The Special Council for Asia has completed its discussions on the life of the Church in Asia. The picture painted by the talks is one of hope even the council noted that four priests were killed in Asia in 2006.
The 11th Meeting of the Special Council for Asia was held in Rome on November 20, under the presidency of Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of bishops, according to a press release made public today.
The outcome of the debate was the creation of “a broad overview of ecclesial life in Asia, and of the living conditions in civil society, which in many ways are favorable to Church activity.”
However, the participants also expressed concern for the “wars, the arms race, ethnic strife, violence, terrorism, repression and the various limits placed on freedom of conscience," that are taking place in various parts of Asia.
Of particular worry to the bishops is the persecution of minorities, “among them Christian minorities who are often forced to abandon their countries of origin, suffering violence also at the hands of fundamentalist groups.”
The lack of religious liberty is also an obstacle in some places and comes in the form of “limits to communication among bishops and between them and the Holy Father, ... the impossibility of creating episcopal conferences, difficulties in obtaining visas for pastoral card workers, limits on the building of places of workshop[s], and impediments to [religious] presence in public life."
Despite the repression of the Church, the bishops also noted a number of positive aspects such as "the fraternal welcome shown to Christians who have fled in fear of their lives; the increase in the number of Catholics in regions where they have, up to now, been scarce; the faithfulness even unto the giving of life, as in the case of the four priests killed in Asia in 2006, ... and an increase in vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life”. This increase has created a situation where “Asians themselves have become missionaries to other particular Churches in Asia and on other continents."
The Asian Church is also able to contribute to the cause of inter-religious dialogue. This discussion makes a “notable contribution to tolerance and civil harmony, to reinforcing the State of law and the process of the democratization of society." The Church also exercises an important influence "through her social activities in schools and hospitals, and in favor of human promotion," the communiqué said.
A final area of promise is how the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia" is "producing abundant fruits above all through programs of diocesan activities and bishops' pastoral letters," while the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum caritatis" is being "effectively disseminated, ... and translated into local languages such as Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai."
The next meeting of the Special Council for Asia of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will be held on December 11 and 12, 2008. Its theme will be: 'The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.'