Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Indonesian Bishops' Conference marked the 90th anniversary of its "official" founding on 15 and 16 May 1924 by focusing on the need to boost collegiality, mutual exchange, collaboration and friendship among its members, the true "face" of the Catholic Church today in the country.
The spirit of cooperation, as AsiaNews has reported on several occasions, is not limited to a generic collaboration among dioceses. On the contrary, it takes the form of sending on "mission" priests from areas with many vocations - such as Java and Sumatra - to areas, like Papua, where the number of priests does not meet the needs of communities scattered over large, sometimes remote areas.
The bishops sought to mark the 90th anniversary of their first conference without fanfare or celebration, focusing instead on the shared desire for collegiality, to showcase a united Church in a vast but territorially fragmented country.
The original meeting, which was held in May 1924 when the country was still a Dutch colony, brought together the leaders of various Catholic denominations.
Mgr Van Velsen, SJ, then the newly appointed bishop of Jakarta, chaired the first meeting in the rectory. He became the first president of what eventually evolved into the Catholic Bishops' conference, which became a standing council in 1955.
The current official name, the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia or Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia (KWI), dates back to 1964. Before that, Pope John XXIII confirmed the official creation of the Church hierarchy in the Asian country on 3 January 1961.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Antonio Guido Filipazzi, apostolic nuncio to Indonesia, said that the nunciature and KWI have "different tasks, but a shared goal." For this reason, "they work together in many ways".
The prelate said that he hoped to see this partnership "develop more and more" to enhance the Church's mission in Indonesia and around the world.
Fr Kamilus Pantus, KWI's Social Communications executive secretary, responded to the nuncio by focusing on providing information on the events and activities taking place in the various dioceses. In fact, the KWI's new redesigned news portal Mirifica News was set up last year with this purpose in mind. The same goes for a number of other projects in the area of new and social media.
Mgr Suharyo Ignatius, archbishop of Jakarta and current KWI president, said that friendship and good relations among bishops are the true "face" of the local church.
Such friendship is also embodied in the close collaboration among the prelates, especially in the exchange of information and experience.
Collegiality is also important to Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, bishop emeritus of Semarang and a former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1989 to 1997 and 2000 to 2006.
For him, "the KWI is a 'forum' in which everyone can share experiences and receive support in their mission."