DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     May 13, 1998     vol. 9, no. 93

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The special Synod of Bishops for Asia has produced 52 propositions, encapsulating the efforts of the participating bishops to summarize the challenges facing the Church in that continent.

          After electing the members of a post-synodal council which will be charged with the task of editing the recommendations, so that they can be incorporated by Pope John Paul II into a an apostolic exhortation, the synod considered a series of amendments to the recommendations. A final statement from the synod, addressed to the peoples of Asia, will also be released on May 13, at the formal closing of the Synod.

          Along with a number of issues that confront the Church throughout the world, the Asian synod included recommendations regarding the specific situations in China, Iraq, and Jerusalem, as well as more general recommendations about countries where Christians suffer persecution. The synod also took up the need for a "gradual" approach to evangelization in Asia, and the still more delicate issue of relations between local churches (including those of the Eastern rites) and Rome.

          The difficulties facing the Church in China were on the minds of participants throughout the synod, particularly because the Church of mainland China was not represented; the Beijing government had refused permission for bishops invited by Pope John Paul II to travel to Rome. Hong Kong's Bishop Tong Hon, a frequent visitor to the mainland, had emphasized the need to achieve a reconciliation between the underground Church loyal to Rome and the government-backed Patriotic Association.

          The question of peace in the Middle East, and the more precise question of the status of Jerusalem, also arose frequently. The bishops of the Middle East emphasized the fact that Christianity was born in their region, and that they represent the "Mother Churches" which produced the "younger" churches of the Far East. Finally, the synod heard an impassioned plea from Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Bidawad of Baghdad for an end to the embargo on Iraq, which he said is hurting the nation's people without affecting the regime.

          On the question of the "gradual" spread of the Gospel, Bishop Valerian D'Souza of Poona, India, reported that all of the working groups of the Asian synod agreed on the need to proclaim the reign of Christ "without arrogance," and to avoid "intellectual categories which people do not understand." It is better, he stressed, to use "Asian categories"-- and better still to use the language of the Bible, which reflects the mentality of Asians, and which he pointed out "is how it all started."

          Bishop D'Souza explained that the need to avoid "arrogance" reflects the reality that most Asians are reluctant to accept Jesus as the sole savior of the world; the indigenous religions of the continent, which recognize many deities, inculcate a very different outlook. For that reason, he said, Catholics must avoid judgments and condemnations of other faiths, and emphasize inter-religious dialogue. He also pointed to the difficult position of "Christians of desire" in some Asian countries-- people who want to accept the faith, but fear that they might be disowned by their families (in Hindu societies) or even prosecuted for blasphemy (in Muslim regimes) if they are baptized.

          The discussion of the relations between local churches and Rome was a source of tension during the synod. Some bishops of the Eastern- rite churches stressed their separate liturgical and even theological traditions, and the importance of preserving their autonomy as a means of encouraging dialogue with the Orthodox churches. Other bishops lamented the habit of imposing European cultural traditions on their native lands.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

May 13, 1998       volume 9, no. 93


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