06/12/2019, 18.30
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Indonesian bishops meet with Pope Francis

by Paolo Fossati

This week the 37 prelates are in the Vatican on their ad limina apostolorum pilgrimage. Even if a minority, the Indonesian Church is vibrant thanks to the enthusiastic participation of the faithful. The bishops are engaged in a "creative pastoral evangelization". Archbishop Suharyo: "Optimistic for the future of Catholics".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - 37 Indonesian bishops today celebrated a mass with Pope Francis as their ad limina apsotolorum visit to the Vatican gets underway. Yesterday the pontiff accepted the request after a meeting in which the bishops illustrated and debated their ecclesial mission. 'Why not!? - said the Pope – you come from so far away and you're not here every week,” reveals Msgr. Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo (in photo 1 in the center), Archbishop of Jakarta and president of Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia (Kwi) - the Indonesian Bishops' Conference.

"Yesterday we met Pope Francis - says Msgr. Suharyo - our conversation with the pontiff was special, unique. The Pope told us: "Ask me whatever questions you want." One of the main themes we brought to his attention is the translation of the liturgical texts: for the past 10 years, that with great difficulty, we have been trying to rewrite them from Latin to Indonesian. There is a difference of opinion on the method to be used: some propose a literal translation of the passages, others an ad sensum. Pope Francis has clearly stated that it is up to the Bishops' Conference to deliberate on the question and to establish which common line to follow ”.

In the most populous Islamic country in the world, Catholics are a minority. According to government statistics they are around 7.5 million and represent almost 3% of the population. Nevertheless, the Indonesian Church is animated by the liveliness of its leaders and the great participation of the faithful in religious activities.

Msgr. Suharyo states: "The social commitment of the Indonesian Church is not limited to traditional missionary areas. Every year we organize a three-day conference, in which members of Kwi study, try to understand the signs of the times and then find the most appropriate answers. It is what we call "creative pastoral evangelization". "

"The Indonesian people - continues the Archbishop of Jakarta - is a generally very religious people. This is above all the merit of the Muslims. They are well aware of the risks that come from secularism. I am convinced that in the coming years, even Catholics will remain firm in the faith. We will be able to reap the benefits of our commitment in the field of education and in the promotion of the family as a place for raising the religious awareness of children. It's a big challenge, but I'm very optimistic. "

The Islamic context in which Catholics are immersed is very different from that of the Middle East: Indonesian Muslims follow a current called Islam Nusantara (the Islam of the Archipelago). It incorporates local culture, traditions and wisdom; moderation and tolerance are among its distinctive features.

"Although still a marginal phenomenon, radicalism is a real danger: the elections for the governor of Jakarta and protests against Ahok, a Christian candidate who already administered the capital, showed this in 2017. Although sad, this story was a blessing because it allowed the enemies of the country to show their face. Who knows how long they would have remained in hiding, smoldering their fanaticism! There are characters who have been plotting for decades to change the country and destroy the Pancasila, a pluralist doctrine on which the State is founded ”.

The recent riots that shook Jakarta between May 21 and 22 have highlighted Islamist drift in political life. The violence followed the publication of the election results, which sanctioned the defeat of Prabowo Subianto - supported by radicals and conservative groups - and the reconfirmation of President Joko Widodo, a moderate Muslim.

"The fundamentalists - explains Msgr. Suharyo - think this is the best time to attack democracy: their militants have risen, they can count on former soldiers and have already won a victory with the Ahok affair. During this election campaign, they tried to repeat the same strategy but failed. This was helped by the move of President Widodo, who chose the Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin as deputy. At first the Christians did not approve this appointment. But after the announcement, Widodo visited us at the Kwi offices. He explained to us that the designation was dictated by political opportunities and that Ma'ruf would not have given his administration an Islamist twist. It was the first time that a president came to visit us at the headquarters of the Bishops' Conference. It was really a nice gesture".

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