12/27/2008, 00.00
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Lights and shadows of the life of the Church in Asia

The council for Asia of the secretariat of the synod of bishops notes that vocations and the missionary spirit are on the rise, and that evangelization is accompanied by human development, but there are challenges represented by dialogue with the great religions of the continent, disrupted by the fundamentalists, by the lack of religious freedom, by the spirit of consumerism. The central theme of inculturation.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Vocations are on the rise in Asia, and the missionary spirit is increasing, evangelization is proceeding along with human development, but there are "challenges like dialogue with the other great Asian religions, disrupted by fundamentalist groups that do not shy away from resorting to violence; the lack of practical respect for religious freedom in vast areas; the widespread spirit of secularism and consumerism."

These are some of the lights and shadows in the life of the Church in Asia, according to the analysis carried out during the 12th meeting of the special council for Asia of the general secretariat of the synod of bishops, held in recent days. A statement released today reports that in the initial address of the meeting, the general secretary of the synod, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, "referred to certain central themes which, more than any others, drew the attention of all. These included peace first of all, especially in regard to the situation in India (Orissa, Mumbai) and the Middle East, where a stable level of tranquility and justice has still not been reached in national and international relations."

According to the overview offered by Archbishop Eterovic, the attention of the participants was then directed in particular to the theme of inculturation. According to the document, the participants "identified the following religious and cultural values as typical of the peoples of Asia: simplicity, family, hospitality, respect for the sacred and for religion, values accompanied by the love of silence and contemplation, harmony, detachment, nonviolence, the spirit of work, discipline, the thirst for knowledge and philosophical research. These are values that reach a pinnacle in Christianity, as shown in part by the Synod for Asia, which dealt with the theme of Jesus Christ, the Savior, and his mission of love and service in Asia: 'that they may have life, and have it in abundance' (John 10:10)."

It was emphasized that inculturation "is a long, delicate, and demanding process that involves the whole People of God." This, "in the end," is expressed in the liturgy, "which is the source and summit of the entire Christian life and mission, and is a fundamental means of evangelization, especially in Asia, where the followers of the various religions are so drawn by worship, by religious festivities and popular devotions. Another key aspect of inculturation is the formation of evangelists, upon whom much of its future depends. In addition to solid biblical and patristic instruction, they must acquire a thorough and firm knowledge of the theological and philosophical heritage of the Church. On the basis of this preparation, they will find benefit in drawing close to the philosophical and religious traditions of Asia. One valid example of this is offered by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta."

And, since "the inculturation of the Gospel involves the whole people of God, the role of the laity is of fundamental importance. Laypeople are the first to be called to the transformation of society, in collaboration with the bishop, the clergy, and the religious, infusing the Gospel into the mentality, customs, laws, and structures of the secular world in which they live. In fact, a more widespread inculturation of the Gospel at every level of society in Asia will depend to considerable extent on the appropriate formation that the local Churches will be able to give to the laity. A particular role belongs to theologians, who have the delicate task of developing an inculturated theology, especially in the area of Christology, keeping in mind the salvific universality of Jesus Christ. Theological work must always be guided by respect for Christian sensibilities, in such a way that, through gradual growth toward inculturated forms of the expression of the faith, people will not be led to confusion or to syncretism. In any case, inculturation must be guided by compatibility with the Gospel, and by communion with the faith of the universal Church, and carried out in full accord with the Tradition of the Church, keeping in mind the strengthening of the people's faith."

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