MESSAGE OF HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL PAUL POUPARD TO THE ASIAN MISSION CONGRESS, AT CHIANG MAI, THAILAND FROM 18-22 OCTOBER 2006.
His Eminence Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Special Envoy of his Holiness Benedict XVI, His Eminence Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Excellencies, Fathers, Sisters and dear friends united together at Chiang Mai for the Asian Mission Congress.
- I wish to congratulate Msgr. Vincent Concessao and Fr. Saturnino Dias, Chairman and Executive Secretary of the Office of Evangelization of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and all those involved, for this praiseworthy initiative. I would like to appreciate the patronage provided to this Congress by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies. While other commitments have made it impossible for me to be present at this important meeting, I am delighted to send this message through my representative Fr. Theodore Mascarenhas, my collaborator at the Pontifical Council for Culture, and to assure you of my support and encouragement. I have fond memories of my visit to this beautiful country way back in 1999 for the Convention on Christian Humanism at Bangkok, The Proceedings of the Convention were published under the title, Christian Humanism: Illuminating with the Light of the Gospel, the Mosaic of Asian Cultures.
- The theme of the Congress, The Story of Jesus Christ in Asia: A Celebration of Faith and Life struck me as very pertinent and actual. I am sure that there will be much encouragement to the life and growth of the Church in Asia, through your discussions on the objectives that you have set for this Congress, to share the Joy and Enthusiasm of Our Faith in Jesus Christ; to Celebrate Asian Ways of Mission through Witness in the Midst of Life Realities; to Deepen Awareness in the Asian Churches about the Renewed Understanding of Mission Ad Gentes during and since the Second Vatican council; and to highlight Priorities for a Renewed Mission Animation.
- The Story of Jesus is not a fable or a tale. It is a real story, in the original sense of the word which goes back etymologically to the Greek verb historein, the Latin nouns historia and Storia and the Old French estorie, meaning “history, record, inquiry". As the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum reminds us: “After speaking in many and varied ways through the prophets, ‘now at last in these days God has spoken to us in His Son’ (Heb. 1:1-2). For He sent His Son, the eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that He might dwell among men and tell them of the innermost being of God (see John 1:1-18)". It is the Story of God’s own revelation to human beings, inviting them to partake in his divine life, as Jesus himself prays to the Father, “even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us" (John 17:21). The Story of Jesus Christ therefore transcends cultures and is a call to faith, to entire humanity stretching to the “ends of the earth" in the redemptive love of God manifested through Jesus Christ.
- The Story of Jesus Christ is the Story of His Incarnation, His birth at Christmas, the mystery of his Passion, the Redemption at Easter, and Pentecost which allows everyone, by the power of the Spirit, to hear the marvels of God in his own tongue. (Cf. A Pastoral Approach to Culture # 5). It is the Story that goes back to the incarnation for “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1) and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:16). I recall what I had said in my Keynote address at the Convention on Christian Humanism, in Bangkok: “Christ is the ‘new man’. By assuming human nature, He has in a certain way united Himself with each one of us. He humbled Himself to share in our humanity so as to make us partakers of his Divinity". The Story of Jesus therefore, necessarily calls for the evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of the faith. “The evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of the Gospel go hand in hand, in a reciprocal relationship which presupposes constant discernment in the light of the Gospel, to facilitate the identification of values and counter-values in a given culture, so as to build on the former and vigorously combat the latter (Cf. A Pastoral Approach to Culture # 5)
- The Story of Jesus is the Story of Love. It is rooted and originates in Divine Love for as the Gospel according to St. John tells us: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life". The Holy Father Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est # 12, calls Jesus Christ, “the incarnate love of God". Jesus Christ teaches us that human life reaches its fulfillment only when a person loves the Lord the God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind and loves his neighbour as himself (Mt 22:37-39). The Story of Jesus hence is a call to each of us to create a culture of peace and love. It is a call to live as witnesses of that divine love shared with us through his only Son.
- The Story of Jesus is an Ongoing Story, continued in his Mystical Body, the Church and lives on in the mission entrusted to her. The Lord Jesus called to Himself those whom He wished; and He caused twelve of them to be with Him, and to be sent out preaching (Mk 3:13; Mt 10:1-42). Before He was taken up into heaven (cf. Acts 1:11), founded His Church as the sacrament of salvation and sent His Apostles into all the world just as He Himself had been sent by His Father (cf. Jn 20:21), commanding them: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of a nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28:19 ff.). Go into the whole world, preach the Gospel to every creature “(cf. Ad Gentes 5). The Story of Jesus therefore goes on till this day in the missionary activity of the Church.
- My dear Brothers and Sisters, the Story of Jesus Christ is first and foremost an Asian Story. Jesus Christ an Asian gift to Mankind. It is unfortunate that for centuries now the Story of Jesus Christ has not made the desired impact in Asia, partly because Christianity has been seen as a foreign religion as testified, by the Asian Bishops at the Synod for Asia. The Celebration of Life and Faith in the Story of Jesus Christ in Asia, the largest continent in the world is both a challenge and an opportunity. Asia is the birthplace and cradle of the major religions and spiritual traditions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism and Shintoism. Millions of Asians also practise traditional and tribal religions with their own spiritual and religious values. The countries of the immense continent of Asia have ancient cultures, which are profoundly influenced by non-Christian religions and traditions of wisdom. which need to be considered very carefully. Besides, the massive wave of globalization and the accompanying materialistic consumeristic cultures have not left Asia and its traditional cultures. The Story of Jesus Christ cannot be celebrated in a vacuum. Cultures are necessary as a vehicle or medium to express God's revelation of love that is at the core of faith. At the same time, it is good to remember that "since culture is a human creation and is therefore marked by sin, it too needs to be 'healed, ennobled and perfected'. (Redemtoris Missio # 54) there is a close link between faith and culture, there must be a healthy osmosis between the two. "The synthesis between culture and faith is not only a demand of culture but also of faith…A faith that does not become culture is a faith not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived" as was so prophetically highlighted by our dear departed John Paul II.
- I do wish that the reflections and discussion at this Asian Mission Congress will lead to a more effective proclamation of the Person of Jesus Christ in the Asian continent, that even while accepting, respecting and appreciating the cultural values and truths found in Asian Cultures and religions. I would like to conclude, repeating what I had said in this same country in 1999, “Asia with its diversity of cultures and creeds, some of which are more ancient than Christianity, presents itself as a cultural mosaic. In any mosaic, every piece, howsoever small, is important to complete the whole picture. If one piece is missing we have an ugly gap. In Asia the mosaic is already there; what we need to do is to illumine it with the Light of the Gospel, so that its beauty shines forth with greater splendour".
To write this message, on the occasion of the First Asian Mission Congress at Chiang Mai from 19th to 22nd October 2006, is my honour as the Papal Representative to the host-country. I congratulate the organizers with a grateful heart as the Asian Mission Congress which is being held in Thailand will be the first of its kind in this continent and naturally the difficulties involved therein as it has no such precedent event to follow.
While conveying my appreciation to the Church in Asia for her profound sense of evangelization and the strong conviction of her missionary vocation in this vast continent of rich spiritual heritage, I wish and pray that the Asian Mission Congress be a milestone in their commitment to the Church’s most essential and existential need to be missionary in this continent where Jesus was born. The Asian Mission Congress with its pastoral and catechetical approach will be a rare occasion for the People of God in Asia to share the joy and enthusiasm of their faith in Jesus Christ which should inspire them to reflect upon their mission “ad gentes" by telling the story of Jesus to the people of Asia in their multi-cultural and multi-religious background.
In the context of such an important event in Asia, the preparations are never enough and our only consolation is that it is the Holy Spirit who is guiding our missionary efforts and to whom we pray and offer the great challenge for evangelization before us in this vast continent of immense diversity. With these sentiments, I entrust the Asian Mission Congress to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Star of Evangelization. I have the honour to convey the Apostolic Blessing of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on each and every one of you.
Given in Bangkok, at the Apostolic Nunciature
14 September 2006, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio
The Story of Jesus! Even after 2000 years, this story remains the bestseller and will remain so in the years to come till the end of time. The story of Jesus is the core story around which revolves the story of mankind. Take away this story and the entire plot of the story of mankind falls flat making human life meaningless.
This story par excellence started in a humble manger witnessed by poor shepherds is now the talk of the powerful and the wise. If it mystified some, it challenged others, and transformed many. It left none without evoking response.
The story has set people free from all bondages: of sin, of economic inequality, of socio-cultural discrimination, of political suppression, etc. 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 First Asian Mission Congress will recall and rejoice in this most celebrated story of Jesus. Though Jesus was born in Asia 2000 years ago, for most of us Asians, this story may not be that old. But from the time we heard this story, life for us has changed radically.
The First Asian Mission Congress is indeed providential. The theme of the Congress, “The Story of Jesus in Asia: A Celebration of Faith and Life", in our pluralistic context of Asia, is all captivating and significant. And despite the deep rooted history of various religions and cultures, this story of Jesus will continue to appeal to the peoples of this vast continent to seriously think and to respond.
Though we may only be a ‘little flock’ who are already touched by the life of Jesus, we need to tell this story to our brothers and sisters of Asia. Jesus must be proclaimed in Asia.
Let this First Asian Mission Congress be a joyous celebration of faith and life in Jesus. Let this be an occasion to share and learn from our respective encounters we have had of Jesus in different parts of Asia. At the same time let it be an invitation for us from God our Father to live this story and proclaim Jesus to the teeming millions of Asia.
Praise the Lord, all you nations;
all you peoples, praise him.
How great is his love for us!
His faithfulness lasts forever. (Ps 117: 1-2)
+Telesphore P. Cardinal Toppo
Archbishop of Ranchi
President, Conference of Catholic Bishops of India
M E S S A G E
In Asia intercultural and inter-religious dialogues are taking up the Asian Synod’s Challenge to present Jesus Christ in a new way to the people’s of Asia. This First Asian Mission Congress is crafted to do just that by presenting “The Story of Jesus in Asia" through a pastoral and catechetical approach.
In Asia, “We want to see Jesus" (Jn. 12, 21) with an Asian face. Because as the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II said: “Christ is truly alive in Asia… In the members of his one body, the single Church… the undivided Christ himself wills to be and to become, even more, Asian" ( Message to III FABC Assembly, Bangkok, 1982 October) This has been the concern of Asian Theology and Asian Christology. This first Asian Mission Congress, I am happy to note, is picking it up.
In the Philippines, one of the fruits of this congress may be to gather stories of Filipinos surrounding their favorite Filipino images of Christ, such as the Santo Niño, the Hesus Nazareno, the Sagrado Corazon and the Santo Entierro – how the images connect with their life-experiences.
Everyone in Asia will have some story to tell about their Christ-experience or God-experience, enriching Asian theology, truly enhancing inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogues.
+ ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO
Archbishop of Jaro &
September 21, 2006
We thank God that in many of the Churches in our region a good percentage of our Catholics observe their Sunday obligation. However, many church-goers fail to realize that discipleship means more than fulfilling Sunday obligations. There is lack of conviction that 'Mission' is part of that discipleship. Many keep the faith to themselves and fail to carry out Christ's command: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20). The failure to carry out the mission Christ entrusted to us results in the low percentage of believers in many of our countries.
We pray that the coming Asian Mission Congress will arouse in the hearts of all believers the sense of Mission. The sharing of the 'story of Jesus' will certainly be a source of enrichment for all participants who in turn, we pray, will inspire their fellow Catholics to be mission-oriented.
Let's fervently pray that with God's blessings this Congress will bring forth abundant fruits .
Many thanks to the Congregation of Propaganda Fide and the FABC for organising this important Congress.
United in prayers,
Archbishop Nicholas Chia
A Message to Asian Mission Congress
To all the participants in the First Asian Mission Congress, I would like to send the warmest greetings of mine and of the Catholic Church in Vietnam.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). The command of Jesus is for all times and places. This command, however, must be done in a concrete context and Jesus’ disciples need to find the most suitable and effective way to fulfill his command in the context they are living. Asia is a land of very ancient religions and cultures, a spiritual font of rich and solid ideas about the universe, humanity, and religion. It is in this context that Asian Catholics are called to make the Light shine more brightly, to help people see the Truth illuminated and to walk in the Way of Jesus.
In this vein, this congress is a very good opportunity for participants from various countries of Asia to pray together, to share and learn from one another the best way to fulfill the command of Jesus in our beloved continent. As such, this congress really is an important event in the life of the Church in Asia, and I wish it will bear good fruits for the Church’s mission.
With sincere prayer and through the intercession of Our Lady of La Vang and Vietnamese Martyrs, I implore God’s blessing upon all the participants of this congress.
September 17, 2006
+John Baptist Cardinal Pham Minh Man
Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Message for the Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sept. 21, 2006
It is always a special moment of grace for the followers of Jesus Christ to gather together to share their experiences with Our Lord, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."(Mt 18,20) Moreover, when it is about the core mission for us christians that is the main theme of the congress, I am sure the Holy Spirit will lead all the participants of the Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to receive special gifts to evangelize Asia and her people! I hope “The Story of Jesus in Asia" may fascinate and give hope all those in Asia, who thirst for the Holy Word.
+ Nicholas Cardinal Cheong,
Archbishop of Seoul