Church and society in the continent. Many responses point out that youth in particular are caught up in the tension between the traditional Asia and the emerging Asia. As a result, they are threatened by such situations as a lack of opportunities for education, employment, confusion of ideologies and uncertainties for the future, etc.. At the same time, they display an idealism and a generosity to give themselves to those ideals, an aspiration for a better life and a desire for renewal in society.(39) In such a situation, the Church needs to be close to youth so as to share their aspirations and difficulties as well as to provide opportunity for them to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ who can be their light and life at this moment in their lives.
These same responses also pointed out that youth are not only the object of the Church's pastoral care, but also agents in the Church's mission in her various apostolic works of love and service as well as in missionary work. In several countries of Asia they have played an important role in bringing the Gospel to their peers, their families and villages.
The particular Churches in Asia have a wide network of schools, universities and centres of learning. These need to become centres for the evangelization of youth, so that they too can better be evangelisers in the changing societies of Asia.
The Breadth of the Church's Evangelising Mission
47. Evangelisation today has acquired a wider meaning than in the past. Evangelisation is a complex reality and has many essential elements such as witnessing to the Gospel, working for the values of the Kingdom, the struggle for human promotion, dialogue, a mutual sharing of God- experiences, inculturation and dialogue with other religions, to mention a few.
Church documents since the Second Vatican Council have presented a richly textured conception of evangelisation. Documents of the Universal Church such as the papal encyclical Redemptoris missio, and the documents Mission and Dialogue and Dialogue and Proclamation produced by dicasteries of the Holy See have elaborated a multi-faceted understanding of evangelisation. In Asia, the statements of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and the documents of the F.A.B.C. have been efforts to convey to the particular Churches in Asia the many elements of ecclesial life which come together the Church's evangelising mission.
The responses to the Lineamenta stress that evangelisation is not to be reduced to any one element. Evangelisation cannot be equated with proclamation of the Gospel ad extra. Conversely, a broad understanding of proclamation is needed, one which locates the preaching of the Word within a holistic approach to evangelisation. Asia is a highly religious continent, maintaining ancient and rich traditions of spirituality which have taught generations of people to pray.
Because the emphasis in Asia has always been on religious experience rather than on dogma, many maintain that Christ is better communicated, not on the purely theoretical or verbal level in an orderly presentation of doctrines, but through a shared experience. In Asia, the medium of approaching the Absolute or Divine is not word, but silence. The most effective and credible proclamation of the Risen Lord is the unspoken witness of a person who has undergone a deep God-experience and whose life is transformed accordingly.
In the sharing of life with their neighbours, Church members enter upon numerous opportunities to interact with others. It may be the occasion of important events in the passage of life: birth, marriage, sickness, death. It may be the struggle for justice and more humane societies. It may be located in communal daily activities, such as working and studying together, in preparing and sharing food together, in common efforts to prepare local or national celebrations. In all these situations, Church members who have been deeply transformed by faith in Christ come into contact with people of other religions. They share their views on many aspects of life and, where the level of trust and mutual esteem permits it, they share what is deepest in their lives, their experience of faith.
Such interaction and proclamation are not seen as opposed to each other, but complementary. An emphasis on proclamation without a corresponding willingness to share the faith is one-sided. In dialogue, the spontaneous question to the other is not, "What do you believe?" but "What has been your spiritual experience?". Some responses relate that such interaction is perhaps the only kind of proclamation possible in some parts of Asia.
The Church's preferential love for the poor and solidarity with those who are seeking justice and a recognition of their human dignity is another way of proclaiming Christ. Such proclamation is in deeds rather than words. In several responses, the witness of the late Mother Teresa, admired equally by Christians and by people of other faiths throughout Asia, was given as an example of this type of evangelisation. In short, the need to elaborate an Asian understanding of evangelisation in which interaction, dialogue, witness, service, and proclamation are all seen as integral elements of the Church's evangelising mission was proposed for consideration during the Special Assembly.
The Renewal of Prayer Life
48. The source of power and effectiveness in the saving mission of Jesus was his communion with the Father through daily contemplation and prayer. Many responses point out that this Christian truth is particularly appreciated in Asia, a continent where experience is prized more than religious doctrine or a set of teaching. In 1970, Pope Paul VI referred to Asia as a continent which manifests "the sense of spiritual values dominating the thoughts of their sages and the lives of their vast multitudes."(40) He further noted the discipline of asceticism, the deep and innate religious sense, filial piety and attachment to the family, the primacy of things of the spirit, an unrelenting search for God and hunger for the supernatural as characteristics of Asian religious traditions.
Today, however, these elements of Asian spirituality are in crisis. Modern culture, with its emphasis on material gain, instant gratification, and continual diversion threaten the life of the spirit. Particularly in the great metropolitan areas of modern Asia, life is hurried, over-full, and marked by constant distractions. Reflection and contemplation are being neglected at the expense of the life of the spirit. This situation also affects the Church's members who are sometimes unable to find time for prayer and worship, still less for periods of deepening their relationship to the Risen Lord.
Many responses insist that any significant renewal within the Church in Asia and her mission of love and service to Asia's people must include a revived attention to the life of the spirit and to practices of prayer and contemplation. A clear pre-condition for Church members, both as individuals and as faith communities, is to bear witness to Christ in their societies, to live as Christ in this world, to communicate Christ to their neighbours, is to be continually nourished by the experience of knowing Christ deeply through prayer and meditation. In Asia, words are not enough. It is the religious experience that transforms one's life which gives credibility to what one says and does. Promoting a deep, immediate knowledge of and union with Christ among the faithful would seem to be a prerequisite for effectively carrying out the Church's evangelizing mission in Asia.
The missionary, according to John Paul II, is the contemplative in action. Contemplation is the wellspring of all missionary activity. The Holy Father shared his impressions on Asia in the following words: "My contact with representatives of the non-Christian spiritual traditions, particularly those of Asia, has confirmed me in the view that the future of mission depends to a great extent on contemplation.(41) As a true contemplative who has experienced God in Jesus Christ through prayer, the missionary will have the courage and credibility to proclaim Jesus Christ: "He is witness to the experience of God, and must be able to say with the Apostles: 'that which we have looked upon...concerning the word of life,...we proclaim to you'.(42)
The Service of Dialogue
49. The mission of the Church takes place in interaction with others of which dialogue is an important aspect. Dialogue is a means of mutual knowledge, enrichment and communication of the saving message and life of Jesus Christ. True dialogue involves both giving and receiving, speaking and listening. Many responses to the Lineamenta have urged that attention be given, in the Church's mission of love and service in Asia, to the service created by dialogue, both with religions and cultures. These responses centre upon the need for dialogue in the present context of Asian societies and the need for a grassroots approach to dialogue, in other words, a dialogue of life.
Modern Asian societies are multi-cultural societies, composed of many different religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups living together. This is true today more than at any time in the past. Increased mobility has resulted in regions where formerly people of only one ethnic or religious group had lived, now manifest plurality in social life. Most urban neighbourhoods and rural villages today are made up of people of various religions and social backgrounds. This has led to a situation in which ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups find themselves trying to maintain and promote their identity, at times creating a danger that national societies become fragmented.
Though various difficulties need to be overcome in the area of dialogue, the Church, committed to being a sign and sacrament of unity among all peoples, pursues the path of dialogue, particularly inter-religious dialogue, on many levels so as to bring good to the many groups which suffer from injustice, discrimination or marginalisation and, at the same time, to contribute through the application of her social doctrine to build societies based on principles of justice, peace and harmony.
In seeking to apply the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and subsequent Magisterium on dialogue in the situations of the local Churches in Asia, some bishops in Asia have placed an emphasis on what they term a "dialogue of life and heart.(43) This type of dialogue refers to Christians and followers of other religions living the highest ideals of their respective faiths in the midst of others. Their lives become the dialogue in which each offers and each receives from the other and in which all are enriched. In the dialogue of life, each strives to express the values derived from their faith, while at the same time remaining open to listening and learning from their neighbours.
The concept of dialogue of life was endorsed by Pope John Paul II in his 1990 encyclical letter Redemptoris missio. There he described the dialogue of life as one in which "believers of various religions bear witness to one another in daily life concerning human and spiritual values and help one another to live them in order to build a more just and fraternal society....all the faithful and every Christian community is called to practice dialogue, although not in the same way nor to the same degree."(44)
Several responses to the Lineamenta noted that although the term is new, the reality of the dialogue of life has been practised by people of various faiths at the grassroots for centuries in Asia. Other responses noted that the dialogue of life has many applications in Asia. Christian schools can become "laboratories" for students and teachers to learn the dialogue of life. Christian hospitals and other healthcare projects can be places where people of all faiths seek to comfort one another and offer hope from the richness of their respective faiths. Cloistered sisters, who lead lives of prayer and love, in open friendship with their neighbours of other faiths, have shown themselves to be among the most effective practitioners of the dialogue of life.
Dialogue at the grassroots level points up another need for the Church in Asia to come to a greater awareness and appreciation of the religious character of the Asian people. Responses to the Lineamenta insist that there are important spiritual values preserved in popular religiosity which deserve respect and offer values sometimes neglected in the lives of modern Asians, e.g., reverence for nature, the divine presence on earth and the value of familial and communitarian solidarity. A major task of the Church in Asia is to promote respect for cultures and beliefs of Asia's indigenous peoples and demonstrate a greater solidarity towards them through actions of love and service.
The Mission of Bringing the Faith to Culture
50. Inculturation results from the interaction which takes place between faith and culture. In such an interaction, the faith takes visible form and becomes intelligible to believers and others, while positive cultural values are purified and assimilated into the faith. Many responses mention that the new evangelisation in Asia urgently needs to consider the process of inculturation so that the Gospel might take on a real Asian character. True inculturation means "the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity in the various human cultures"(45)
Many responses to the Lineamenta deal with the question of inculturation of the Christian faith in the cultures of Asia. The responses from West Asia indicated that inculturation is not so much a problem to be faced today as the natural process by which the Churches in the region developed since the time of the Apostles. There is a centuries-long history of inculturation in language, art, architecture, liturgy, and social organization. Inculturation is expressed today in the continued study by seminarians, clergy, and laity of the Syrian and Arabic traditions of theology, philosophy, spirituality, and liturgy. Inculturation has also meant that Arab culture has been profoundly influenced, over the centuries, by local Christians.
The Eastern Churches in India are engaged in trying to preserve their indigenous traditions and are seeking to assimilate Western artistic and liturgical traditions. It is felt that inculturation in theology, liturgy, spirituality, art, etc., will emerge only when Christians as a community live the life-style of the masses, understand their ways of thinking and speak their language.
Elsewhere in Asia, inculturation is seen as major challenge for the Church. The approach to inculturation is complicated by the fact that in modern Asia no "pure culture" exists. Asian cultures are continually evolving and incorporating elements from elsewhere. There is an emerging "culture of the city" that often bears little relation to life in the provinces. Some responses are concerned that the power of the Western media and advertising industry are producing a universal "mono-culture" which threatens to drive traditional Asian cultures to extinction. Various experiments in inculturation are producing mixed reactions and effects in the particular Churches. Despite some reservations, the majority of responses regard inculturation as "a major missionary challenge" for the Church.
In its encounter with Asian cultures, dialogue is a two-way process. Religious traditions and symbolic systems of Asian religions can enrich the faith of Christians, but cultural elements cannot be adopted uncritically. Some customs and symbolism will be found to be incompatible with the message that Jesus came to teach and embody. Christians in Asia, as elsewhere in the world, have a duty throughout the world to challenge their cultures and seek to purify them.
The need for inculturation in the field of theology and theological research is often mentioned in the responses. Many maintain that theological expression should draw from the field of culture. A proper application of the process of inculturation would see theological training in seminaries and the work of theological faculties using elements from various Asian philosophical systems, in addition to those already taught in the West, to make more intelligible for the Asian mind the rich theological content of the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. In this way Asian theologians can take more seriously the cultural context, thought patterns, and world views of their regions. This process of inculturation is also important in the area of Christian spirituality through exploring how the richness of Asian spiritual traditions can be lived and transformed through contact with Christ's Paschal mystery.
The efforts in inculturation throughout Asia to move towards giving the Church a truly Asian character offer a sense of richness to the universal Church. Inculturation brings about unity in diversity, in which all local Churches enrich one another by their various attempts to delve deeply to the heart of the Christian mystery and to express that faith in culturally understandable ways.
The Service of Human Promotion
51. The Church, following the example of the Master, is committed to human dignity and promotion in all her evangelizing activities. This ought to be so in a very special manner in Asia where hundreds of millions of people still live in inhuman poverty. Massive poverty is one of those Asian realities that should help all to widen the concept and scope of evangelization in Asia. The Church in Asia can come to the aid of the poor in various ways. One way is to bring attention to the burden of foreign debts accumulated by some countries of Asia, because of past and present injustices.
The Church's evangelizing mission in Asia is carried out in the context of the triple dialogue with the poor, with people of other religions, and with Asian cultures. As disciples of Jesus, the members of the Church in Asia must turn their attention to all that threatens, weakens, diminishes, and destroys the life of individuals, groups, or peoples. Just as Jesus Christ confronted the forces of sin and enslavement in his day, so today the task of the Church is to struggle constantly against all that enslaves people.
The responses of the Church on human promotion vary according to the concrete situation, the needs and problems of each region and the structures existing in a given society. The Church's contribution to human promotion includes vocally denouncing injustices, supporting victims in their just causes, caring for the marginalised and suffering, joining together with all persons of good will who seek to build a more just and humane society, engaging in the analysis of the given situation in order to arrive at the root causes of poverty and injustice, and faith reflection on pastoral action.
The Church's traditional social works of caring for those in need are expanded today to include new groups of suffering people. Throughout Asia, in addition to orphanages, homes for the elderly, schools, hospitals, and clinics for the destitute, centres for the handicapped and leprosaria, the Church today conducts, for example, drug treatment programs, rehabilitation centres for prostitutes, hospitality centres for seafarers, centres and residences for HIV/AIDS patients, and an apostolate to an increasing number of prisoners who are undocumented workers.
While the Church in Asia strives to oppose forces which threaten the dignity and well-being of the individual, she also works to encourage people to form a better society. In Asian countries, the Church has been active in pro-democracy movements aimed at establishing participatory democracies and humane government, in monitoring elections, in working for legislation against graft and corruption, in efforts at reconciliation after communal clashes, and in establishing peace in regions torn by civil war.
In many countries in Asia, the Church has sponsored workshops and training programs aimed at teaching social analysis to get at the root causes of injustice and poverty. In studies on arms proliferation and trade, in communal and interreligious conflicts, in development projects for tourism, logging, mining, and damming, social analysis is used to raise consciousness regarding who is benefiting and who is suffering from such projects. In many instances, Christian activists have discovered that it is primarily local politicians and foreign multinationals who profit, while the local poor are displaced.
The responses to the Lineamenta emphasize that in all these expressions of a preferential love for the poor, which are seen as integral aspects of the Church's evangelizing mission, Christians do not act alone. Many of their most devoted and self-sacrificing partners in striving to oppose abuses and build better societies are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, followers of Traditional Religions, as well as secular non-religious individuals. Some of the most fruitful forms of dialogue of action are those in which Christians and other believers join hands to address the problems of society and serve the poor in loving cooperation.
The Service to Creation
52. Ecological concerns are gaining in popularity throughout the world. In this area, the Church's teaching on the stewardship of creation, i.e., the responsible use, care and protection of the world created by God has much to offer in both discussion and practise. In Asia there are particular concerns in this area, requiring the pastoral attention of the Church. Consumerism and greed strikes at the root of the sources of life, namely, the seas, rivers, forests, plant and animal life. Unabated technological research and experiments can unsettle eco-systems and balances and endanger future generations and their life on earth. People of today have the responsibility to pass intact to future generations the resources of earth, sea and sky, since they form one support system for life given by the creator God and Sustainer of all things.
Many responses mention that the Church, though a minority, needs to make the faithful aware of the ecological problems facing humanity and find ways to bring these matters to the attention of policy makers of the Asian countries and world organizations. By means of catechesis, pastoral guidance and prophetic declarations the Church can give a very timely service to decision makers in politics, industry, economics, trade and other such areas.
The Means of Social Communication
53. The Church today seeks to preach the perennial saving message of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, so that the riches of his life might always be communicated to those who will open their hearts in conversion to the promptings of the Spirit.
The responses to the Lineamenta note that, since the mass media have a growing influence even in remote areas of the Asian continent, the proclamation of the Gospel message can greatly benefit by better employing this modern technology. Some ask for a more inclusive view of the term "means of social communication", going beyond the customary idea of the technical structures and processes of communication in human society. In speaking of the means of evangelisation, Pope Paul VI listed along with the mass media: witness of life, preaching, personal contact, and popular piety. In the Asian context, all the traditional forms of human communication from Asian cultures can be added, such as dance, theatre, drama, speech, shadow plays etc.. In this way, a particularly rich communication spectrum provides possibilities in the work of evangelisation, far beyond what is possible solely through the restrictive term "mass media".
Responses further maintain that the communications explosion in Asia through satellites, internet, video-conferencing, etc., raise a new challenge for evangelisation. Pope John Paul II states in the encyclical letterRedemptoris missio, the means of social communication "have become so important as to be for many the chief means of information and education, of guidance and inspiration in their behaviour as individuals, families and within society at large. In particular the younger generation is growing up in a world conditioned by the mass media."(46) The Holy Father then asks, "Since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the new culture created by modern communication...The new culture originates not just from whatever content is eventually expressed, but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating with a new language, new techniques and new psychology."(47) How far is the Church in Asia responding to these "new ways"?
Modern means of social communication challenges the Church in Asia towards three concrete areas of action: 1) the Church in Asia needs to increase her presence in the world of the mass media in order to communicate the Gospel message as well as the social and moral teachings of the Magisterium; 2) the Church needs to enter into the "modern areopagus" through the means of social communications in order to evangelize society and transform, through the values of the Gospel, the new culture being shaped by the means of social communication; and 3) all Church personnel, both clerical and lay, need to receive adequate exposure and training in the use of the mass media and means of social communications. At the same time, the Gospel must be brought into the lives of those who control and those who are engaged in the mass media in different ways.
Mary, Mother of Evangelisation and Model of Mission
54. Mary was the first to receive the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ brought from God by the angel Gabriel. Her total acceptance of the plan of God in her life from the first moment of the Lord's Incarnation in her womb to his Redemption on the Cross makes her the Mother of Faith. The Gospel of Luke records the fact that following the announcement that she was to be the Mother of God, Mary's thoughts were not towards herself, but towards her cousin who was with child. As a result, she immediately ventured forth, at no little inconvenience to herself, to be of service in to Elizabeth in her time of expectation. Upon her arrival, the child in the womb of Elizabeth recognises the divine presence in the womb of Mary. Mary stays with her a few months. In this way, Mary is seen as the woman of service, bringing Christ to others (cf. Lk 1:39ff). After her example, the Church's members are to totally accept Jesus Christ into their lives and through love and service bring him to others.
The responses to the Lineamenta attest that throughout Asia the Catholic faithful love and revere Mary with deep affection. Looking to her as the Mother of Jesus, given by Christ himself to his Church from the cross, they confidently approach Mary in time of joy and sorrow and continually raise their prayers to her in supplication as a ready helper in time of need. The reverence with which mothers are held in all Asian cultures greatly influences the Church's devotion to Mary.
In western Asia, the Eastern Churches, similar to Orthodox Churches, look upon the person of Mary as strongly linked to that of Christ. Oriental spirituality always unites Mother and Son. This is exemplified in the iconic tradition in which Mary, as Seat of Wisdom, is portrayed holding the Child Jesus on her lap. In West Asia, devotion to Mary at times is a point of unity between Christians and Muslims, who visit her shrines and hold her in veneration.
In other parts of Asia, the responses to the Lineamenta note that there exist many forms of popular piety to Mary and many Marian shrines, which, drawing many persons--at times even those from other religions-- is a source of consolation and support for many in the practise of their faith. However, some mention that in some cases Marian devotion would be helped by making more clear the essential bond between Jesus and his Mother. Where this is lacking, other Christians and followers of other religions are at times left confused. In some Asian countries, certain persons in the Church are exploring the Gospel image of Mary as a model for Asian women and as a key figure in presenting a spirituality for women.
At the same time, emphasis on the role of Mary as the perfect disciple of Jesus and model of evangelization could supplement in the faithful's mind the already existent teachings associated with Marian devotion. In this way, the qualities and virtues of Mary, drawn from the Biblical testimony and the rich tradition of the Church throughout the ages, can be recalled and recommended to the faithful in the Church's mission of love and service in Asia. By taking Mary as a model of love and service towards others, they will lead them to an encounter with the fruit of her womb, Jesus Christ.
55. As the Church in Asia approaches the Third Millennium of her presence on the continent and as she seeks to re-dedicate herself to continuing the mission of proclaiming salvation in Jesus Christ, she desires to renew herself in light of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium which has developed since that time. To achieve this, requires that Church members re-discover the vocation to communion within the Church and re- dedicate themselves to her mission of love and service in Asia. The Church in Asia, standing on the threshold of the Third Millennium, also stands on the threshold of a new evangelization: new in its approaches, new in its theological expression, new in its methods and new in its understanding of other religions.
Many responses mention that a renewed awareness of the Church in Asia is emerging from a fresh reading and understanding of the Gospels, a perceptive reading and discernment of the history of the Church's mission over the last two thousand years, and a prayerful reflection on the various experiences which the Church is undergoing on the Asian continent. Primarily, however, this renewed awareness of the Church and her mission will result from looking to Jesus Christ the Saviour (cf. Heb 12:2) and making him present among Asia's peoples and their cultural settings in a contemporary way and thereby bringing about a renewal within the Church in Asia for the Third Millennium.
To assist in achieving this purpose, the Holy Father has convoked the Special Assembly for Asia so that the bishops might reflect in common upon their pastoral experiences on the continent and, in a spirit of collegiality, offer their assistance to him in approaching ways for the Church to share in humility, in dialogue and in service the inexhaustible riches of Christ with all the peoples of Asia, "...so that they might have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10)
The basis to this renewal is a total conversion of mind and heart of each member of the Church to Jesus Christ and to the values of the Gospel: "For the Church and her mission in Asia, whose peoples are characterised by traditions of deep religiosity, prayer has to be the 'river of life'. Prayer is absolutely indispensable if the Christ-life is to indwell in Christian participation in the life-giving liberation and development. This inner life of prayer builds the Church into a credible community of faith, rooted in the life of the Trinity and turned resolutely towards the construction of a fully human future for Asian peoples.(48) Only a new spirituality that enables the Church in Asia to have a deep experience of God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Because the Church believes that only in Jesus Christ a person can find answers to the ultimate longing for fullness of life, her understanding of evangelization is not limited to human promotion, dialogue and inculturation. It includes also the initial proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Saviour which leads to conversion, baptism and incorporation into the community.(49)
In approaching their task, the bishops of Asia can avail themselves of the encouraging message of Pope John Paul II addressed to the Asian Bishops gathered in the Plenary Assembly of the F.A.B.C.at Bandung: "On the eve of the Third Christian Millennium, an ever greater commitment to evangelization is imperative for all the local Churches of Asia, which, though small, have shown themselves to be dynamic and strong in their witness to the Gospel. Their special challenge is to proclaim the Good News where different religions and cultures meet, at the very crossroads of social, political and economic forces in today's world."(50)
I N D E X
A Moment Grace for the Church
A Moment of Grace for Asia
The Topic of the Synod
A Mission of Love and Service to Life in Asia
The Synodal Pilgrimage
CHAPTER I - ASIAN REALITIES
Asia in General
Geographic Area and Population
Religions, Cultures and Ancient Civilisations
Distinctive Characteristics and Situations
Signs of Hope in Asia
CHAPTER II - ECCLESIAL REALITIES OF ASIA Many Churches
A Variety of Living Situations
The Image of the Church in Asia
Christian Mission and Asian Religions
Positive Elements and Signs of Hope
CHAPTER III - A BRIEF EVALUATION OF CATHOLIC MISSION HISTORY IN ASIA
The Faith and Its Impact
The Gift of Faith
Leaven in Society
CHAPTER IV - JESUS CHRIST: THE GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION
Some Perceptions of Christ in the Church
Jesus: Son of God
Jesus as Saviour
Jesus as God-made-Man
Some Perceptions of Christ in Asia
CHAPTER V - GOD'S SALVIFIC DESIGN THE SPIRIT AT WORK
The Spirit of God in Creation and History
The Spirit of God at Work in Asia
CHAPTER VI - THE CHURCH AS COMMUNION The Church and the Salvific Design of God
Ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council
The Particular Church
The Communion of the Local Churches
The Local Church and the Universal Church
The Mission of Communion
Some Initiatives towards Communion
CHAPTER VII - THE CHURCH'S MISSION OF LOVE AND SERVICE IN ASIA
The Liturgy: The Wellspring of Mission
The Word of God and Mission
Youth as Evangelisers
The Breadth of the Church's Evangelising Mission
The Renewal of Prayer Life
The Service of Dialogue
The Mission of Bringing the Faith to Culture
The Service of Human Promotion
The Service to Creation
The Means of Social Communication
Mary, Mother of Evangelisation and Model of Mission
(1) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, 38; AAS 87 (1995) 30-31.
(2) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the FABC Plenary Assembly, Manila, 1995, 11: L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 25 January 1995, p. 6.
(3) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 1.
(4) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, 38: AAS 87 (1995) 30.
(5) Cf. FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES - F.A.B.C., Final Statement, Taipei, 1974, Evangelisation in Modern Asia, IV, 14, in For All the Peoples of Asia, ed. Rosales/Arevalo, New York, Manila, Orbis/Claretians, p. 14.
(6) Cf. Ibid.; also Bandung, 1990, and Manila, 1995.
(7) JOHN PAUL, Encyclical Letter Redemptor hominis, 10; AAS 71 (1979) 275.
(8) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 22.
(9) Ibid., 38.
(10) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 2.
(11) ST. BONAVENTURE, In Librum Sententiarum, 1, 2.2 :1 : Opera Omnia, Ad Claras Aquas (prope Florentiam), Tipografia Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1885, II, p. 44.
(12) THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, n. 339.
(13) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 13.
(14) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 28: AAS 83 (1991) 274.
(15) Ibid., 28.
(16) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 2.
(17) Ibid., 4.
(18) JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Visitation of India (1-10 February 1986), Address to Representatives of Non-Christian Religions, (5 February, Madras), 2: AAS 78 (1986) 693.
(19) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 2.
(20) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Redemptoris missio, 29: AAS.83 (1991) 274-275.
(21) Cf. Ibid., 56
(22) Cf. FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES - F.A.B.C., Final Statement, Taipei, 1974, Evangelisation in Modern Asia, IV, 4, in For All the Peoples of Asia, ed. Rosales/Arevalo, New York, Manila, Orbis/Claretians, p. 33.
(23) Ibid., II, 6, p. 13.
(24) Ibid., II, 7.
(25) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 3.
(26) THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, 737.
(27) Ibid., 738.
(29) Cf. SECOND EXTRAORDINARY SPECIAL ASSEMBLY - 1985, Relatio Finalis, II, C, 2.
(30) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 9, 68.
(31) Ibid., 16.
(32) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, 1.
(33) FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES - F.A.B.C., Final Statement, V, Bandung,, Journeying Together Towards the Third Millennium, No. 8, in For All the Peoples of Asia, ed. Rosales-Arevalo, Manila/New York, Orbis/Claretians, 1992, p. 287.
(34) FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES - F.A.B.C., Final Statement, VI, Manila, 1995, Christian Discipleship in Asia Today: Service to Life, No. 14, in F.A.B.C. Papers, 74.
(35) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 89: AAS 83 (1991) 335-336.
(37) Cf. Ibid., 31; THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, 901- 913; THE CODE OF CANON LAW, 443, 463.
(38) Cf. FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES - F.A.B.C., Final Statement, Tokyo, 1986, The Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World of Asia, no. 3.
(39) Cf. Ibid.
(40) PAUL VI, Radio-message to the People of Asia (Manila, 29 November 1970), 3: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, 1970, p. 554.
(41) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 91: AAS 83 (1991) 338.
(43) FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES, Plenary Assembly, Taipei, 1974.
(44) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 57; AAS 83 (1991) 305.
(45) SECOND EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS (1985), Final Report, II, D, 4.
(46) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris missio, 37; AAS 83 (1991) 285.
(48) FEDERATION OF ASIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCES - F.A.B.C., Final Statement, Manila, 1995, Christian Discipleship in Asia Today: Service to Life, n. 3.
(49) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 44-58; AAS 83 (1991) 280-307.
(50) JOHN PAUL II, Letter to the Delegates of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, 23 June 1990, 4: AAS 83 (1991) 101.