06/23/2014, 00.00
Send to a friend

Central Java: celebrating Marian shrine in Sendangsono, venerated by Christians and Muslims

by Mathias Hariyadi

Thousands of faithful attended the celebrations marking 110 years since the first baptism by Dutch missionary Fr van Lith, and 74 years since the creation of the Archdiocese of Semarang. Indonesia's Defence minister, a Catholic, and the sultan of Yogyakarta attended the service. The Muslim leader stressed the symbolic value of the area as a centre for Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Thousands of Catholics in Central Java recently celebrated the anniversary of the first baptisms 110 years ago in Sendangsono, the most important and popular Marian shrine in the whole of Indonesia, as well as the 74 years of the Archdiocese of Semarang.

Franciscus Georgius Josephus van Lith, a Dutch Jesuit priest and missionary better known as Romo van Lith, led the efforts of evangelisation. On 14 December 1904, he baptised the first group of 114 natives in the region of Kalibawang, Kulon Progo Regency.

A few years later, he founded a school for teachers in Muntilan, striving for the right of Java residents to an education. Under Dutch colonial rule, he was able to adapt the teachings of the Catholic Church to the traditions and beliefs of the native faith.

The solemn Mass, which was led by Semarang Archbishop Johannes Pujasumarta, along with his predecessor Card Darmaatmadja, Jakarta Archbishop Mgr Suharyo Ignatius, and Ketapang Bishop Emeritus Mgr Pujaraharja Blasius, from the province of West Kalimantan, was among the most poignant moments of the days of celebrations. 

Indonesia's Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, a devout Catholic, and Governor (and Sultan) Hamengku Buwono X of Yogyakarta, the most important figure of moderate Islam and a promoter of interreligious dialogue, were among the leading figures who attended the celebration of the Eucharist.

The latter's presence was warmly welcomed by the archbishop of Semarang, who said that his participation "is a tangible sign" of "peaceful coexistence" between members of different religions in central Java.

Addressing thousands of worshipers, the sultan stressed that the whole area of ​​Sendangsono - enhanced by the shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary - is a place of great symbolic value for Indonesian Catholics.

He mentioned the importance of "contemplation", meditation and prayer, through which one can reach the heart and essence of the Catholic faith, namely mutual love.

The Muslim leader also noted that many, even among non-Catholics, visit the Marian shrine and the area to find peace and serenity, "receiving a warm welcome from local Catholics."

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim (Sunni) nation (86 per cent Muslim). Although it upholds constitutional principles of basic personal freedoms (including religious freedom), it has increasingly become the scene of violence and abuse against minorities.

Christians represent 5.7 per cent of the population with Catholics just over 3 per cent. Hindus are 1.8 per cent; and 3.4 per cent profess other religions.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but Christians have suffered from acts of violence and abuse, especially where extremist versions of Islam, like in Aceh, are entrenched.

Despite everything, Catholics are an active component of society. Over the years, they have contributed to the nation's development and played a major role in emergency operations, as was the case during the devastating floods of January 2013.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
First steps to rebuild the shrine of La Vang
A new building for pilgrims opens at the La Vang Marian Shrine
Hindus and Christians celebrate one hundred years of Our Lady of the Mount
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes draws 200,000 who pray for coronavirus victims
13/02/2020 18:04
Sri Lanka, feast of Assumption canceled for "security reasons"


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”