Christianity Isn't a Foreign Import, Says Pope

Urges Southeast Asian Bishops to Evangelize With Depth

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Christianity isn't a mere foreign import that is alien to Asian culture, but rather the truth that resonates with the law written on the human heart, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience today the bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

Quoting the apostolic letter "Ecclesia in Asia," the Pope said, "The Church's faith in Jesus is a gift received and a gift to be shared; it is the greatest gift which the Church can offer to Asia."

He continued: "Happily, the peoples of Asia display an intense yearning for God. In handing on to them the message that you also received, you are sowing the seeds of evangelization in fertile ground.

"If the faith is to flourish, however, it needs to strike deep roots in Asian soil, lest it be perceived as a foreign import, alien to the culture and traditions of your people."

"You are called to present the Christian faith in ways that resonate with the 'innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul,'" the Holy Father added.

False illumination

Benedict XVI continued: "In particular, you need to ensure that the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment.

"On the contrary, by 'speaking the truth in love' you can help your fellow citizens to distinguish the wheat of the Gospel from the chaff of materialism and relativism.

"You can help them to respond to the urgent challenges posed by the Enlightenment, familiar to Western Christianity for over two centuries, but only now beginning to have a significant impact upon other parts of the world."

"While resisting the 'dictatorship of positivist reason' that tries to exclude God from public discourse," the Pope said, "we should welcome the 'true conquests of the Enlightenment' -- especially the stress on human rights and the freedom of religion and its practice."

"By stressing the universal character of human rights, grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God's image, you carry out an important task of evangelization," the Pontiff said, "since this teaching forms an essential aspect of the Gospel."

"In so doing," he added, "you are following in the footsteps of St. Paul, who knew how to express the essentials of Christian faith and practice in a way that could be assimilated by the Gentile communities to which he was sent."

Dialogue

Benedict XVI also encouraged the Southeast Asian bishops to continue their "commitment to interreligious dialogue."

"I encourage you to carry forward this important work," the Pope said, "exploring every avenue open to you. I realize that not all the territories you represent offer the same degree of religious liberty, and many of you, for example, encounter serious difficulties in promoting Christian religious instruction in schools.

"Do not become disheartened, but continue to proclaim with conviction the 'unsearchable riches of Christ,' so that all may come to hear of the love of God made manifest in Jesus."

The Holy Father said that through dialogue with other religious in which the Gospel is clearly articulated, the Church helps others "to recognize and observe the law 'written on their hearts.'"

"In this way," he added, "your teaching can reach a wide audience and help to promote a unified vision of the common good. This in turn should help to foster growth in religious freedom and greater social cohesion between members of different ethnic groups, which can only be conducive to the peace and well-being of the entire community."