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Asian Mission Congress Concludes with Message and Recommendations

Chiang Mai October 22, 2006 – The Asian Mission Congress in Lotus Hotel, Chiang Mai concluded with a message. Like the first disciples of Jesus the message also states “we have seen the Lord" (Jn 20:18) The message in the name of participants from “Lebanon to Japan, from Kazakhstan and Mongolia to Indonesia" heard “inspiring stories to numerous to count, stories of life, faith, heroism, service, prayerm dialogue and proclamation. An infectious mood of joy pervaded us."

Eucharistic Celebration at the Closing of the AMC
The Eucharistic Celebration during the concluding rites of the AMC celebrated by Cardinal Sepe (homily)

The story of Jesus, the message states, was the unique thread, wearing all these life experiences into the grand narrative. All the colors, people, languages, cultures, values, religious and acts of Asia’s people founded one grand tapestry. The value of stories is building countries and transforming life is underlined and related to Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Asia (Ecclesia in Asia).

It is fully the Hoy Spirit the “great storyteller, who guides the Church in all situations to tell, especially through the witness of a transformed life: ‘Mission’ means," the message says, “keeping the story of Jesus alive, forming community, showing compassion, befriending ‘the other,’ carrying the cross, witnessing to the living person of Jesus."

The Asian Mission Congress, the message states, “has provided new perspectives for our task of dialoguing with the peoples, the religions and the cultures of Asia." The participants commit themselves “to carry home to our own countries new insights into the story of Jesus, particularly its Asian dimensions."

The recommendations of the congress include proposals to deepen the experience of Jesus in personal and community life especially the Eucharist. They recommend especially the participation of laity and youth and a spirituality if dialogue .In recognizing “our ignorance and prejudice" and recognizing the story of Jesus in other religions, Christian educational institutions especially seminaries are called to “positive attitudes of understanding and respect. "Asian cultural values are to be integrated into Christian living “all the more so when such values are being eroded by consumerism, materialism and other forces. Episcopal conferences are called to organize national, regional mission congresses and in this way help to continue to tell the story of Jesus in Asia.

The highlights of the congress are documented in a DVD which will be available from the communications office of the Thai bishops’ conference.

Violence in globalized societies

Chiang Mai October 21, 2006 – The recent outbreaks of violence in Pakistan seem to be caused by a limited group of people and seemingly also caused by political developments after 9/11, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha said in a press conference here. In the past there was a community peacefully living together.

The archbishop of Lahore and president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ conference shared his experience living in a country with some 95 percent Islamic population and being an Islamic state.

The Church, he said, is working especially well with people on the grassroots. “Social harmony" is achieved even though Christians are a small minority and often are regarded as low-caste citizens.

In Lahore, the WAVE Studio of the archdiocese is available and used by Muslim artists and musicians, whom he considers “moderate" followers of Islam. Ultimately, living peacefully in a Muslim state like Pakistan calls for prudence and discretion.

In the era of globalization, mission work involves not just “being conscious of global issues and acting locally." Church members should also “live contemplatively," said missiologist Father Andrew Recepcion said at the press conference.

Consciousness of global events and working for the development of peoples, especially those on the grassroots, benefit the social dimension of mission, he said. However, “we should also highlight Christian living."

This is our paramount task as “witnesses," the mission director of Naga archdiocese in southeastern Luzon, Philippines, said. “Being faithful to the faith" is the need of our time, he added.

AMC's Oldest Participant is 101 years old

Chiang Mai October 21, 2006 – Peter Chan Lasom, 101, is the oldest participant at the Asian Mission Congress.

Peter, who lives in a village north of Chiang Mai city, travels two hours everyday with his granddaughter to be at the congress. He attends the 6am Eucharist and listens to the presentations until the session ends. “His sight and hearing are still sharp," his 52-year old granddaughter quips.

oldest participant to the AMC
Peter Lasom with the rest of his family

Peter converted from Buddhism 60 years ago, through the inspiration of Betharram missioner P. Elie. With wife and his children, Peter then lived a devout life. Two offsprings of his grandchildren has entered religious life with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, a local Thai mission congregation.

The centenarian stays in a special section of the hall where he can sit and not be exhausted. Everything he needs like water, food and mattresses are within reach, with his granddaughter assisting him. Peter himself greets everyone who wishes to see him with a bow.

Cardinal Vidal giving his homily to the attendees of the Asian Mission Congress
Ricardo Cardinal Vidal delivering his homily

Jesus in Asian Cultures

Chiang Mai October 21, 2006 – The third day of the Asian Mission Congress in the Lotus Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand shares the story of Jesus in the Cultures of Asia.

After an introduction to Asian Cultures and especially a presentation on Vietnam, testimonies are given on the issue of consumerism, the impact of media in Asia and migration.

Youth and interreligious dialogue are further parts of the considerations.

In the opening Eucharist, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of Cebu (Philippines), told the participants that in telling the story of Jesus and our own story, we need first to listen to stories which other people tell about themselves. “Listening to others could also mean giving up the stories we have made for ourselves."

The day will conclude with a “grand socialization" where the 1000 participants will celebrate their faith and their cultures.

Catholics Appreciate Other Religions

Chiang Mai October 20, 2006 – Participants of the Asian Mission Congress felt that the Church can learn “many positive things from other religions." This sentiment resounded at the end of the second day where a feedback session on the workshops was held.

One cluster of workshop groups said “we can learn many things from other religions." “Respect and open ourselves to learn" from them, but we should “not be afraid to show them our unique identities."

Another cluster observed that other religions seem to be ahead of Catholics in values like “hospitality, generosity, discipline, sense of God and respect for their scriptures." “They have a great deal to teach us," the cluster presenter said.

Lay Catholics are also not confident enough to share the story of Jesus to other religions because theology is perceived to be an abstract field. Catholics seem to have been brought up in a tradition where matters concerning faith are reserved for experts, the presenter said.

The “lack of faith nourishment in liturgies" was further identified as reason why Catholics seem to lag behind practicing or living their faith. The “lacking sense of belongingness in liturgies" was seen as another reason.

The cluster finally ended with a plea for religious and clergy to “witness more than to preach" and to “strengthen avenues where stories of Jesus can be shared in an informal setting."

The participants of the Asian Mission Congress were divided into 20 groups with group-names corresponding to Asian saints. Each group was further divided into sub-groups comprising about 10 people.

After the workshops, reports from each sub-group were collated into three clusters. A presenter from each cluster then brought to the plenary feedback session the salient points from the discussions.

On October 19, the workshop focused on “my own personal encounter with God." On the second day October 20, the discussion was on “my appreciation of other religions in my country." On October 21, “the practices or traditions in my culture best expressing the Gospel of Jesus" will be the focus of the workshops.

Storytelling Sets Ground For Dialogue

Chiang Mai October 20, 2006 – Storytelling sets the mode and prepares for dialogue, Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle from Imus, Philippines said in a press conference here. “Storytelling is in fact dialogue in itself but on a different level," added the bishop who delivered the keynote address at the Asian Mission Congress.

Meaningful dialogue can happen between peoples of different faiths, and “it has to start with human stories, from where elements of faith can follow," the prelate who is a member of the International Theological Commission and the FABC-Office of Theological Concerns said.

He shared his personal encounter with a Hindu clergy which, starting with human stories and moving into elements of faith, finally ended in the Hindu revealing a rosary hidden in his pocket.

Bishop Tagle"s diocese, south of Manila, has a growing number of Muslim residents who migrated from war-torn Mindanao in the south to escape violence and poverty. These Muslims “revere" the diocesan patron Our Lady of Del Pilar as they similarly do with Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragosa in Zamboanga city in the south. Not far from the same city, war is raging between Christian soldiers of the national government and rebel Muslims.

While stories can contribute to “pre-evangelization," in today"s globalized society, the Church is not anymore limited to a single methodology of storytelling, the bishop said.

Young people are particularly adept to multimedia gadgets and multi-sensory means of learning. Also because of this, the Church should be open to “multi-form" storytelling techniques, the bishop added.

But while recognizing the importance of techniques, Church storytellers should pray for grace to touch hearts and lives. The experience of an emerging global culture “is a wonderful time to anticipate what the Lord wishes to say, and what instruments He will use. It is up to us to discern this."

Jesus in the Religions of Asia

Chiang Mai October 20, 2006 – The second day of the Asian Mission Congress at Lotus Hotel, Chiang Mai is experiencing “The Story of Jesus in Asian Religions." With a panel representing Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and the tribal religions of India the image and experience of Christ is reflected.

Mr. M. Abdus Sabur, secretary general of “Asian Muslim Action Network" who comes from a small Moslem village in Bangladesh, shared his experience in cooperating with Christians over many years and how he sees many parallels between Islam and Christianity.

Dominican Jean Tanaka comes from a Japanese Buddhist and Shintoist family. He shared his experience of the example of a missionary but also resonating with the confessions of St. Augustine on his way to Christianity and finally religious life.

Bro. Aravindaksha Menon from a Brahmin family shared his search how from after preaching for three years that there is no God. He is now preaching the word of God since some 14 years.

The mission story of Chotanagpur, his tribal home, was finally recalled by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, president of the Catholic Bishops" Conference of India (CBCI).

Workshops in the afternoon follow up the experiences in the morning session, discussing the question: “What do I appreciate in the followers of other religions in my country?"

Thai Church Hopes to Become More Missionary

Chiang Mai October 19, 2006 – With the ongoing Asian Mission Congress (AMC) and the recent national mission congress in Thailand (TMC), local Church leaders hope that lay Catholics become more aware of their task as “missionaries."

In a press briefing, Redemptorist Bishop George Yod Phimphisan said Thai Catholics have to realize that being “missionary" is not only a vocation for ordained priests and members of religious congregations. In Thailand where Catholics comprise only 0.5 percent (or about 300,000) of some 66 million total population, lay people should be missionaries as well.

This was the thrust of the “Year of Evangelization" October 2005 to October 2006 declared by the Thai Bishops" Conference in preparation for the first Asian Mission Congress happening in Chiang Mai.

Being missionary, however, does not mean to proselytize, said Phimphisan, president of the Catholic Bishops" Conference of Thailand. Certain types of preaching go against Thai culture and can breed conflict which should be avoided, the prelate explained. The minority Catholic Church in Thailand has managed to maintain respectability and influence in Thai society, the bishop said, largely through education and socio-pastoral activities.

There are about 300 Catholic schools in Thailand with some 500 thousand students, said Archbishop Louis Chamniern Santisukniran of Tharae-Nongsaeng who was also . The archbishop who is a member of the AMC executive committee also said Basic Ecclesial Communities or BECs are also a way to help Thai laity become more missionary.

The Seven Miracles of Bishop John Tong

Chiang Mai, Thailand October 19, 2006 – Bishop John Tong, auxiliary in Hong Kong diocese, was the first witness to share at the Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai. He shared with the participants seven ‘miracles" in his life, the first one being the change of his ordination date from Christmas to Epiphany 1965 to be ordained by the Pope himself, the day being the feast of a Church sent into the whole world.

The second ‘miracle" was the conversion of his mother to Christianity inspired by the example of the sisters teaching her in a Catholic school. His entire family slowly followed. The next ‘miracle" was his appointment as the first director of the newly established Holy Spirit Centre in Hong Kong in 1980 for the study of Christianity in China. This involved him more and more with the situation of the Catholic Church in China which also helped him how to “deepen my faith and know to give witness to it.

Bishop Tong delivering his talk about the seven miracles in his life
Bishop Tong of the Diocese of HongKong

The fourth miracle in his life was his vocation to priesthood. Together with his mother he distributed medicine to wounded soldiers and refugees with an American missionary whom he experienced as Christ-like and who inspired him to also become a priest.

The next miracle the bishop experienced was that despite the SARS epidemic, the Church could continue its liturgical services with some 5000 converts, half of them adults, to enter the Church every year.

The two subsequent miracles are the experiences of consolation with refugees and also the new moves in the Church of China to grow into a participatory, dialogical and prophetic Church as envisioned by the FABC General Assembly in Bandung 1990.


Storytelling as Mission

Chiang Mai, October 19, 2006 – Understanding Storytelling and telling the story of Jesus were the topics of the keynote address for the Asian Mission Congress, given by Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle at the opening day.

Human life itself, the bishop from the Philippines stated, has a narrative structure. God"s stories are based on experience and also reveal personal identities. They are open to re-interpretation, re-telling and are transformative. Stories are grounds for understanding spiritual, doctrinal and ethical symbols and form community. They can transform the listener but also can be suppressed and told in many different ways.

The Church in Asia in a very special way tells her experience of Jesus “which is more effective if it springs from the experience of the storyteller". The story of Jesus “manifests the identity of the Church among the poor, culture and religions of Asia." This way she keeps not only the memory of Jesus dynamically alive but also provides meaning to the Church"s symbols of faith. In fact the story of Jesus generates the Church in forming community.

Bp. Tagle delivering his keynote address Bishop Chito Tagle delivering his keynote address

The story of Jesus needs, however, also a listening community and listening persons. “The Church in Asia is called to humbly allow the Spirit to touch its listeners." She shares her stories of Jesus in multiple ways and also should be the voice for suppressed stories like the ones of “the poor, the Girl Child, women, refugees, migrants, the minorities, the indigenous people, the victims of violence and the environment.

Jesus entrusts his story to us and he invites us to pass on the story again in a continent, where this story began, in Asia.


Solemn Opening of the Asian Mission Congress

Chiang Mai, October 19, 2006 - The Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai opened with a solemn Liturgy celebrated by Cardinal Ivan Dias, president of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of People in the Vatican. In his homily the Cardinal implored God"s special blessing on the some 1000 participants of the congress. “God so loved the World", the Cardinal said in adapting Jesus" Words to Nicodemus, “that he sent his only son to be born in Asia."

Eucharistic Celebration opening the Asian Mission Congress
Eucharistic Celebration opening the Asian Mission Congress, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Special Envoy of the Holy Father Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe had declared the Congress open immediately before the Eucharistic celebration.

The first day of the gathering under the theme of “Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia" will give an overview about the Church in Asia and deal in a special way with the role of Elderly and Basic Christian Communities (BEC). In some 20 workshop groupings the participants will have an opportunity to share their personal faith experiences and the story of Jesus in their lives and communities.

AMC Exhibits Tells the Story of Jesus

Exhibit of the different Asian Countries at the Baan Laan Tong Exhibits from different Asian Countries

Chiang Mai, October 18, 2006 – A mission exhibit at Baan Lan Tong Convention Hall of Lotus Hotel, Chiang Mai was inaugurated October 18 by Apostolic Nuncio of Thailand, Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio, and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Pope Benedict XVI"s special envoy to the Asian Mission Congress.

The line of exhibit was positioned along two walls of the convention hall where the congress will be held from October 19-22. It features 20 booths designed by national Pontifical Mission Societies of Asian countries represented at the mission congress. The opening booth of the FABC-Office of Evangelization (OE) displays facts and figures about mission history across Asia.

Each country showcases its own mission story. Congress host, Thailand, has a multimedia corner running documentary clips about its seven blessed martyrs and Blessed Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung. HongKong offers articles like pens, posters and friendship cards used by the diocese for evangelization. Lebanon"s booth focuses on missionary activities of Lebanese currently living in other continents.

The mission exhibit seeks to share by way of images and artifacts the story of Jesus in their histories. Fr Saturnino Dias, executive secretary of FABC-Office of Evangelization, said the dynamics of the mission congress in the coming four days are “reflected in this mission exhibit." He urged visitors to reflect on the exhibit carefully in order to realize the extent of missionary activities done in Asia, and the magnitude of work that still needs to be done by present and future generations.

Asian Mission Congress Opens in Chiang Mai (Thailand)

Final preparation for the Asian Mission Congress

The Asian Mission Congress (AMC) opens on Wednesday October 18 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A total of 1047 participants will take part, representing some 25 countries from Central, Southeast, East and South Asia. There are five Cardinals and 69 Archbishops and Bishops together with 385 priests. 43 percent of the participants are from Thailand itself. Representatives of other Christian churches are also invited.

The presidents of bishops" conferences from different Asian countries have sent special messages to the congress pointing to the importance of the event, and highlighting the theme “Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia" as both timely and urgent.

Such story “has set people free from all bondages", the president of the Catholic Bishops" Conference of India (CBCI) Cardinal Telesphore Toppo said. “It has liberated and transformed the lives of the peoples who have heard it and accepted it as a way to love and freedom."

“The AMC will be a rare occasion for the people of God in Asia to share the joy and enthusiasm of their faith in Jesus Christ." Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio, the Apostolic Nuncio of Thailand wrote.

In a longer reflection Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, says the theme struck him as “very pertinent and actual." He expects “much encouragement to the life and growth of the Church in Asia."

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Crescencio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples as his special envoy to the congress.

World Mission Magazine With Special Edition

Special Edition to World Mission Magazine

"World Mission", the Asian Catholic Magazine of the Camboni missionaries of the Philippines has published a special edition for the Asian Mission Congress. The 80 page edition tries to draw a portrait of the Church in Asia. At the center of the publication is an overview with basic data for the different Asian countries similar to an earlier documentation (1995) of the same magazine. Additional documentations like the listing of FABC General Assemblies and articles complement the issue to reflect the Story of Jesus in Asia.

Asian Mission Congress on Internet

The proceedings of the AMC in Chiang Mai will be available on the internet during the celebration days. The internet server of the Thai bishop's conference will be made available to stream parts of the proceedings of the congress but also other additional information will be available.

The fabc website will provide a direct link to the Thai server so that those who will not be present in Chiang Mai can also participate. The congress begins in the evening of October 18 and will last till mid-day of October 22, Mission Sunday.

INDIA Delegates Will Bring Indian Experience To Mission Congress In Thailand

"The Church in India is a neighborhood communion, which is constantly in dialogue with other communities and religions," says Father Siluvai Ignaci, coordinator of the Indian delegates to the Asian Mission Congress.

Representatives of India's Latin and two Oriental rites are set to attend the Oct. 18-22 congress on "Telling the story of Jesus in Asia." About 1,000 people from Asia are expected to take part in the event that the Office of Evangelization of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC-OE) is organizing in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

Father Ignaci told UCA News Sept. 13 that 40 delegates would represent the Latin Church , the largest of the three rites, while the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches would be represented by about 10 delegates.

The two Oriental-rite Churches, both based in Kerala state, southern India, trace their faith to Saint Thomas the Apostle and follow Syrian Church traditions. They and the Latin rite, largely the product of efforts by European missioners from the 16th century, make up the Indian Catholic Church.

Father Vijay Shantiraj, secretary of the proclamation commission of the Latin rite bishop's conference, told UCA News Sept. 13 that the Indian delegation would present their Church's experience and concerns through cultural programs, sharing and reflections, as well as through papers.

Father Saturnino Dias, FABC-OE executive secretary, based in Goa, western India, said the congress seeks to demonstrate and deepen faith. "It's a kind of reliving the joy of being Christian and coming together to share this faith with one another and with the world," he told UCA News.

Participants will bear witness to the presence of Jesus in the life of families, youth, the elderly, migrants and the poor. Also, people of other religions will share how they perceive Jesus and how knowing Jesus has enriched their lives, Father Dias said.

Workshops on the three full days of the congress, Oct. 19, 20 and 21, are meant to interiorize each day's theme and enable delegates to reflect and share the joy of their faith, he added. The first workshop will discuss the "Story of Jesus in Peoples of Asia," the second will consider the "Story of Jesus in the Religions of Asia," and the last will have participants reflect on the "Story of Jesus in the Cultures of Asia."

Workshops Central To Asian Mission Congress

Workshops are essential part of the Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai October 18-22, 2006. Everyday all the participants will have an opportunity to share with others experiences and insights into the themes of the different days. Whereas the question for the first day workshop is about "My personal faith story," the second day asks "What do I appreciate in the followers of other religions?" The third day workshop asks "What practices or traditions in my culture do best express the Gospel of Jesus?" The workshops are destined to make the whole congress more "interactive" and to go beyond general presentations.


Cardinal Sepe Appointed Papal Envoy for Asian Mission Congress

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Crecenzio Sepe as his special envoy to the Asian Mission Congress, which will be held Oct. 19-22 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Cardinal Sepe, the 63-year old archbishop of Naples, is a past prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. This was announced by the Vatican Press Office on August 19, 2006.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, the current prefect of the congregation will also be present during the whole congress.

Indian Team For Asian Mission Congress Meets Bishops

BANGALORE, Karnataka (SAR NEWS) -- Thirty-eight delegates chosen from different regions of India to attend the October Asian Mission Congress in Thailand had a meeting with the bishop-members of the Conference of Catholic Church in Bangalore, August 8.

Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi, chairperson for the Congress organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference, said that he was happy that the delegates were chosen to represent India at the congress and are enthused to know more about its structure.

'Telling the story of Jesus to the people of Asia' being the theme, the delegates should prepare themselves to spread the story of Jesus to their fellow country people, the bishop said.

The congress will experience the rich variety of mission activity present in various parts of the continent and the delegates would learn from each other the ways and means to communicate the essence of the Gospel in their own milieu, the chairman said.

Chairperson of the CCBI Family Commission, Archbishop Agnelo Gracias, who had recently been to Valencia as the representative of India, felt that a thorough catechesis of mission animation should be prepared to animate the entire Church of India at all levels so that the event of the Congress becomes part and parcel of Christian life of India.

Calling every baptised Christian a missionary, the archbishop advocated dialogue, proclamation and catechesis as the means to make the Indian Church a Missionary Church.

President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India, Archbishop Oswald Gracias, spoke of the need of the Congress and said that the Church in India should organise a National Mission Congress after the Thailand Asian event.

Pontifical Mission Societies Taiwan call for full participation in First Asian Mission Congress

The national office for the Pontifical Mission Societies in Taiwan has urged Catholics in Asia to take an active part in the First Asian Mission Congress to be held in Chiang Mai diocese in Thailand 18-22 October on the theme “Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia." According to Christian Life Weekly, issued by Taipei diocese, the Congress will culminate with the celebration of Mission Sunday on 22 October. The Congress will have four principal goals: share the joy of faith in Christ; celebrate evangelization of Asians through real life; promote better knowledge of the Ad Gentes decree issued by Vatican II; foster new a lively evangelization. The Pontifical Mission Societies in Taiwan encourage bishops, priests, religious and lay people, young people especially, to take an active part in the Congress signing up for it. Each diocese will be represented by at least 3 delegates. (Agenzia Fides)

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