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HVK Archives: A call to collaboration; and a comment

A call to collaboration; and a comment - The Examiner

Archbishop Joseph Powathil ()
14 December 1996

Title : A cell to collaboration
Author : Archbishop Joseph Powathil
Publication : The Examiner
Date : December 14, 1996

The preparation for the Special Assembly of the Bishops' Synod for Asia has
now entered a crucial stage. The Lineamenta is already received. This
document is the basis for an Asia-wide discussion on the Synodal theme "Jesus
Christ, the Saviour and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: 'that they
may have life, and have it abundantly' [Jn 10,10]". At this stage the Synodal
Secretariate needs the co-operation and prayers of every one and every
section of the Church, if the Synod is to prove fruitful.

We certainly need prayers for the success of this great ecclesial event. The
Synod [Special Assembly] is not a secular event or a social get-together. It
is an ecclesial event where the Spirit has to be the prime mover. And the
hearts of the participants are to be wide open to Christ, whose servants they
are. At the Synod we are to be handling themes related to the Church - the
body of Christ in Asia. It is not our dreams and desires, but the will of
the Lord that has to be manifested and has to be translated into programmes
and projects. For this, preparations at other levels also are necessary - but
prayer is supremely important. In every family and in every parish the
faithful should now remind themselves of this duty to pray for the Synod till
its very conclusion.

Co-operation also is needed from every side if an event like this is to be
organised properly and to have its full impact on the future of Asia, a vast
and complex continent. The success of the Synod will depend to a great
extent on our contribution to the collective thinking we make at this stage
of the preparation. A realisation of the complexity of the situation will be
brought home to the final deliberations only if studied responses come from
the various local churches and groups. If the experience of evangelisation in
different places is reflected in the answers to the questions, the Synodal
Fathers will be able to draw mature conclusions. The depth and breadth of the
discussions in the Synod will depend to a large extent on the document
'Instrumentum Laboris' which will be prepared on the basis of our responses
to the Lineamenta.

We can in our discussion on the theme easily draw valuable lessons from the
long history of evangelisation among the Asian people: Missionary methods
have come under severe attack in Asia and we have the duty of repenting and
making amends. But the heroic sacrifices of the past, the witness and zeal of
the Missionaries of the past should also be an inspiration for the future.
The efforts of the present day Church also offer great hope for the future.

Undoubtedly the Church in Asia is to be truly the leaven among the people of
various secular and religious traditions, of this vast continent living in a
multi-religious context the meaning of various religious traditions in the
salvific design of the one God has been in recent times a matter of serious
discussion. Together with many clarifications, a certain confusion and
ambiguity also have been noticed in recent thinking. The upcoming Synod
provides us an opportunity to discern with the help of the Spirit more about
the way the Spirit has been drawing all mankind to the summit of history. A
clear understanding of the mutual relationship between Christianity and the
other world religions will be a significant step in the dialogue of religions
that has already begun in various parts of Asia.

For us the core of our faith is that "Jesus Christ is God's Good News of
Salvation to the whole world". Our faith tells us in unmistakable terms that
He came from God so that all people may have life - and have it abundantly.
Anyone who denies that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life cannot be a
christian. As the Holy Father has put it "This definite self revelation of
God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very
nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness
of the truth which God has enabled us to know about himself [AAS 83
(1991)254]".

We know it as a fact that Jesus Christ is the one and the only Saviour of
mankind in the full sense of the term. At the same time we have to explain in
a convincing way the presence of the 'seeds of truth' in all religions and
their relation to the Word become flesh. The various attempts to explain this
have given rise to uneasiness among some. Certain exaggerations have
disturbed ecclesiastical authorities and upset missionaries. Discussions
before and during the Synod should help us to clarify our thinking in this
area and to formulate coherent policies for evangelisation in the future.

Jesus came not simply to preach a set of doctrines or to impose a code of
ascetical precepts but to offer the gift of life in its fullness. This is
what we have to explain to the Asian mind. Asia is yearning for life - it is
a fuller life that is being sought in Asia. And it is life in fullness that
we have in Jesus. He died in order to restore life to us. The mission of the
Church, continuing the life and ministry of Jesus, is to offer this life to
all, to share this life with every one who earnestly desires it.

It is the Church that most people misunderstand. They consider the Church as
an organisation, a welfare establishment or an efficient enterprise. In truth
it is the community where God reveals the inner mystery of His life and
communicates it to the people. It is in the mystery of Trinitarian communion
that we become the sign and instrument of the communion between God and
humanity. The intimate communion that should exist in the Church is a lesson
that has to be emphasised by the Synod. The Church should be enabled to live
as an exemplary community of perfect love and mutual regard. Charity must be
seen as the supreme law of the Church. Anything that offends charity is a
heinous crime.

The Asian Synod would provide an opportunity to explain and assimilate the
ecclesiology of communion in all its dimensions. The role of the individuals,
the relation between various sections in the Church, the nature and mission
of various churches within the Catholic communion, the approach to churches
outside the Catholic communion - all these have to be understood and lived
out in the light of this ecclesiology. Only then will the church be able to
give a convincing witness to the world.

It is from this deep communion in the spirit of love that the mission of the
Church takes shape. Christian love naturally erupts into the arena of the
world as service. Church is a communion that wants to share its life and
riches with all others. It is by sharing this Trinitarian love and by serving
others that the Church seeks to bring all into unity with the Lord. To the
extent the Church becomes filled with love and inspired to serve others, she
becomes the sacrament of Christ - and the sacrament of unity.

The Asian Synod will provide an excellent opportunity to look into the
various aspects of the mission of love and service which the Church has in
the present and in the future. In this evaluation and planning all have the
chance to express their mind - especially at this stage of its preparation.
It is by discussing the Lineamenta - and especially the questions presented
in it - that everyone can make a contribution. The "working paper" to be
presented at the Synod itself will be largely the fruit of the discussions
held at this stage. The 'Lineamenta' and its questions should be discussed at
every level and the results presented to the diocesan bishop. It is his
responsibility to consolidate the findings of the local Church and send this
to the CBCI - before the end of February 1997 so that the Conference can
finalise the document to be sent to the Synodal Secretariat in Rome. The
Conference has been informed that its conclusion should reach Rome before the
first of August 1997.

I hope all the readers of this journal will use this opportunity to
contribute to the planning of the Church for the Third Millennium.

__________________________________________________________________

COMMENT

The Catholic Church wants the world to believe that after the pronouncements
of Vatican II in 1968, they have given up the exclusivist philosophy of
theirs - that is there is salvation only in Christ. However, as is obvious
from the above, this is far from the truth, and the whole exclusivist
philosophy is now crouched in good English. The methods are the same, the
sophistication prevails. This is why the Christian Churches are losing their
flock in large numbers whenever the education level goes up.

In any case, if they truly believe in a pluralistic society, they should
publicly announce that they have given up conversion as an objective of their
so-called social activities. If they do, they know that their sources of
funds will dry up.


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