Lay Catholics in Asia: a "sleeping giant" that is waking up
Seoul (AsiaNews) - Lay Catholics in Asia have been likened to a "sleeping giant", held back by too many commitments within the clerical structures. It is now time to awaken them to their specific mission, which is to live in the world like a leaven, transforming it, showing the diversity of their life of faith so as to arouse admiration and questions in those who are non-believers . This is a summary of the contents of discussions and conversations held today, the second day of the Congress of Asian Catholic laity here in Seoul which has stressed the present moment as one of transition to an all encompassing lay mission, in family life, the workplace, media in politics.
An authoritative support for this thrust towards the world was found in the intervention of Mgr. Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Thanks to his personal experience as a close collaborator of Josef Ratzinger until his election as Pope (he was his personal secretary), Mgr. Clemens highlighted many of Ratzinger's interventions in defense of a lay commitment "not in church structures, but as leaders in society", in contact with the world
He also outlined the continuing relevance of the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici asking for its implementation, 22 years on from its promulgation.
But the contributions that have aroused most interest were those of the first two Asians to speak to the Congress.
The first, Mgr. Dao Dinh Duc, a professor at the Seminary in Xuan Loc (Vietnam) emphasized that any commitment of the Church that does not include the mission ad gentes (to non-Christians) is not a true ecclesial commitment. This commitment is borne mainly by lay people, who live in daily contact with the world. What is to be feared, he said, is to have lay people who "are only in the structures of the Church and are insignificant in society".
The mission in the world should not rely on abused slogans, but tend to enliven the faith in culture. For this, he added, it is not enough to "serve the poor": we must ensure that the Gospel reaches "even the rich, the powerful, the intellectuals, policy makers, university students because the fate of the poor also depends on them."
The second person, the first Asian layman to make an address, was Jess Estanislao, who was actively involved in the world of politics, as a member of the Philippine government and former entrepreneur. A member of Opus Dei, Estanislao presented the scope of lay mission: professionalism and perfection in the workplace, commitment to family and life (he still battles alongside the Filipino Church against the law to control population that the government in Manila would like to see approved); freedom and personal responsibility in social decisions, fighting so that priests do not engage directly in political life, friendship with all; cultivating friends in the media. In this regard, as an example, he spoke of how important it is to maintain good relations with the authors of the television soap operas in the Philippines, full of sex, ambiguity and ignorance towards Christianity. "Only through these friendships - he said - can we help these authors to change their work and fill it with new values."
Every intervention stressed the importance of formation of the laity, placing of value on study and understanding of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Among the signs of a "new approach" in the commitment of the laity, Mgr. Martinus Situmorang, bishop of Padang (Indonesia), cited two instances: a rural school in his diocese, founded by the laity without any "cue" from priests, the commitment of a Christian businessman who wants to structure his mines giving a better and more dignified life for its miners.
The first morning of the Congress was marked by a strong typhoon that passed off the coast of Seoul, which caused high winds and rain, but did not stop the work.
Photo: Fr. Hin Lee