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Catholic religious in Asia seek to reinvigorate the Church

July 30, 2015

Bangkok, Thailand, Jul 30, 2015 / 09:42 pm (EWTN News)

Consecrated religious and other Catholics in Asia felt renewed and enthusiastic after a major symposium in Thailand on vowed religious and evangelization in an Asian context.

“We are going with a lot of enthusiasm, we have been enflamed and fired up in a way with passion to live our life of commitment,” Bishop Winston Julian Fernando, S.S.S. of Badulla, Sri Lanka said of the event. “So we are leaving this place with lots of hope and we want to enflame others and make others so passionate in their commitment to Jesus Christ.”  

“We were able to see the insights given to us by the Holy Father for the entire Church in relationship to the consecrated life... it is our hope and we pray that this will open a new chapter of working together in the Church in Asia,” he told EWTN News July 24.

The Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences organized the July 20-25 symposium to explore the mission, challenges and methods of consecrated life in the new evangelization. The symposium was hosted by the Diocese of Chanthaburi under Bishop Silvio Siripong Charatsri. The event was held at the Redemptorist Center in Pattaya, Thailand, about 80 miles southeast of Bangkok.

The event drew over 170 participants from more than 17 Asian countries. Attendees included cardinals, bishops, priests, vowed religious, and members of secular institutes and communities of apostolic life. They gathered to deliberate on the theme “Consecrated Life at the Service of the New Evangelization.”

Bishop Fernando said the symposium has added significance during the Catholic Church’s observance of the Year of Consecrated Life. 

The bishop said the symposium discussed in depth the charisms of religious life and worked to find ways to proclaim the Gospel in the perspective of New Evangelization.  

“We have seen ourselves that we need to work with new ardor, new methodology, to break new ground and also give a new expression in order to evangelize and re-evangelize the world,” said the bishop, who chairs the federation’s Office for Consecrated Life.

The symposium’s opening Mass was held on July 20. Concelebrants included Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as with Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, the Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand and Cambodia, encouraged symposium attendees to pray to the Holy Spirit to guide the reflections. 

“Your works may bring desired fruits for the people of God,” the nuncio said.

Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, presided at the solemn Mass for the Year of Consecrated Life on July 23. His homily considered how to evangelize in a secular world. 

Cardinal Kriengsak focused his homily on two themes of Christian action and proclamation. Both are nourished by the Gospel and the Eucharist, he said.

He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s comment that “the Church does not grow through proselytism.” Instead, she grows by “attraction.”

As a part of the Mass, vowed religious in the congregation held lighted candles and renewed their pledge of consecrated life.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, who is also the president of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences, gave the homily at the concluding Mass of the symposium on July 24. He encouraged symposium participants to deliberate on their communities’ charisms and to “wake up the Church.” 

The cardinal also noted the decline of vocations to priestly and religious life. He urged participants not to lose hope. Rather, they should focus on proclaiming Christ, with values enshrined in the Gospel that are absolutely “non-negotiable.” 

Cardinal Gracias told EWTN News July 25 that the symposium was “something special” in the Asian context due to the “Asian ethos respect for religions, the ethos of simplicity, spirituality and the search for the divine.”
 
“I wish there would be an upsurge in living the religious life (and) more deeply living the Gospel,” he said. He added that the Year of Consecrated Life should lead Catholic religious “to be with the people and with the touch of God’s mercy.”

The symposium also gave witness to unity amid the rich Asian diversities of cultures, languages and spirituality.

“It was very inspiring to see how different cultures and nations are responding to the call of the new evangelization in the Year of Consecrated Life,” Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal S.V.D., of the Indore diocese in India told EWTN News, July 24.

He said the symposium emphasized awareness about the responsibilities of consecrated men and women in an Asian context where “the message of Jesus has not reached the majority of the people of different, diverse religions.”

Sister Irene Chamnamtham of Thailand, the Provincial Superior Saint Paul of Chartres, said it was a blessing to participate in the symposium. She said the event was a reminder of consecrated religious’ responsibility in evangelization. 

“As consecrated, we are challenged to be true witness of Christ and to be guiding light in the society while taking our mission to the peripheries of proclaiming Christ, with our motto of ‘to be all to all,’ to the marginalized and less privileged and bringing the message of Christ’s love and salvation,” she told EWTN News July 24.
   
The symposium concluded with several pledges, including a pledge to collaborate closely with the lay faithful and to evangelize in communion with local bishops, clergy and other Catholics.



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