Jakarta: bishops join fundraising campaign to support thousands of seminarians
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - On Sunday the Catholic Bishops' Conference (KWI) momentarily stopped its annual conference so that all the bishops could visit the Parish of St Matthew the Apostle in Kosambi Baru, West Jakarta.
The delegation of 31 prelates was led by KWI president Mgr Ignatius Suharyo, who is the archbishop of Jakarta and their visit was designed to support a fundraiser sponsored by Gotaus to help thousands of seminarians - especially those from the poorest families - from across Indonesia to complete their studies.
In Indonesia, at least 5,600 seminarians are studying in 37 minor seminaries scattered across the archipelago. Most of them, said Mgr Dominikus Saku, head of the Seminary Commission, come from poor and ordinary families.
Students sometimes have to struggle to raise enough money to cover the cost of living, including hot meals and drinking water. In fact, some 3,600 seminarians are in need of financial assistance to continue their studies.
Teachers are an additional problem since many of them leave for personal reasons or in search of better economic conditions.
Indonesian bishops and the leaders of Gotaus, a lay movement that supports minor seminaries, promoted the visit to the parish of St Matthew to raise funds to finance the education of future priests.
Thousands answered the call, participating in mass to the solemn Eucharistic celebration concelebrated by all 31 bishops present, along with Fr Susilo, the parish priest.
During and at the end of the Mass, the members of the Catholic lay group collected funds for the seminars.
The fundraiser took place in a festive atmosphere, which involved both parishioners and bishops, with people using the opportunity to take pictures and capture this significant moment in the life of the community.
As Pope Francis himself urged them, Indonesian bishops also pledged to leave their comfort zones in order to reach out to people without too many formalities.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics number only seven million or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, they are around 3.6 per cent.
Although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Christians have suffered from acts of violence and abuse, especially where extremist versions of Islam, like in Aceh, are entrenched.
Despite everything, Catholics have contributed to the nation's development and play a major role in emergency operations, as was the case during the devastating floods of January 2013.