02/13/2009, 00.00
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Bishops: Church should be missionary, focus on laity, and support Catholics of mainland China

In 2009, Taiwan celebrates the 150th anniversary of its evangelization. The decline of vocations and the "need of consolation" in society require a new missionary effort. The figure of St. Paul as an example for all to follow.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - The urgency of a new evangelization in the footsteps of St. Paul, preoccupation over the economic crisis, the importance of the commitment of the laity, and constant attention to the Catholics of mainland China.

At the beginning of the new year, during which the Church of Taiwan celebrates the 150th anniversary of the country's evangelization, the regional bishops' conference is inviting the Catholic community of the island to look to the example of St. Paul: "He who believes in Christ is a completely new person." The bishops are exhorting priests and laity not to stop remembering the tradition, sometimes heroic, of the local Church, nor to overlook the appreciation that society expresses for the educational and charitable works of Catholics. "Let us leave the shore where we peacefully bait for fish," the bishops say, "let us courageously row the boat towards the unpredictable big waves, into the deep, and cast our nets to catch fish."

In their pastoral letter for the new year, the Taiwanese bishops are looking with concern at the "social unrest" of the island. Corruption, fighting among the political class, and the global economic crisis "deepen the miseries and disappointments of people." In the face of this situation, they say that "to reconcile with God, reconcile with nature, and reconcile with one another is the path we must walk."

Emphasizing the coinciding of the 150th anniversary of evangelization with the year that the universal Church is dedicating to St. Paul, the bishops point to the example of the apostle of the Gentiles as a call to mission addressed to the entire Christian community. The crisis of vocations on the one hand and "the need of consolation" expressed by society on the other require that the clergy be supported by the efforts and availability of laypeople. "The Catholic Church in Taiwan is relatively conservative. It tends to have an excessive dependence upon the hierarchy, upon priests and sisters. Now is the time for lay people to come out, to offer their personal competence to serve the Church."

Calling for a new impulse of the evangelization, the bishops ask all of the faithful on the island to focus on a few areas in particular. In the first place, "we can enter into the world of today, be familiar with the joys and hopes of the present generation, their anxieties and worries." For this reason, it is necessary "to be creative in the work of evangelization." "Church leaders should not look down from above but accept suggestions from lay people, using their respective talents to participate in decision-makings in the Church." For their part, the laity must "realize that the Church is an indispensable factor in their lives": only then can they follow St. Paul in his missionary effort.

A second decisive factor for the future of the Church in Taiwan is a deeper involvement on the part of communities in social activities and projects on behalf of the younger generations. For the bishops, these also offer the opportunity to "attract many more non-Christians to join or
 support the charitable works of the Church especially for service of the new 
residents, migrant workers, senior citizens, the handicapped, and marginalized."

Recalling the words of Benedict XVI, on the occasion of the bishops' recent ad limina visit to Rome, the bishops reiterate for the faithful that the pope "constantly prays for the Church in China." "We should encourage the multitude of laity in mainland China by our own experiences." For the bishops, greater freedom of movement is an opportunity to "support the formation of consecrated people in China and the numerous laity so that their
relationship with the Universal Church will be properly enhanced."

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