CLOSING MASS FOR ASIAN SYNOD OF BISHOPS
Pope John Paul II
Evangelization of Asia is service of
"The Church's mission of evangelization is a service of love to the Asian
continent. And although the Christian community is but 'a little flock' in the total
population, it is the means through which God pursues his saving plan, which he will bring
to completion if he finds that everyone is ready to work with him with generous
heart", the Holy Father said on Thursday morning, 14 May, as he celebrated the
closing Mass of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops. Concelebrating with
the Pope were the Synod Fathers and the priests involved in the Synod's work. The Holy
Father stressed that, since Christians are a minority on that vast continent, they must
offer their witness with special courage. Here is a translation of his homily, which was
given in Italian, French and English.
1. "Iubilate Deo, omnis terra, psalmum dicite gloriae nominis eius" (Ps 65
The Synod Assembly that is about to close, like the others I have already convoked in
preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, is meant as a response
to the exhortation addressed to us in today's liturgy: "Acclaim God, all the
earth, sing psalms to the glory of his name". The psalmist invites the earth to
praise God; and we, living in a period of epochal transition, feel a particular need to
give glory to him. This is the primary reason why the Bishops of the Church meet in
regional and continental Synod Assemblies.
After the Synod for Africa, held four years ago, the Special Assembly for Lebanon took
place in 1995. In autumn of last year the Assembly for America was held during which
representatives from the Episcopates of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean
reflected on and compared the Church's situation in their respective countries.
Today, however, we are concluding the synodal meeting of the Pastors of the Ecclesial
Communities of the Asian continent. This Synod has itself been a song of praise to God. In
fact, was this not the primary purpose of our work? We wanted to express, in our every
reflection, the glory which the Churches of the vast continent give to God, the Creator
and Father. In every corner of the world, in fact, the service of the Church is directed
to the living man, who is the authentic glory of God.
God's mystery is expressed in prayer and contemplation
God is praised by the lands of Asia and the oceans surrounding them, the Himalayas with
the highest peak in the world, and the immense rivers. God is praised by cities rich in
millennial traditions, the centuries-old cultures of the continent with their
civilizations much more ancient than those of Europe.
This multiform and silent homage to the Creator finds its definitive achievement in
man, who gives glory to God in a way proper to him, exclusive and unrepeatable. The
synodal experience clearly shows that those living in each and every corner of Asia - from
India to China, from Japan to Indochina from Indonesia to all the other nations: from the
heights of Tibet to the deserts of Central Asia - when they interpret the ineffable
mystery of the varied, millennia-old Asian religious traditions, seek to express it in
prayer and contemplation.
2. "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit,
and that your fruit should last" (Jn 15:16). In the Upper Room, on the eve of his
Passion, Jesus entrusted the task of continuing his mission among men to the Apostles.
Thanks to the faithful participation of numerous witnesses to the Gospel, his Word of
salvation has spread almost everywhere in the world during the last 2,000 years. In
the text we have just heard, the Lord emphasizes that he himself chose and appointed his
disciples, so that they would go out into the whole world and bear lasting fruits of
One of these was St Matthias, whose feast we celebrate today. After Judas' betrayal, he
joined the 11 Apostles to be a "witness to the Resurrection" of Christ. We have
received little information about him; we only know that he proclaimed the Gospel with
courage and that he died a martyr's death.
According to tradition, the Apostle Thomas was the one to bring the Gospel to India and
to the very heart of Asia. Since then, many missionaries have traveled across the immense
Asian continent and have evangelized there, proclaiming Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh,
who died on the Cross and rose again on the third day to save the world.
Witnesses of the Lord's Resurrection, they showed new ways to peoples who, by reason of
their philosophical and religious traditions, were accustomed to seeking the Absolute in
the depths of their being. The evangelizers followed the Apostle Paul's example, echoing
his exhortation: "Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for
the things that are above" (Col 3:1).
3. If it is true that God is in the world and that he has a certain immanence, it is
especially true that he is Transcendent, "above" the world, and thus cannot be
identified with the world. One cannot look for him in the world as if he were merely the
deepest mystery of all visible things. On the contrary, one must first look for him
"on high": he is the Lord of heaven and earth. In virtue of this absolute
transcendence, the Son of God came down to earth; he became man and was born of a virgin;
he lived and was subjected to death for the Truth he proclaimed. Moreover, he really was
not subjected to death, but pitted himself against it. He did not want it to overcome him,
but broke its chains; he returned to his Father from whom he had come. In this way,
Christ showed men living on earth that their destiny is union with God: created in
the image and likeness of God, the human being can only be fulfilled in union with him,
the Redeemer and Saviour.
Yes, in Jesus Christ the Father created the world; in him he redeemed it. By his Death
and Resurrection, Christ proclaimed and brought to fulfilment the truth about creation and
redemption, the truth which is the content of the permanent mission entrusted to the
You have been chosen to go and bear fruit that will last
4. This is the saving truth which Jesus passed on to the disciples together with
"his" commandment: "that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn
Dear brothers and sisters, you who have formed the Special Assembly for Asia of the
Synod of Bishops! Today the crucified and risen Lord again repeats these same words to
you, summoning you once more to evangelize your continent. To you in a special way, my
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, he says: "I chose you and appointed you that
you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should last" (Jn 15:16). And to
everyone he says: "This is my commandment, that you love one another" (Jn
As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I have the honour and joy to echo these words,
having shared with you in these past days the extraordinary experience of the Synod.
Together we have experienced anew the love of Christ, and together we have seen the fruits
of the Holy Spirit's power at work in Asia. The Church's mission of evangelization is a
service of love to the Asian continent. And although the Christian community is but
"a little flock" in the total population, it is the means through which God
pursues his saving plan, which he will bring to completion if he finds that everyone is
ready to work with him with generous heart.
Dear friends, this is precisely why I wish to say to you once more: remain in the
Lord's love, like branches of the vine (cf. Jn 15:5), and then among the peoples of Asia
you will bear the abundant fruit of new life.
5. Among the peoples of that continent I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the
Chinese nation, which is the most numerous. To you, brothers and sisters of the Catholic
Church that is on Mainland China, I wish to express, once more, my affection and tell you
how sorry I am that the Bishop of Wanxian and his Coadjutor could not come to Rome to take
part personally in the Synod. Bishop Matthias Duan Yinming's words expressing his loyalty
to the Successor of Peter and his communion with the universal Church have touched our
hearts. The Synod Fathers, from every country in Asia, always considered their Chinese
Brothers as being here in spirit, and they hope that present difficulties may soon be
overcome and that on some occasion in the near future these Bishops may be able to
meet the other Pastors of the Church.
We all hope that, as the People's Republic of China gradually opens to the rest of the
world, the Church in China will also be permitted to have more contact with the universal
Church. We implore the Holy Spirit to pour out his gifts on the Chinese faithful and to
lead them to the whole truth (cf. Jn 16:13), so that the proclamation of the Gospel in
China, even in the midst of much suffering, will bring forth abundant fruit.
Christ's saving work was accomplished In Asia
6. In the liturgy of the Easter season, we read the Acts of the Apostles, which help us
to understand how in our time too the Church does not cease to add new chapters to the
history of salvation. Just as St Luke composed the "Acts" so that
future generations of Christians would not forget their apostolic origins, so too have we,
with this Synod Assembly, written a fresh page of ecclesial life on the Asian continent in
this century. This page is an addition, in a sense, to the story of the Acts of the
In surveying the whole of Asia, the work of the Synod has enabled us to see how the
Gospel has taken root in that great continent in the course of the last 2,000 years. In
that continent, Christians remain a numerical minority, it is true; and such a situation
stands as a sort of constant challenge to them. It stimulates the Church to offer her
witness with special courage. How could we forget that Jesus was born at that unique
crossroads of the world where Asia meets both Africa and Europe? He came into the world
for all the continents, but for Asia in a special way; and Asia could therefore claim a
certain right to pride of place. It was in a part of Asia that Christ lived; there he
accomplished the work of the world's redemption; there he instituted the Eucharist and the
other sacraments; there he rose again from the dead.
7. "The whole time that he was living with us, from the time when John was
baptizing until the day when he was taken up from us" (Acts 1:21-22), Jesus, born
in Asia, sowed the seed of salvation for all peoples on that continent.
At the end of the second millennium, the journey of the successors of the Apostles
continues in every corner of the Asian continent, where they proclaim the same truth and
do so with the same unchanged apostolic and missionary zeal, repeating and bearing
witness: "Jesus Christ is the Saviour".
Dear brothers and sisters, continue this mission of love and service in Asia. May the
maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Church and of the Asian people, sustain you;
may the martyrs, the saints and the blesseds of Asia intercede for you. Remain faithful to
the love of Christ, who called and appointed you his disciples "that you should go
and bear fruit, and that your fruit should last" (Jn 15:16).