The Pope affirmed this in a message to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on the occasion of an Asian Catholic laity conference, which began in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday. It runs through Sunday. The papal message was dated Aug. 10 and released today.
"The theme chosen for the congress -- Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Today -- is most timely, and I am confident that it will encourage and guide the lay faithful of the continent in bearing joyful witness to the Risen Lord and to the life-giving truth of his holy word," the Holy Father said.
He went on to reflect about Asia as a "cradle of great religions and spiritual traditions, and the birthplace of diverse cultures," noting that it is experiencing "unprecedented processes of economic growth and social transformation."
"Asia’s Catholics are called to be a sign and promise of that unity and communion -- communion with God and among men -- which the whole human family is meant to enjoy and which Christ alone makes possible," the Pontiff affirmed. "As part of the mosaic of the continent’s different peoples, cultures and religions, they have been entrusted with a great mission: that of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, the universal Savior of mankind. This is the supreme service and the greatest gift that the Church can offer to the people of Asia, and it is my hope that the present conference will provide renewed encouragement and direction in taking up this sacred mandate."
Benedict XVI cited his predecessor in affirming that "Asia is thirsting for the living water that Jesus alone can give." These words are as a summons to each member of the Church in Asia, the Pope said. And if the laity are to respond to this call, "they need to become ever more conscious of the grace of their baptism and the dignity which is theirs as sons and daughters of God the Father, sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus his Son, and anointed by the Holy Spirit as members of Christ’s mystical Body which is the Church."
"Vast horizons of mission are now opening up before the lay men and women of Asia in their efforts to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel," the Holy Father proposed. "I think especially of the opportunities offered by their example of Christian married love and family life, their defense of God’s gift of life from conception to natural death, their loving concern for the poor and the oppressed, their willingness to forgive their enemies and persecutors, their example of justice, truthfulness and solidarity in the workplace, and their presence in public life."
Benedict XVI affirmed that there is immense hope for the future of the Church in Asia in the "increasing numbers of committed, trained and enthusiastic lay persons."
"I pray that the present congress will highlight the indispensable role of the lay faithful in the Church’s mission and develop specific programs and initiatives to assist them in their task of proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia today," he said. "I am confident that the deliberations of the congress will stress that the Christian life and calling must be seen first and foremost as a source of sublime happiness and a gift to be shared with others. [...] Those who have found in Jesus the truth, joy and beauty which give meaning and direction to their lives will naturally desire to bring this grace to others.
"Undaunted by the presence of difficulties, or the enormity of the task at hand, they will trust in the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit who is always at work in the hearts of individuals, in their traditions and cultures, mysteriously opening doors to Christ as 'the way, and the truth and the life' and the fulfillment of every human aspiration."
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