11/16/2005, 00.00
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Asian sanctuary rectors to meet in Seoul

The Seoul meeting is tasked with formulating common pastoral guidelines and examining sanctuaries' role in faith inculturation and inter-religious dialogue.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Second Regional Congress (Asia) on Pilgrimages and Sanctuaries scheduled for November 21-23 in Seoul (South Korea) will focus on the work started in Manila (2003) and on increasing the communion and communication amongst those in charge of pastoral care in pilgrimages and sanctuaries in Asia.

Promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and the Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, the theme of the congress is Pilgrimages and Sanctuaries: gifts from the loving God in Asia today.

Participants will see the progress in pastoral care made in the wake of the Manila congress. They will also be able to compare their experiences and broaden the dialogue, thus finding common pastoral standards that are respectful of each other's specificities in a continent rich in religions, cultures, languages and traditions.

They will also address the issues of inculturation as well as ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue. They will see what can be done in order to set up continent- and, in some cases, nation-wide associations of pilgrimage directors and sanctuary rectors.

Some ninety pilgrimage directors, sanctuary rectors, bishops, priests, religious and lay people will be there from 14 Asian countries: Bangladesh, China (Hong Kong and Macao), Korea, Philippines, Japan, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Representatives from the Latin American and United States Associations of Sanctuaries will also be present.

Card Stephen Fumio Hamao, Chairman of the Pontifical Council for the Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, will start off the congress by presenting the various issues under consideration. He will speak about places of pilgrimage, those sites where God welcomes His people and where human life is defended and the family promoted.

He will speak about sanctuaries as places that favour ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue, which is especially important for Asia where religious shrines attract people from different Churches and religious traditions.

The Cardinal will also briefly address the issue of inculturation in the continent not only in terms of how local cultures can express faith but also how they can breathe new life into it.

On the second day, Fr Renzo De Luca (S.J.), rector of the Twenty-Six Martyrs Sanctuary in

Nagasaki will look at ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue. As a tourist destination, the shrine receives many non-Christians, Buddhists and Shinto followers for instance, who are interested in the history of Christianity, and can offer all those who come to study or visit information about the Catholic religion.

Fr Devasia Mathew Mangalam, rector of the Fatima Sanctuary in Kolkata (India) will discuss inculturation and issues related to migration, focusing on how the widespread desire to experience God induces people to undertake pilgrimages to shrines around the world.

In India, for example, there are hundreds of sanctuaries and places of pilgrimage belonging to all religions, and not only many of them draw tourists but they are also an opportunity for dialogue and proclaiming the Gospel.

Father Magalam will talk about inculturation as well as the reasons (war, terrorism, natural disasters, and globalisation) that push people to leave their homelands. Better economic opportunities but also oppression and genocide are what push people on the road to somewhere else.

Whatever the social condition, people come to places of pilgrimage, making them points where different cultures converge.

Shrines like migrant settlements naturally influence the socio-economic and religious ethos of the host countries.

However, migrants bring with them a need for housing and jobs, and this can lead to exploitation and immoral practices. And in Erga migrantes caritas Christi (The Charity of Christ toward Migrants), the Church has clearly expressed its pastoral concern for the fate of such people.

The last day of the congress will be devoted to how continent- and, in some cases, nation-wide associations of pilgrimage directors and sanctuary rectors can be set up. Mgr Gaspar Quintana, Bishop of Copiapó (Chile) and chairman of the Latin American Confederation of Sanctuaries, and Fr Cyril Guise, chairman of the National Sanctuary and Pilgrimage association (NASPA) will talk about their respective experiences and offer suggestions.

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