08/27/2023, 13.27
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Momoko Nishimura says Synod must learn from young people to walk together

by Giorgio Bernardelli

Back from the WYD in Lisbon, the Asian nun chosen by Pope Francis among the president delegates of the October Assembly tells AsiaNews about her expectations for the Synod: "Living in a country where we Christians are a minority has taught me to listen, to try to understand, to pray to understand where the Spirit is guiding our conscience. And to understand that before anything else we must love everyone like Jesus." Archbishop of Tokyo Msgr. Kikuchi: "Proud and grateful for the role assigned to you."

Milan (AsiaNews) - "Young people have many gifts to give to the Synod. Accompanying them to Lisbon they showed me once again what it means to walk together, not only in the things we do. Listening to each other, helping each other, reaching everyone using the tools that technology offers us today: for me, the WYD was a beautiful testimony of what synodality really is".

Momoko Nishimura, the Japanese religious who in just over a month in Rome will be one of the 9 delegate presidents chosen by Pope Francis for the Synodal Assembly which will open on 4 October, speaks of her return from the WYD in Lisbon. Woman, head of youth ministry in the diocese of Yokohama, is one of the non-bishop members that the pontiff wanted with the right to vote at the Synod, as a continuation of that openness to the entire ecclesial community which was the key to the whole process wanted by the pope.

Forty-eight years old, born and raised in a reality like that of Japan where Catholics are a tiny minority, Momoko Nishimura is part of the religious family of the Servants of the Gospel of God's Mercy, a relatively young missionary community (this religious family was officially born in the diocese of Munster in Germany in 2002) with the charism of a life dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel. Present today in 15 different countries, it brings together consecrated persons, priests and lay people. After a graduation in theology at Sophia University in Tokyo, Momoko Nishimura was on a mission for six years in Argentina before returning to Japan where she carries out her ministry with young people.

Nishimura already attended the Asian Continental Assembly of the Synod in Bangkok - in February, where she participated among the delegates of the Japanese Church - she had moderated one of the working sessions and contributed to the drafting of the summaries. Now in Rome, as delegate president, a delicate role awaits her in an Assembly on which many expectations are concentrated, but also the risk of strong opposition.

Before her, however, there was the WYD appointment for her, lived with the young people - 240 from Japan - in Lisbon. “Many Japanese boys and girls come from parishes where they are alone or just two in their community-she says. For us, the fact of having them meet and live together was already important, to make them discover that there are other young people in their own country who are living the same path as them. The meeting with other young people from all over the world and the pope's words will leave a mark on their lives: they were not simply happy; they were also provoked by questions about faith, about the meaning of life”.

And now the 2027 appointment in Seoul is looming on the horizon, the second WYD in Asia after the only precedent in Manila in 1995. She wasn't there either with John Paul II in the Philippines: "I was too young - she remembers - But I have met several Japanese who were then university students and are now priests or have made important choices in their lives after that event.In Seoul, many young people from Asia for whom it would usually be impossible to travel to another continent will finally be able to attend a WYD".

“For our Churches in Asia - continues Momoko Nishimura - a WYD is a great investment in terms of energy, people and money; but it is absolutely worth it. The vast majority of our young Catholics live in countries where Christians are a small minority. True, events like this can also be seen on television; but meeting in person is another thing, it allows you to strengthen your faith and help each other. I am thinking, for example, of realities such as Pakistan where one is persecuted for one's faith: the WYD in Asia will be an extraordinary opportunity not to feel alone. And I think it is an important perspective for all the Churches of the continent: each one will have to do everything possible to promote broad participation from each of its own countries".

This sincere willingness to understand each other and walk together is what the Synod would like to learn from young people. "I hope we will be able to listen to each other to discern where the Spirit is leading us and be faithful to him", she replied to AsiaNews' question about her expectations regarding the Synod.

"Coming from Asia - he adds - I hope that the Church will be able to be more inclusive, open to the cultures and experiences of local realities. In Asia, then, we have a particular experience in dialogue with other religions: I hope that we will also be able to move forward in this direction. But above all I hope we will be open, also letting ourselves be surprised by the Spirit".

But there is also another aspect that Momoko Nishimura underlines: the specific contribution that delegates from realities where Christians are a minority can bring to the Synod. “I was born and raised in a country where we Catholics are just 0.2% of the population and this necessarily leads you to compare the opinion of others - she underlines on this issue -. It teaches you not to think about imposing your own religious ideas or convictions, but to listen, try to understand, discern, pray to understand where the Spirit guides our conscience.

Living in a country where we are a minority has helped me to cultivate this exercise. And to understand that before anything else we must love everyone like Jesus, because everyone is sensitive to love. Where there is love there is God: this is the message that as a minority in Asia we can bring to the Synod".

The archbishop of Tokyo, mgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi: "The selection of Momoko Nishimura among the president delegates - she comments to AsiaNews - is a historic decision on the part of the Holy Father. We Japanese Catholics are very proud and grateful: I am sure that he will make a positive contribution to the synodal process and that he will be an important resource for the future of the Church. She is the right person for this task".

"Sometimes - adds the archbishop of Tokyo - we Asians speak little in international meetings due to linguistic difficulties , but we have many talented lay people and religious with a deep spirituality and a rich experience in the mission. For this reason it is most appropriate that the pope also try to draw on these resources for the universal Church".

(Nirmala Carvalho collaborated)


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