10/16/2004, 00.00
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The Churches of Asia join the Pope in celebrating 26 years of pontificate

He is an example for missioners, a source of encouragement for persecuted Churches or Churches under attack, a reason to hope for the faithful, a role model for believers of other religions, and a prophetic voice. These are but a few traits representatives of the Churches of Asia use to draw the portrait of John Paul II. They did so speaking to AsiaNews on the 26th anniversary of John Paul II's pontificate.

China: For Archbishop Zen, the Pope represents our faith but we cannot celebrate him

"On this day of celebration, I want to thank the Pope for his Eucharistic guidance. He has given the Chinese Church great hope. It is in him that people have found the strength to overcome obstacles and for this we are very grateful."

"Chinese Catholics are well aware of the Pope's special love for China. We know that every day we are in his prayers and we put our trust in them."

"To us, the Pope represents the Catholic faith. For us, it is essential we remain united with him and follow his teachings. This is our blessing."

"Of course, given the way the Church is persecuted for its allegiance to the Pope we in China shall not be able to celebrate. But the Pope knows that all Chinese Catholics, both those in the underground Church and those in the official Church, want to remain in communion with him. Our greatest hope is that one day Chinese Catholics will be able to be freely in contact with him."

Iraq: We feel him close to us through prayer, the Patriarch of Baghdad says

On a day when Baghdad churches are attacked once again, the Catholic Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel Delly underscores John Paul II's "closeness" to a Church that, along with its Muslim brethren, is living in a country going through one of its most dramatic periods.

"We are praying with our whole heart for our Pope. He has been close to us for 26 years, especially in the last few years. We know that the Holy Father has been praying for the people of Iraq without making any distinction between Christians and Muslims."

"The Pope demands peace for his beloved Iraq and has expressed a desire to visit it. Saddam's regime never opened its doors and yet the Pope never stopped loving this country."

"We are grateful to him for praying for this ancient land and its people. We know that he is doing everything he can and more to bring peace to it."

"Our wishes are that he should continue his apostolic mission for the good of humanity."

Georgia: Non Catholics, too, turn to his teachings, Mgr Pasotto says

According to Giuseppe Pasotto, apostolic administrator of the Latins in the Caucasus, everyone in Georgia loves John Paul II. This is true for Catholics but for Orthodox as well. The Orthodox know in fact his teachings.

"Georgia is in the Pope's heart. Recently he met some young Georgians Caritas helped and was moved speaking to them. Everyone in Georgia loves the Holy Father, not only Catholics but Orthodox as well."

"The local press recently interviewed me and they cited some of the documents the Pope authored. This shows that he is read and known outside the Church. Indeed, the memory of his visit to Tbilisi is still very much alive."

"As Georgian Catholics we celebrated John Paul's pontificate in a solemn ceremony last June in which Georgian President Mikhaïl Saakashvili and Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II participated. On that occasion we released a collection of the Pope's speeches made during his Georgian visit and the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen translated into Georgian.

Tajikistan: According to Father Avila, he is an example for all missioners

With Carlos Avila, Superior of Missio Sui Iuris in Tajikistan, as its spokesman the small Catholic community of this central Asian country (2,000 people out of 6 million) "expresses its filial love for the Holy Father. For us, he has always been a living example of the Good Shepherd, a role model for all missioners."

"In Asia, Tajikistan included, the ministry of the Vicar of Christ has made the universality of the Church more widely known. With his 1997 visit, the Pope was the first missioner in the country. He is a concrete example of the missionary vitality of the Church in our times. We want to thank the Holy Father for his missionary zeal and enthusiasm, for his magnanimity and lucidity vis-à-vis the great challenges of the modern world".

Pakistan: He is a prophet of our times according to Bishop Anthony Lobo

Mgr Lobo, Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, emphatically stated that "John Paul II is a prophet of our times". On the 26th anniversary of the Pope's pontificate, the Bishop extended his best wishes to Holy Father. "Let us pray to God," he said, "that He may always grant the Pontiff good health and strength. The Pope is a symbol of faith and hope in the world. He is the instrument God uses to speak to mankind. Through him, God urges us to speak to and be tolerant towards one another. At a time of war and violence, the Pope's message has become essential". For Bishop Lobo, the "Holy father is a model of faith, peace and love for all".

Pakistan: The Pope symbolises peace, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanaha says

"The Pope has always professed the essential value of peace and dialogue between religions. For us and the entire world, he symbolises peace," Mgr Saldanaha, Archbishop of Lahore and President of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, said.

Archbishop Saldanaha recalls last year's celebrations when "on the 25th anniversary of the Holy Father's pontificate I was in Rome and received a special cross from him, which is a symbol of our connection to the universal church".

Indonesia: For Father Teri Pinambun, he is a man of mission

"John Paul II has always stressed three fundamental principles of the Catholic faith," Father Teri Pinambun said. "They are deep spirituality, daily prayers, and the Eucharist." For him, the Holy Father is man of great charisma, "a man of God whose life work has been to preserve human values and the dignity of human beings".

Pakistan: He has promoted a dialogue between religions, Imam Khabir Azad says

Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, the Imam of Lahore's Badshahi mosque, said that his father was very fond of Pope John Paul II. "My father," Imam Khabir said, "expressed several times a desire to meet him in person in Rome". For the Imam, the Pope's efforts in favour of dialogue between the different religions are something to value. He also said that he was praying for the Pope's health because "in the 21st century both Christians and Muslims shall have to build a world of peace and religious freedom".

Indonesia: A gift from God according to Solahuddin Wahid

"What strikes me is the great compassion and strength with which he has defended the values of tolerance, peace and dialogue", Solahuddin Wahid, co-chairman of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization of Nadhlatul Ulama, said.

For Wahid, the Pontiff is "friend of Muslims around the world because he has shown friendship and respect towards people from different religious backgrounds, a man that I prefer to call a special gift that God has bestowed upon humankind".

Indonesia: A special persons says Nathan Setiabudi

For Nathan Setiabudi, President of the Indonesian Christian Synod Churches (Persekutuan Gereja-gereja Indonesia or PGI), "John Paul II is a very special person, someone with a special personality and a profound concern for human values."

Underlining the contrast between the Pope's physical fragility that his illness has caused and the strength he has been able to draw from his faith, Dr Setiabudi said that in John Paul II "Catholics have a great leader in this modern world because he has always acted to protect humanity and preserve human values that are so often forgotten in an age darkened by war and violence".

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