Pope addresses Asian Catholics

by Dennis Coday

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Yesterday on our Web site, we posted this commentary, A congress for the laity in Asia without the 'church of Asia'?, about a congress for Asian laity organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Here's a Catholic News Service story about the conference opening:

Pope encourages Asian Catholics to share faith through example

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Lay members of Asia's tiny Catholic minority can be effective witnesses of the Christian faith by being models of married love, defending human life, helping the poor and showing their willingness to forgive those who hurt them, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"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 pope said in a message published at the Vatican Sept. 1.

The papal message was addressed to participants in the Congress of Asian Catholic Laity, meeting Aug. 31-Sept. 5 in Seoul, South Korea. Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the congress included representatives of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences and lay movements active throughout Asia.

"Asia, home to two-thirds of the world's people, the cradle of great religions and spiritual traditions, and the birthplace of diverse cultures, is currently undergoing unprecedented processes of economic growth and social transformation," the pope said.

Catholics need to be part of that social transformation, bringing Gospel values to bear on economic, social and political life and sharing their faith in Jesus with their neighbors, he said.

Pope Benedict said there are "vast horizons of mission" open to Asian Catholics, many of them relying more on giving an example of faith and holy living than on simply preaching about Jesus.

"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," the pope said.

The pope told the congress delegates that anyone who loves Jesus and experiences the joy of faith will naturally want to share that with others.

And, he said, the church itself has an obligation to provide education and formation for laypeople so that they are more comfortable and better informed in sharing their faith.

Here's another report from Seoul by the Union of Catholic News:

Asian lay congress stresses evangelization

By John Choi, Seoul

A Vatican official has urged laypeople to actively participate in evangelization in Asia.

Two thousand years after the Son of God became a human being in the Holy Land, a tiny region in Asia, he is still largely unknown by the people on this continent, said Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko.

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity was speaking during a Sept. 1 Mass that opened the Congress of Asian Catholic Laity in Seoul.

“In the important mission of the evangelization … the Catholic laity have a unique role,” said the cardinal.

“They live in the midst of the world, immersed in the ordinary conditions of family, work and social life, and so, in a certain sense, they are in the front line of evangelization.”

The Asian lay congress, which has the theme Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Today will last until Sept. 5. The Pontifical Council for Laity organized the event which is being attended by some 400 participants from 20 Asian countries.

One Indian cardinal admitted that not all Christians can be missioners.

“However, every Christian in Asia can be missionary by witnessing to a change in lifestyle, values and behavior,” Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi, India, told participants.

He stressed that Jesus Christ is truly a “gift for Asia” and Christians are called to proclaim this by word and deed.

The first day of the congress saw participants listening to talks on the reality of the evangelization in Asia.

Over the five days, they are scheduled to discuss challenges to evangelization and seek ways to proclaim the Gospel on the continent.

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