Seoul (AsiaNews) - "The supreme service and the greatest gift that the Church can offer to the people of Asia " is " that of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, the universal Savior of mankind”, reads Benedict XVI’s message to the representatives of lay Catholics gathered in the Korean capital from today until September 5. In the text signed by him and addressed to Cardinal. Stanislaw Rylko (see photo), president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, he also says that " it is my hope that the present Conference will provide renewed encouragement and direction in taking up this sacred mandate".
This is the first time a Pope has sent his greetings to lay faithful of Asia asking them for greater cooperation in proclaiming the Gospel. But concern for the evangelization of the most populous continent, was also a leitmotif of the pontificate of John Paul II, who always spoke of the third millennium as "the millennium of Asia". Benedict XVI recalls a phrase of his predecessor: " The peoples of Asia need Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Asia is thirsting for the living water that Jesus alone can give "(Ecclesia in Asia 50) and for this he asks all the faithful in Asia" to cooperate actively not only in building up their local Christian communities but also in making new pathways for the Gospel in every sector of society".
For the pope, the effort to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel must take place in some very specific areas: Christian married love and family life, their defence 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 desire of Benedict XVI is that Congress will highlight "the indispensable role of the laity in the Church's mission". Having " found in Jesus the truth, joy and beauty," they will "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” (Jn 14:6), and the fulfilment of every human aspiration".
A message from the Korean President Lee Myung Bak was also read out at the Congress. In it, he – a Protestant Christian - stresses the value of the local Catholic Church which "grew strong through suffering and martyrdom" and its contribution to the "maturity and spiritual reconciliation of Korean society."
For the Korean president, Asia is marked by "a great cultural and technological development," but men have put "greed” first, undermining "the harmony and beauty of the world". The Congress, according to Lee, serves to strengthen "reconciliation and cooperation beyond the borders of states." South Korea is cited as an example, where "various religions have been created and developed in a climate of peaceful coexistence."
President Lee's message was read by the Minister for Culture. (BC)
Photo: Fr. Hin Lee