DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     May 14, 1998     vol. 9, no. 94

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- A final statement issued today by the special Synod of Bishops for Asia makes no direct reference to the oppression of the Church in China, although it contains an indirect statement on countries which do not respect "fundamental rights." The statement does, however, call for preservation of the "sacred character of Jerusalem; a lifting of the international embargo on Iraq; and an effort to ease the burden of international debt by the year 2000.

          On specifically religious matter, the bishops' message pays homage to the spiritual value of Asia's traditional religions, and cites "the urgent need to take local cultures into account," especially in the design of the liturgy. Inter-religious dialogue, the bishops proclaim, is a clear necessity for Asia.

          Published at the formal closing of the synod, which had opened on April 19, the six-page final message will be conveyed to the Pope, to serve as the basis for his apostolic exhortation summarizing the conclusions of the bishops' deliberations.

          The meeting of bishops from different broad geographical regions was part of Pope John Paul's plan of preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. The Asian synod faced a particularly daunting task, since Asia embraces not only the Far East, but also regions as disparate as Siberia and the countries of the Middle East. The synod did not include the countries of Oceania, whose bishops will gather for their own special synod in October.

          The bishops' final statement opens with a statement of solidarity among the Catholics of Asia, and an expression of "regret" that two bishops from mainland China were denied government permission to participate in the deliberations. The assembled bishops promised their prayers for the Church in China.

          In their statement, the bishops offered their thanks to the many missionaries who had brought the faith to their continent. The history of religious persecution in Asia-- and the continued reality of oppression there-- prompted them to recognize explicitly that many Christians in the region still live in difficult and dangerous situations, suffering for their faith. And they add that "the Christians of Asia need zealous pastors and spiritual guides, not simply efficient administrators."

          In addressing the question of liturgy, the bishops emphasize that :the liturgy plays a key role in evangelization." The much-discussed question of "inculturation"-- the adaptation of the liturgy to fit predominant cultural patterns-- is addressed only indirectly in the final statement. While emphasizing the need for inter-religious dialogue, the bishops did not answer the question of how far the Church should go to adapt to local customs.

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 14, 1998       volume 9, no. 94


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