Daejeon (AsiaNews) - The Holy See is ready to talk with those Asian countries that do not yet have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Pope Francis said this morning during a meeting with Asian bishops at the shrine dedicated to Korean martyrs in Haemi, as part of his apostolic visit to Korea.
"I earnestly hope," he told those present, "that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all."
Currently, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Brunei and Bhutan are the Asian nations that do not have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
Meeting with reporters for a briefing after his closed doors session with the bishops, the head of the Vatican Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, said the pope's remarks were "obviously a sign of goodwill for dialogue" with China as well as the other countries in Asia.
During his speech, the pope mentioned the place where the various prelates were gathered, namely the Haemi shrine, known as the shrine of the "nameless martyrs" since the almost 150 Catholics who lost their life at the site during the persecutions of the Joseon Dynasty were never identified. Francis told the bishops that "many martyrs of the faith who died for the Gospel in Asia remain nameless and deserve all our love."
The Pope also stressed the great importance of dialogue, which is key to the evangelisation of the continent, immediately noting though, "We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity. Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak."
Such a mission faces however several obstacles, which arise from our nature as humans and sinners. "One is the deceptive light of relativism." The secondi is "a tendency to toy with the latest fads, gadgets and distractions, rather than attending to the things that really matter." Lastly, there is "the apparent security to be found in hiding behind easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations. Faith by nature is not self-absorbed; it 'goes out'. It seeks understanding; it gives rise to testimony; it generates mission. In this sense, faith enables us to be both fearless and unassuming in our witness of hope and love."
"Let me ask you, then, about the fruits which it is bearing in your own lives and in the lives of the communities entrusted to your care. Does the Christian identity of your particular Churches shine forth in your programs of catechesis and youth ministry, in your service to the poor and those languishing on the margins of our prosperous societies, and in your efforts to nourish vocations to the priesthood and the religious life?"
"When we look out at the great Asian continent," he said, "with its vast expanses of land, its ancient cultures and traditions, we are aware that, in God's plan, your Christian communities are indeed a pusillus grex, a small flock which nonetheless is charged to bring the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth."
"The meeting was brotherly and friendly," said Mgr Hyginus Kim Hee-joon, archbishop of Gwangju, who was among those present. "The pope walked about us as he spoke, instead of staying on the stand," he told AsiaNews.
"At the end of his address, he spent a few minutes with each of us, asking questions and listening to our answers. He is a trailblazer even in the Church. His questions and observations about our particular situations push us beyond the confines that we, at times, impose on ourselves." (VFP)