Asian Catholics Unafraid to Be Minority
Recall Martyrs, Reaffirm Commitment to Evangelize
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SEOUL, South Korea, SEPT. 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Participants in a congress on evangelization in Asia affirmed that they want to actively participate as leaven in society, unafraid to be the minority amid religious persecution.
The six-day congress, which ended Sunday, focused on the theme: "Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Today." It was held in Seoul and was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in collaboration with the Commission for the Laity of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and the National Council of the Laity in that country.
Delegations from some 20 member or associate countries of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences participated, along with 35 other delegations from associations, ecclesial movements and new communities that carry out their pastoral work in Asia.
In a final statement at the conclusion of the congress, the participants affirmed, "We feel the call to be salt and light of the Asian continent."
The approximately 400 delegates added: "We are few, but at the same time we are present everywhere, moved by love for all our brothers in Asia, without exceptions or discrimination."
"We are proud of the richness of our ancient cultural traditions and are motivated to share our faith in Jesus Christ, fulfillment of every human aspiration," they stated.
The laypeople described themselves as "a small flock that does not suffer a complex and is not afraid of being a minority."
They continued, "We do not want to be shut in between the walls of the Church, but feel the call to be salt and light of the Asian continent."
"We want to be active protagonists in the life of the local Church in communion with our bishops," the participants stated.
The message noted that Asia is living through an unprecedented process of social, economic and demographic growth and transformation, yet the countries still need to address the problems of the promotion of liberty, justice, solidarity and the development of more human conditions of life.
Given this reality, the statement underlined the Christian contribution as "unique and essential" for the good of the continent. Thus, the congress participants committed themselves to renew their efforts to share the Christian experience in society.
In this sense, the document pointed out, it is not about "strategic marketing or fanatic proselytism, but simply the fruit of the encounter with Jesus," which gives birth naturally to "the desire to take this grace to others."
The statement referred to the example of Christian martyrs, victims of fundamentalism and those persecuted in Asia for their faith, underlining the need to "be courageous."
It encouraged the faithful to let themselves "be fascinated by Christ" through listening to his Word so that each one can become an "indispensable collaborator in the life of the Church," tracing "new paths for the Gospel in the society."
"We are bearers of the highest good for the people of Asia of today and of tomorrow" the participants affirmed, and "we are invited to share with others the great treasure that is Jesus Christ."
The congress participants sent a letter to Benedict XVI, expressing their commitment, affection and gratitude to him for his concern for the Church in Asia.
"Holiness, we have been touched by your paternal affection and your closeness," stated the letter.
It affirmed that this affection and closeness is a reflection of the "universal ministry and the unstoppable missionary care of the Successor of Peter."
"Even immersed in a society that is going through profound transformations, we are conscious of our contribution in the construction of the Christian community, of our vocation to charity for the good of all in Asia," the participants stated.
They asked the Pope to keep in his prayer the many heroic witnesses of faith that proclaim the Word of God in the continent with hope and love.
The congress was held in a Catholic and universal atmosphere, said the archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, during the closing Mass on Sunday.
"It can be said that the whole of the Church of Asia is gathered here today, in effective and affective communion with our Holy Father, through the Pontifical Council for the Laity," he said in his homily, reported by AsiaNews.
Cardinal Cheong spoke about the life of the Korean Church, which over the past 30 years has grown by 66%, reaching almost 6 million faithful, or 10% of the country's population.
He highlighted the "service of charity for needy persons and the clear and determined affirmation of the Church in the realms of justice, defending the rights of workers under authoritarian regimes."
This work, the prelate said, has projected the Christian community "into the center of national life."
He continued: "The evangelization of Asia is not a 'mission impossible.'
"The Church in Asia profoundly needs new apostles, well schooled in the social doctrine of the Church, capable of expressing her mission in dialogue and evangelization."
"A new millennium, a great spring of evangelization has arisen in Asia," the cardinal affirmed. "It is the moment for the new apostles to act as witnesses of Christ, without fear, consecrating Asia as the continent of hope for the world."
One important topic addressed at the congress was religious liberty.
Quoting a report of Aid to the Church in Need, the participants acknowledged the limitations of this human right in large areas of the continent.
In fact, in a list of 13 countries in the world with "grave limitations to religious liberty," ten are in Asia.
Moreover, 15 other Asian nations are among those that show "limitations to religious liberty."
The participants recalled numerous martyrs who gave their lives for love of Christ and of the people in Asia.
They made particular mention of the Catholics in Korea, of whom at least 10,000 have been killed because of their faith over the past century.
In Korea, the whole month of September is dedicated to the memory of the martyrs, including those missionaries from other countries who died in this nation.