11/19/2004, 00.00
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Pope tells Asian Churches to bear witness to the faith

The church must bring peace where there are conflicts and bear the cross where there is no religious freedom.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his exhortation to the members of the post-Synod Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for Asia, the Pope said that Catholics in Asia are a 'small flock', in some countries they cannot profess their faith, in others, especially the Middle East, they are victims of violence and terrorism and must, like the Martyrs of that continent, spread the Gospel bearing witness.

In a "context that is multiethnic, multi-religious and multicultural, one in which Christianity is often perceived as foreign, dialogue," the Pope said, "was typical of the life of the Church in Asia".

"In order to announce the Gospel in Asia," John Paul insisted, "it is necessary that all believers in Christ fill every aspect of their life with their faith, thus following the examples of Asia's saints and martyrs, who made the ultimate sacrifice to bear witness to the Catholic faith".

Many Asian countries are under atheistic or fundamentalist regimes. In China, Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, etc. Christians are denied full religious freedom.

The Pontiff stressed that it "is especially important to proclaim the Kingdom of God through silent witness where it is not possible to freely profess one's faith. It is in such places that we must bear the Cross and follow the path of the Suffering and Crucified Christ till full religious freedom comes".

For its part, the Church intends to "contribute to the cause of peace in Asia, a continent where conflicts and terrorism have led to the loss of many lives." "In the Special Assembly," the Pope said, "the Synodal Fathers were concerned about the Holy Land, the 'heart of Christianity', a land dear to all the children of Abraham. Sadly, in recent years war has spread. It is therefore urgent to build peace, an endeavour that is not easy to achieve but one that needs the support of all people of good will".

Although well aware of the difficulties ahead, the Pope insisted on encouraging Asia's bishops. To them he said that the high proportion of young people in the continent's population "represents a challenge for the present and optimism for the future" adding that "we can be optimistic because the younger generations are full of promise and available for total commitment to a cause. They are also a challenge because unfulfilled dreams can breed disappointment, a challenge because dreamers can be easily manipulated by the promoters of extremist ideas."

Although "a 'small flock' the Church in Asia should not be discouraged. Its success in evangelisation is not measured in numbers. Were the Apostles and a small group of followers not called to preach the Gospel to the entire world that after Pentecost?"

"Let Asia's Christians," the Pope said at the end, "confidently continue to faithfully follow Christ and use every opportunity to spread the gift of His peace and love". (FP)

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