Manila (AsiaNews) During his pastoral visit to Manila, from 10 to 16 January 1995, John Paul II hinted at the mission of the Church in Asia for the third millennium. The occasion is the celebration of the 20th World Youth Day (WYD), the first ever to be organized by an Asian country. The theme, "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you" (John: 20, 21), is a direct invitation to young people, both religious and lay, to undertake the "missione ad gentes", to become "workers" in the "largest mission front in the world". Family, life and defense of human rights are the themes emphasized by the pontiff at different times, key points to work on to prevent falling prey to rapid but inhuman technological progress and economic growth which "have revolutionized the face of Asia".
Right from the welcome ceremony at the airport, he underlines that the "Church of the Philippines is aware it has a particular vocation to bear witness to the Gospel in the heart of Asia". John Paul II returns to this theme at the meeting with the Episcopal Conference of the Philippines: "Asia needs your help to hear the Good News of the crucified and risen Christ." On 15 January, participating in the Federation of Asian Episcopal Conferences (FABC), the pope outlines the new areas of present-day "missione ad gentes": the urban poor, migrants and refugees, young people, media and social communications. Comforting Asian bishops and Churches, John Paul II dreams of "the Third Millennium of Asia": "In the first millennium, the Cross was planted in European soil; in the second, in American and African ground; we can pray that in the third Christian millennium, there will be a great harvest of faith to reap in this vast and vital continent."
The World Youth Day in Manila the largest gathering of people in history draws five million youths from all over the world. The event is all the more historic because it features a meeting between Catholic representatives of all the Chinese communities: the People's Republic, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao. On 12 January, the Archbishop of Taipei, Mgr Joseph Ti Kang, celebrates Mass together with five priests of China's "official" Church: it is the first time Peking has allowed a religious act which is not controlled by the State. On 14 January, through Radio Veritas, the pope launches a message of reconciliation between the "official" and underground Churches of China, addressed to "all Catholic faithful". On 15 January, priests from the Chinese delegation join in celebrating mass at Luneta Park with the pontiff, who at the end ventures a greeting in mandarin, the language of China and Taiwan.
The pontiff had already visited the Philippines in 1981 when he beatified the martyr Lorenzo Ruiz. On reaching Manila on 17 February, he immediately reminded the Filipino people of their Christian mission in a region of the world which does not adhere to this faith: Asia.
During his six-day stay in the archipelago, John Paul II said the mission of Christians in the Asian continent, which is facing challenges posed by capitalism and atheistic materialism, is "to defend man's spiritual values". To do this, the Church must not pursue its privileges, it must be free and unfettered to work for the good of all society, for authentic development, for justice and the dignity of each and every man, "the way of the Church". (MA)