From the Synod for Asia

Note: During the synod's first phase, each bishop was allowed eight minutes to address the gathering with the Holy Father present for each session. I thought to give you a better feel for a session that I would share with you some press summaries, in this instance the summaries of interventions of Monday, April 27. It was the 11th general congregation. On this day Christian-Islamic relations was a dominant issue. But many other considerations also were addressed.

For some of the Japanese bishops poignant interventions, see below.

-- NCR Publisher Thomas C. Fox

Bishop Jean-Baptiste Bui Tuan of Long Xuyen, Vietnam:

I was sent on a mission during a period when the socialist revolution wanted to assert its victorious force. And the place I was sent to was a place where the greater part of the population was made up of very faithful Buddhist adepts, Hoà Hao.

This was a challenge for me. Faced with these difficulties, I deemed it necessary to start by developing the Good News, not religion. After 23 years, reality shows that the Good News can be marvelously developed, and the Catholic Church is well respected. To find the reason for this development, I would like to confirm that the principal agent is God-Love, full of mercy, very close. The Good News changed the hearts. I feel this at the bottom of my heart.

If we needed to specify our way of collaborating with Christ, I could enumerate the main attitudes:

  1. The humility of recognizing that humanity needs to be saved. We, personally, wish to be saved no matter what.
  2. Simple contribution to the economy of the salvation of christ through love, a very sincere love that is at the same time a gift to others and reception of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Sincere acceptance of the crosses that often accompany saving love. To accept taking up the cross and gathering its wisdom, especially in renouncing of ourselves, for love and service, thus is our daily vocation.

Through experience, I am certain that to achieve a well-prepared collaboration with Christ, our savior, the disciples of Christ must take to heart a contemplative, ascetic, humble and charitable spirituality, concentrating on good examples and the words of Christ. A profound spirituality is considered a necessary condition in the mission. Because with Christ, we must fight against a great system of sins that are individual, collective and structural, and against a very strong force, i.e. Satan, the untiring destroyer of the kingdom.

They must also be alert and vigilant and know how to receive the novelties of the Good News that the Holy Spirit presents us with through the history of the church and the signs of the times.

By bearing witness to these, I believe that the encounter with Christ is the definitive element for development of the Good News. This encounter must be a living, personal and welcoming one, led by the Holy Spirit. This encounter will grant us the grace for conversion of liberty and love.

Bishop Joseph Coutts of Hyderabad, Pakistan:

In the Instrumentum laboris no. 12, it is mentioned that "certain communities have to live in difficult situations" in Islamic countries. This is a true statement of the situation but all too vague and inadequate. More specifically, it is Islam that is creating -- and will continue to create -- more difficult situations for the hurch in Asia. While communion is waning, Islam is waxing strong and spreading in Asia.

Looking at the situation from this perspective:

  1. From west Asia and the Middle East to the central-Asian republics, down to south Asia, eastwards to Malaysia and Indonesia, the church is a small minority in well over a dozen large Asian countries -- all Muslim.
  2. Islam cannot and should not be put in the same category as Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, etc. Islam is very different. It is a force, a religio-political force with expansionist tendencies that have special consequences for the church in Asia.
  3. Even for dialogue, Islam presents greater challenges than other religions. This has been adequately pointed out in many interventions.
  4. While many good Muslims can dialogue easily with us because of their idea of us as ahl al-kitab ("people of the book"), this is, unfortunately not the general attitude. The attitude that is gaining ground in the Islamic countries is that Christians are nothing but dhimmi (subjugated people) in their countries.
  5. There is a growing militancy and intolerance visible in Islam. In the old Christian communities of west Asia and Middle Eastern Asia, the Christians are decreasing, mainly due to emigration and escape from such an atmosphere. In Turkey, the church has been reduced to minimal existence. The Islamic revolution in Iran has had its effect. In Pakistan, the atmosphere becomes more and more intolerant and repressive. Even in Indonesia (the largest Muslim country) the liberal base of Panchacila is being eroded by the corrosive current of militant Islam.
  6. And in countries where Muslims are in the minority, the Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, etc., they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

In short, Islam is a growing force in Asia and cannot be dismissed lightly. We have to properly study this phenomenon and be better prepared to face it.

While continuing to dialogue with Islam with Christian love and understanding, we should not fail to speak out and condemn the rising tide of intolerant, militant and oppressive Islam that is making many Asian churches suffer.

Bishop Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit of Chanthaburi, Thailand:

My intervention refers to the Instrumentum laboris No. 45. The church in Asia is presently involved in a synodal journey, a journey that hopefully will lead to internal renewal and a revitalization of the commitment to proclaim Jesus Christ, the savior, and his mission of love and service in Asia through a new evangelization. I would like to draw the attention of the synodal fathers and the church in Asia to this renewal for the great jubilee of the year 2000 for a new Pentecost in Asia through the pastoral care for family in the Holy Spirit. "The future of humanity passes by way of the family. The family is the fundamental cell of the society," said the Holy Father in "Familiaris consortio." In Asian society many tendencies are threatening the family with disintegration, e.g. mass migration, search for work and absence of parental presence where both parents are working. Such situations as poverty, exploitation and degradation of women, children forced into hard labor, a growing number of divorces, unwed mothers, prostitution, child abuse, abortion, marriages of different religious couples, etc. are threatening the very foundation of family life in Asia. The Asian family is in crisis. Hence, the family must be the object of very special pastoral care. Since the family is at the heart of all Asian cultures, in the family, religious and human values are transmitted by the parents, who are the first teachers. The Christian family is not only the object of pastoral care; it is an agent of evangelization. The family is the first place for catechesis. The parents are the first catechists. The family is the "domestic church." The first witness to Jesus Christ is given by the Christian family. It is also the first missionary church among the non-Christians of the neighborhood. The apostolate of the family and the apostolate by the Christian family assumes a great significance for the future of the Church mission of love and service in Asia. Such a mission should also be mindful of the many positive values in Asian society, values cherished by long-standing traditions, e.g. filial piety, love and care for the aged and sick, etc. Some note that the generous service of families is the source of the abundance of vocations in Asia. The Lord said, "A sound tree produces good fruits" (Mt 7,17). Church and society have the common mission and co-responsibility to prepare sound parents. We therefore need pastoral care for the young in order to have good parents, priests and religious in the future, helping youth discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life. The church must accompany the Christian family on its journey through life. The family needs support from other families. Hence there are Christian family movements, Couples for Christ, etc. May the church as Christ the Lord be present in every Christian home as he was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity, strength and hope.

Cardinal Achille S. Ilvestrini, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches:

Each synod of bishops is a privileged time of ecclesial communion and episcopal collegiality. We give thanks for this providential opportunity that is the Synod for Asia. Your continent was the first one to receive the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ the Lord, at the threshold of the first millennium. Today, on the threshold of the third millennium, the eyes of all those in the church are turned towards us, the bishops, priests, religious men and women, lay persons, reunited here to pray together, to listen to one another, to share sufferings, worries, joys and hopes, to better listen to what the Spirit tells the Church.

Almost all the ancient Oriental churches are represented here, with their patrimony, which enriches, by their great diversity, the Catholic church in the union with faith. With emotion, they listen to the history of your martyrs and your missionary impulse. And, they offer in return the witness of an ancient experience of faith. This "exchange of gifts" between sister churches will already be a spiritual outcome of this synod.

On the lines of the Working Document, I would like to emphasize four sectors in which the Oriental Catholic churches could offer their gifts to the younger churches of Asia.

  1. Spirituality. Monastic life is considered, by the Oriental churches, the deepest heart of their existence before God and of their witness before the world. Renunciation, brotherly love, simplicity, joy, humility, contemplative silence, continuous prayer and universal compassion are the way of Christian ascesis. After having purified it of sin, the Holy Spirit inflames the heart of the monk for Jesus Christ, for the neighbor and for all of creation. At the same time, this spirituality draws its strength from the sacraments of salvation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. The Christian Orient contributed a great number of saints and mystics, equal to that of the Latin West. Through theology, poetry, care for the poor and pilgrims or through the means of silent prayer, the monks were those who rooted faith in the culture of peoples, because they spoke the language of the heart, accessible to the simple and to the wise. Their "sequela Christi" can certainly inspire, still today, the birth of an authentic Christian ascetic and contemplative spirituality, which the Asian Churches need vitally.
  2. Episcopal collegiality. The Oriental Catholic churches, within the patriarchates or the "sui juris" churches, have a long experience in the synodal experience of the episcopal ministry. The jealous fidelity of the episcopacy to their own liturgical and canonical traditions gave them the strength to live and transmit their repository of faith in very difficult situations. At the same time, they are conscious of the true value of their communion with the church of Rome, which has the mission of presiding in love. This delicate equilibrium between a correct autonomy and universal communion, which has not often been without suffering, requires ulterior refinement. The Oriental Catholic churches can bring an important contribution to the synod on this point.
  3. Ecumenism. Because of the common origin and their history, the Oriental Catholic churches feel the pain of separation from the Orthodox sister churches. This feeling explains why sometimes someone is urged to taking even isolated initiatives for the re-composition of the unity, but it is obvious that ecumenism is the way of the entire Catholic church. Certainly, the Christian churches cannot face the challenge of the universal mission without obeying Jesus Christ's most intimate desire of their being one sole thing "that the world may believe". The Christians of the Orient do not forget that the division between the churches is one of the main reasons for the birth of Islam. This is also one of the most painful aspects of Islamic-Christian dialogue, and perhaps a preliminary condition for its progress.
  4. The Diaspora. All the Oriental churches experience a strong emigration from their lands of origin. The phenomenon is not new. What is new, from the Middle East to India, is the breadth of this emigration. Some of these churches feel endangered in their own existence. The questions that the presence of Oriental Christians ask the Latin churches are delicate. But beyond the difficulties of every type, even if comprehensible ones, Vatican Council II gave clear indications for the preservation and strengthening of the Oriental identity of these Christians, guaranteeing all the specific pastoral care, which they need and have a right to, to them. Only the dialogue of charity can find the rightful solutions for each case. We can be certain that this will bring greater good to the church and to ecclesial communion. Is this not communion, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the most beautiful witness of the truth of the Gospel that the church can bear at the dawn of the third millennium?

Bishop Gratian Mundadan, CMI, of Bijnor of the Syro-Malabars:

The early church had tremendous appeal to the people of Asia, because it was a Spirit-filled community. The power of the Spirit enabled them to experience God in Christ. They translated this God-experience into their life and thus grew in fellowship and communion. This accounts for the success of missionary efforts of the early Apostolic churches.

Present day church projects a different image -- one of power and strength, competency and human efficiency, where the power of the Spirit is not experienced. Asian soul is drawn to power coming from spiritual or religious sources. For such people, mere doctrinal, legal and institutional power does not appeal. Further, such a power is looked on as a threat.

There is an urgency to change this image to make the church appealing to Asians. It means a new way of being church. Following the way of Christ, the church in Asia has to assume the way of kenosis, of self-emptying, of the cross, of loving and self-giving service. This means a return to the source. Jubilee 2000 means this. This was also the call of Vatican II. In this process of return to the sources, two points are to be emphasized:

  1. Enough freedom for the local churches to grow in a manner suited and appealing to local people.
  2. All restrictions imposed on individual churches, like the Syro-Malabar church, be removed to facilitate their growth and the evangelization of Asia.

Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, OFM, of Jayapura, Indonesia:

Christianity remains a very small minority. How do we react to this state of affairs? A spirit of competition among religions has not yet been overcome. In Indonesia, we were once proud that we owned the best schools and hospitals, the largest newspaper, etc. However, we remain, and shall remain, a minority.

Reactions of some radical Muslim groups over the past few years make us ask how we have been going about evangelization and being church. A superior attitude has long humiliated the Muslim majority. It is taking over the leading role in every sector of society. Christian institutions have been edged out. We are being forced to reflect anew on ourselves as a small minority. We have to accept ourselves as a minority. Competition is not the Christian way. It does not create peace and harmony.

Our master says that we are (and I think we shall remain) a very small flock, "pusillus grex" (Lk 12,32). But he convinces us that we need not be afraid or feel inferior! He himself will be with us always. He is present as the servant of God who emptied his self and humbled himself as low as possible.

To be capable of that, we have first of all to have a living experience of the humble Jesus. A personal encounter with Jesus Christ should inspire the way we are church and the way we evangelize. If we adopt a personal approach, just as Jesus Christ himself approaches us personally, then we can surely touch the hearts of others.

I would like to quote from the exhortation of St. Francis of Assisi concerning the way to live among Muslims. "The brothers who go among the Muslims can live spiritually (among Saracens and non-believers) in two ways: One way is not to engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subjects to every human creature for God's sake (1 P 2,13) and to acknowledge that they are Christians. Another way is to proclaim the Word of God when they see that it pleases the Lord, so that they believe in the all-powerful God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- the creator of all, in the Son, who is the Redeemer and Savior" (Francis of Assisi, Earlier Rule, XVI, 6-7).

Anthony Francis Sharma, SJ, superior of the mission sui iuris of Nepal:

  1. The church is deeply convinced that only through the Gospel can marriage and family life be fulfilled. In the act of creation, God willed marriage and family life. Since the family is exposed to many forces that threaten to destroy it, the church is compelled to proclaim to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family (cf. Familiaris consortio).
  2. Families in the modern world are faced with many rapid and serious changes. The church wishes to minister to families and to help young people discover the beauty of marriage.
  3. The church in Asia finds herself in a multi-religious context, and more and more families are becoming inter-faith families. Manyof these families, despite the spouses' professing different religions, do live harmoniously.
  4. In a society like that of Nepal, where Christians form less than one percent of the population, several of our families are inter-religious. Looking at the statistics for the past 10 years, 53% of the marriages held in church were inter-faith.
  5. Marriage and family are sacred to all religions and are willed by the creator (cf. Gen. 1-2). The Catholic church rejects nothing true and holy in other religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth [...].
  6. In multi-religious societies, where marriages and families face many and varied challenges, the solutions sought and suggestions made need to be adapted to inter-faith families.
  7. The possibilities of collaboration with other religions in finding common solutions to needs are to be explored and cooperation sought. Families should be encouraged to become a place of religious harmony rather than dispute. We need to recognize the dialogue of life that can and does take place in inter-faith families and see it as integral to evangelization in multi-religious societies.
  8. This also requires a sound pastoral theology for a fruitful ministry to these families.

Bishop Boutros Marayati of Alep of the Armenians (in Syria):

  1. Churches of the Near East:
    The Working Document employs the term "Western Asia" several times. It would be better to use the traditional term "Near East" or "Middle East" so as not to create misunderstandings. How is it in fact possible to speak about Eastern churches in a "Western Asia"? We are already accused, as Oriental Catholic churches, of being "westernized" or even "latinized". Refusing westernization does not mean forgetting all the good things we have received from the West. Our gratefulness goes to the pontifical organizations of solidarity, the Western religious congregations and the apostolical and spiritual movements originating in the West, as long as they safeguard the Oriental soul and respect local traditions.
  2. Darkness and light in ecumenical dialogue:
    Can it be that the word "ecumenism" is not mentioned in the Working Document? In Syria, we live an existential ecumenism that is made concrete in three domains: spiritual sharing, pastoral concordance and charitable collaboration. Unfortunately, theological dialogue does not exist and the date for Easter has always divided us. As the Armenian Catholic church, we are waiting for the day when a theological dialogue with the Apostolic Armenian church will be established. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, we are called upon to re-read our ecclesiastical history, and to the purification of the memory and, why not, to a revision of theological formulations. In this ecumenical light, our Armenian Synod has asked the Holy Father for the beatification of the martyrs of the 1915 Armenian genocide on the occasion of Jubilee 2000 and the proclamation of Saint Nerses Shnorhali as "Doctor of the Church" on the occasion of the 17th centenary of the Baptism of Armenia, which will take place in 2001.
  3. Fraternal relationships with the Muslims:
    In Syria we live in a good neighborly way with the Muslims, in mutual respect, without discrimination. We share the same history and we confront together the problems of the present and the challenges of the future. Our Churches, apart from the freedom of cult and personal statutes, also benefit from several prerogatives. Can we ask the Pontifical Council for the publication of an official document on the relationship between Christianity and Islam?
  4. Open your gates, Jerusalem.
    The essential problem for Christians of the Arab world is the distinction between the spiritual meaning of the word Israël and the political meaning of the word Israël as a state. The confusion between the two meanings leads to inappropriate interpretations and restraining tensions. We wish the nuances to be clear. We pray for peace, "the fruit of justice," so that the gates of Jerusalem may be reopened to all the Christians of the Middle East. We also pray that the Holy Father's wish be achieved by a biblical pilgrimage of faith and peace in Abraham's steps, departing from Ur in Mesopotamia up to Mount Sinai, passing through the fertile Crescent of Syria, Alep, Damas, Jordan, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. We hope "against all hopes," because God is always faithful to his promises, and nothing is impossible for him.

Apostolic Administrator Varkey Vithayathil, CSSR, of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars:

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." I speak about Gospel workers, to whom the Instrumentum laboris makes only a passing reference in chapter 7. The first thing we are asked by the Lord himself is to pray for missionary vocations in the churches of Asia. The Syro-Malabar church is proud of its apostolic lineage, tracing as it does its origin to St. Thomas the Apostle, who had a unique experience of the risen Lord. He came to teach Indians the true way and the only way to God. However, even after 2000 years, the way of Christ is openly followed in India only by a tiny minority of 2.4%. In 1896, the Syro-Malabar church got bishops of its own rite and nationality. Since then it has made marvelous progress.

Note: Some of the most interesting speeches given in the synod's early days came from members of the Japanese bishops' conference. To get a better feel for some of the ideas being shared at the synod I gathered summaries of the several Japanese "interventions," written as these summaries were shared with the media. Full texts are missing, but the ideas come clearly. Here are four Japanese bishops, speaking on the needs and concerns of their local church. -- TCF

Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga, SJ, of Osaka:

I address the issue of evangelization in East Asia. Missionaries have labored in their field for centuries. In India, which is, of course, west Asia, missionary work, we are told, goes back to apostolic times. Yet, to this day, evangelization had taken but a few small steps forward. Baptisms are few, and perhaps more important, Christian thinking has not entered into the mainstream of Asian society. The cause is not just cultural variances but also differences in the human heart. Nurtured in Europe, Western Christianity makes a clear division between God and the universe, Heaven and Hell. It stresses the paternal aspect of God. The peoples of East Asia have a pantheistic mindset, believe in the transmigration of souls, are drawn to the thought of the embracing mercy of God. Let us therefore stress the maternal traits of God in our religious art and teaching. In this way Christianity will take on a warmer, more approachable face -- something that invites intimacy. Our catechetical instruction is not only something intellectual, studying the article of faith in greater depth. We must follow the example of Jesus, who did not neglect life, the human body, the practical, when he spoke of the Kingdom of God. Thus we can have real hope that Christianity will sink roots in East Asia.

Bishop Augustine Jun-ichi Nomura of Nagoya:

  1. We have in Asia today a very committed search for integration of faith and life, for harmony of soul, heart and body, for a living incorporation of our spiritual heritage.
  2. In Japan, like in the rest of Asia, the eyes have a more central role than the ears in the process of insight and conversion. In recent meetings the Asian Bishops have stated that Asian peoples, more possibly than others, are convinced more by witnessing than by teaching. And that they appreciate the contemplative dimension, detachment, humility, simplicity and silence. Therefore a Gospel that is embodied in our own lives carries much more credibility and power of conviction than a Gospel that has only been wrapped up in beautiful words, teachings and moral injunctions.
  3. Today, more than ever, in the middle of a consumeristic lifestyle, people are looking for other, alternative ways of life in solidarity, simplicity, service and communion. They expect from Christianity a credible living answer.
  4. When presenting Jesus Christ to Japanese (or Asian) people we should present him as the spiritual master who opens for us a way to real freedom in detachment, simplicity and forgiveness and to full communion in solidarity, compassion and peace. These universal virtues are particularly attuned to the Asian ethos and spiritual life. Jesus is the guide on the way, but such a guide that eventually he becomes the way himself, because in him and with him we reach the communion and intimacy with God, the Father, and with his wonderful creation.
  5. Evangelization with spirituality will always produce abundance of fruits. On the other hand, evangelization without spirituality will only increase the burdens of the Christian faithful and scandalize those who are not.
  6. We need a spirituality that is rooted in Asia, that is made alive by the spirit of Jesus Christ and that flows freely from the heart of the believer (Cfr. Jn 7:38). Then our Christian communities will contribute to:
       (a) overcome human and ethical ambiguities and relativism of Asia;
       (b) deepen the meaning and value of the human person and rights of all;
       (c) make more credible our message that all peoples are God's children;
       (d) intensify the process of restoring women to their rightful dignity and position in the church and society; and
       (e) educate among all a living concern for justice, for active peace and a life-giving harmony with the whole of creation.

Bishop Stephen Fumio Hamao of Yokohama:

When the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, hundreds of thousands of lives were snuffed out in an instant. We Japanese are victims of the war, but at the same time we were also the aggressors who trampled on the lives of people in many areas of Asia and the Pacific. We must admit that the church of Japan failed to realize and courageously proclaim how inhuman and out of harmony with the Gospel values were the elements of that war. The church failed in her prophetic role of witnessing to the will of God in protecting human life. Today we live in a "global village", an interrelated network of nations, cultures, ethnic groups, traditions and religious families. This is true especially of Asia. Peace cannot be attained unless it cuts across these multi-cultural, multi-religious nations. Peace is a gift, the fruit of a healthy human community. Peace is the final gift, the result of a harmonious and mature integration of fairness, justice, love, truth, liberty and respect for all. It must include mercy (compassion) towards the weak and powerless, tolerance and a patient waiting for growth. Peace never occurs in isolation. It is the fruition of a good life for all. For that reason, working for peace is considered to be a highly esteemed spiritual value. Peace is the greatest blessing of God to a people. Working for peace should be a central concern of the church. Ecological concerns are also very important elements in the evangelization conducted by the church. Environmental concerns are not just for the benefit of future generations, but all creatures and nature itself are "our brothers and sisters" as St. Francis called them, and they are our companions on this earth with which we must strive to live in harmony. This concern for living in harmony with all nature is an important element in procuring peace and is highly valued among Asian peoples. The church, therefore, should be much more concerned with promoting peace and harmony on all levels of existence, and not concern itself with reasons which would justify war. There are very few things to which the church can dedicate its labors with a more detached and evangelical heart than to the service of peace. It is our earnest desire, and that of the bishops of Japan, that this synod puts peace at the center of our evangelization and mission in Asia today. Our Lord said: "Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be recognized as children of God" (Mt 5:9).

Bishop Berard Toshio Oshikawa, OFM CONV., of Naha:

  1. My concern here is mostly pastoral. We do not have to go far in order to find some of the reasons why Christianity does not grow in Japan. Notwithstanding the frequent exhortations for inculturation, it seems to me that the norm for Christian life, for church discipline, for liturgical expression and theological orthodoxy continues to be that of the Western church.
  2. This fact may be natural, and good for the West. However, when it also becomes the operating norm for the churches of the East, and, concretely, for Japan, it unfortunately becomes a very effective block to any pastoral effort to open for our young and minority churches a meaningful and realistic process of growth in faith, spirituality and moral life.
  3. In spite of the valiant efforts of both local and foreign agents of the Gospel, the engrained westernization of the language of our theology, the rhythm and structure of our liturgies, the programs of our catechesis fail to touch the hearts of those who come searching. The fact that "some particularly gifted" ministers have had a certain success only underlines the basic problem, where our own human limitations are not helped by the requirements of the present system.
  4. The "Principle of Graduality" proclaimed and recommended by John Paul II should be a leading principle in the relationships between the Roman Curia, the Western churches in the South, and the East.
  5. Graduality means (1) above all, that we Asian Christians take the responsibility to grow into Christ and all that this implies for our Christian faith. We must do this in, out of and through our own culture in an ongoing re-reading and contemplation of the Gospel and in the midst of the pains, struggles and hopes of our societies. In an Asian religious context the "Way" is a central and most inspiring image of growth in God's love and wisdom. We must make this process of faith a real journey, an experience of growth rather than a mental "Introduction to Christianity" as is often the case.
  6. Graduality also means (2) that other churches respect and support these local processes that take place under the guidance of the bishops of Asia. In a world that is becoming more and more international and more globally interacting, it is more important than ever to nurture and support the diversity and peculiarities of the different cultures and churches. Now is the time to learn from our past mistakes and make sure that no imposition of any kind hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives and minds of people who in the wonderful variety of histories and cultures look for God with a sincere heart.
  7. Graduality means (3) that the Holy See redefines its role and mediates with prudence, flexibility, trust and courage a new dialogue of all the churches in the common pilgrimage to the fullness of Christ. This will mean moving away from a single and uniform abstract norm that stifles genuine spirituality, Asian liturgical expression, earnest Asian theological search and real growth in maturity. Together we must move to a more spiritual and creative position of working for a new harmony where the gifts of the Spirit to the churches become the new treasure of the whole church, into which all others, Christian and non-Christian alike, can be invited to share in the abundance of God's life.

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