In Jakarta, the bishops remember the important role played by the Church in Indonesian history
by Mathias Hariyadi

The prelates renewed their support for the nation’s values ​​of unity and harmony to which Catholics were committed before and after independence. The Vatican was among the first foreign states to recognise the new country, which the Indonesian Catholic Church helped stabilise. Mgr Albertus Soegijapranata of the Semarang Apostolic Vicariate played an important role.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The annual meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI) ended in Jakarta yesterday. The ten-day event (6-16 November) was centred on ‘The Catholic Church’s historical relevance and significance: The Church's Call to Purify the world’.

During their gathering, Indonesia’s Catholic bishops stressed the role the Catholic Church played in the process of national unification at a time when Islamist groups are getting stronger.

At the final press conference, Mgr Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta and KWI president, described to journalists the commitment of Catholics to the Indonesian struggle for nationhood.

The Church's contribution to the birth of the nation began well before independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1945.

On 28 October 1928, nationalist youth movements gathered in Central Jakarta for a congress and made the Sumpah Pemuda or ‘Youth Pledge’ in which they proclaimed the ideal of "one homeland, one nation, one language," key to the state’s political and philosophical foundations.

Archbishop Suharyo said that the first day of the historic Congress took place inside the building of the Katholieke Jongelingen Bond, the Catholic Youth Association.

"The building no longer exists. The original site is now inside the Jakarta Cathedral compound, where the Function Hall is located,” said the archbishop of Jakarta.

After independence, the Catholic Church's action became internationally relevant. "The Vatican was among the first foreign states to recognise politically and historically the birth of the new state."

The Holy See opened its embassy in Jakarta in 1947 and the nunciature is in walking distance from the State Palace and the cathedral.

In the following years, during the period of political turmoil that affected the new nation and its leaders, President Soekarno and Vice President Mohammad Hatta, the Indonesian Catholic Church helped stabilise the country.

The work of Mgr Albertus Soegijapranata of the Semarang Apostolic Vicariate played an important role. He set up some groups and organisations in support of Pancasila, a political doctrine based on pluralism.

The Bishops’ Conference is committed to keeping alive the memory of the important role Catholics played in Indonesian history and calls on them to renew their support for the national values ​​of unity and harmony.

"This is becoming increasingly important today, since these values ​​have become the target of various extremist groups, who want to replace them with other ideals," Mgr Suharyo said.