Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - The Church in East Timor must be the "critical conscience" of the nation, it must "go out" to evangelize, to become a "culture" of the faith, which also means to proclaim "the Good News of salvation in local languages". These are the recommendations of Pope Francis to the bishops of Asia's second majority Catholic nation after the Philippines: 97% of East Timorese are baptized.
Yesterday's meeting between the Pope and the bishops of the country (see photo) was an opportunity to solicit a Church which next year will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel (for the occasion, the president of the Bishops' Conference Msgr. Basil do Nascimiento expressed the hope that the Pope will be present) to move forward "in the work that the Lord has begun among you and wants to bring to fruition".
Francis' discourse to the bishops began with an observation of the "roots of the Church in Timor" and an invitation "to its sons and daughters to a upstanding testimony of Christian life and a doubled effort of evangelization to bring the Good News to all strata of society, transforming it from within". Recalling that, since independence (2002) , "there have been painful surprises related to national consultation, the Church must remind the necessary foundations for a society that seeks to be worthy of man and his transcendent destiny". The Pope asked the prelates to be "sure that you, with the priests, continue to perform the function of being a critical conscience of the nation, and in order to do so, maintain due independence from political power in a collaboration that is equidistant, to allow it take on its responsibility to care for the common good of society and promote it".
"In fact, the Church asks only one thing of society: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in an integral way, even when it goes against the tide, defending the values it has received and to which it must remain faithful. And you, dear brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to offer the Church's contribution to the good of society. The words of the Second Vatican Council remind us of this: " The joys and the hopes, the grief and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts" (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 1). Truly, the Heavenly Father, in sending his Son in our flesh, has placed His mercy in us. And, without mercy, today we have little chance of becoming part of an "injured" world, which needs understanding, forgiveness, and love. This is why I never tire of inviting the whole Church to a "revolution of tenderness" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, n. 88). The agents of evangelization must be able to warm the hearts of people, to walk in darkness with them, to communicate with their illusions and disillusions, to rebuild their divisions".
The Catholic community in East Timor, "needs qualified teachers and professors of theology, particularly in order to consolidate the achievements in the field of evangelization, enriching the Church with its 'Timorese face'. Of course, this does not mean an evangelization carried out only by qualified actors, with the rest of the faithful mere recipients of their actions. Instead, we must make every Christian a protagonist". "The Spirit acts in all of the baptized - from the first to the last - impelling us to evangelize. This "presence of the Holy Spirit gives Christians a certain connatural being with the divine realities and a wisdom that allows them to intuitively grasp them, although they may not have the adequate tools to express them accurately "( ibid., n . 119 .) In these limitations of language we perceive the need to evangelize cultures for the inculturation of the Gospel, because "a faith that does not become culture - as John Paul II wrote - is a faith not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived" (Letter of the Foundation of the Pontifical Council for Culture, 20.5.1982 , n. 2.) If, in the different cultural contexts of East Timor, faith and evangelization cannot speak of God, proclaim the victory of Christ over the tragedy of the human condition, open space for the Spirit of renewal, it is because they are not sufficiently alive in the faithful Christians who are in need of a journey of formation and maturation. This "aims at a process of growth which entails taking seriously each person and God's plan for his or her life. All of us need to grow in Christ. Evangelization should stimulate a desire for this growth, so that each of us can say wholeheartedly: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20) ( Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium , n . 160). And, if this lives in the believer, Christ will open the pages of God's still sealed plan to the local cultures, allowing other forms of expression appear, the most eloquent signs, words full of new meaning. In the book of Revelation ( cf. 5, 1-10 ) there is a page of example , they speak of a book sealed with seven seals, that Christ alone is able to open: He is the Lamb that was slain who, with his blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. East Timor, Heaven redeemed you, that you may open yourself up to Heaven. All of this involves a number of challenges in order to allow an easier understanding of the Word of God and a better reception of the Sacraments. But a challenge is not a threat. Missionary conscience today presupposes having the value of humble dialogue and firm conviction that we are presenting a proposal for the fullness of the human being in our cultural context".