FOR SYNOD OF ASIA
Christ the Saviour and his mission of love and service in Asia:
"... That they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Tertio
millennio adveniente, n. 38 (10 November 1994), voiced his intention
to convoke a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia. Shortly
after this announcement, the Holy Father appointed a Pre-Synodal Council
of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special
Assembly for Asia, composed for the most part by Bishops from Asia. The
General Secretariat immediately began the preparation process for this
special synodal assembly by sending a letter of consultation to all
interested parties on the Asian continent, that is, the Episcopal
Conferences and the Oriental Churches, as well as to the Departments of
the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General, in an effort to
arrive at a topic of contemporary importance, universal interest and
particular urgency for treatment at this special synodal assembly. The
results of this consultation were then analyzed and discussed by the
Pre-Synodal Council for the Special Assembly for Asia and a series of
recommendations formulated for submission to the Holy Father.
Taking into consideration the Council's proposals, the Holy Father
subsequently made the following choice of topic for this Special
Assembly: 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). The topic formulation intends to respond
to the unique set of circumstances within the Church in Asia as well as
to address the actual state of affairs affecting all the peoples and
cultures on the Asian continent. In highlighting the centrality of the
Person of Christ, his Mission as Mediator and One and, Only Saviour in
God's Eternal Plan of Salvation the Church in Asia and all her
members will be better prepared to fulfill Christ's evangelizing mission
of love and service in Asia, "that they may have life and have it
abundantly" (Jn 10:10).
To present this synodal topic in a general way, the General
Secretariat, in co-operation with the members of the same Pre-Synodal
Council and theologians from the Asian continent, has drafted the Lineamenta,
the first in a series of documents related to the Special Assembly
for Asia. As its name suggests, the present document is offered as a
broad "outline" on the topic. The sole purpose in providing
this text is to foster a common reflection and prayer on the topic as
well as to generate suggestions and observations. For this reason, a
series of Questions appears at the end of the document.
It is the hope that this Lineamenta will result in a rich
response in every part of the Church in Asia so that the Episcopal
Conferences and the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Oriental
Churches can have the necessary information to draft their official
responses. Consequently, the Lineamenta itself is not part of the
agenda of the Special Assembly. A "working document" or Instrumentum
laboris will be drawn up at a later time on the basis of the
official responses coming from the Asian continent and those from the
Departments of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General. It
will be the task of these groups to use the many contributions which
they will receive in drafting their official responses which they in
turn will submit to the General Secretariat. A rich response will assure
that the Synod Fathers, gathered in Special Assembly, will have the
material needed for a more in-depth treatment of a topic of great
importance for the Church in Asia.
Therefore, the whole Church in Asia is invited to participate:
diocesan and religious priests, women and men religious, laymen and
women, seminaries and. faculties of theology, pastoral councils,
Catholic movements and groups, parish communities and all Church
organizations. The more numerous the responses, the more complete and
substantial will be the information for those who are responsible to
draw up their official responses. This will likewise ensure the complete
and substantial character of the text of the Instrumentum laboris, the
document which will be the center of attention and discussion at the
Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia.
In preparing a response to the Lineamenta, the following
points should be borne in mind. The number and variety of the questions
listed in the final section of the document have been deliberately
chosen to serve as a guide in structuring the reflections on the topic
of the Special Assembly for Asia. These questions, then, and not the Lineamenta
text, should be the basis of all responses. In this regard, all
observations should make explicit reference to the question addressed.
At the same time, each and every question need not be answered.
Depending on individual circumstances, respondents are free to make a
choice of those questions which seem relevant.
On the Asian continent, responses from Church communities and groups
within an arch/diocese are sent to the local Bishop who will make use of
such information in drafting his response. The Bishop's response is then
forwarded to the episcopal body of which he is a member. The official
submissions from these episcopal bodies, and those from the Roman Curia
and the Union of Superiors General should arrive at the General
Secretariat no later than 1 August 1997. This target date should be kept
in mind by all those who wish to contribute in some manner in
this reflection process.
With the publication of the Lineamenta a crucial stage in the
preparation of the Special Assembly begins, a stage which relies upon
the co-operation and prayers of every member of the Church. The
mystery of communion teaches that the Church extends beyond the
confines of a given nation and continent - even beyond the world as we
know it - through time into eternity. As the Church in Asia prepares for
this special celebration of the communion of Bishops, she does so in
mystical union with the whole Church. In this spirit she is supported in
this period of preparation by the prayers and good works of all the
Church's members, particularly by those of the heavenly community of
Asian Saints and Martyrs, and as in every endeavour, looks to the Virgin
Mary for her unfailing assistance.
Cardinal Jan P. Schotte, C.I.C.M.
1. The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia is a moment
of special grace for the Church on the Asian continent. Etymologically,
the word "synod" means "walking together." The
Particular Churches in Asia want to walk together. In an Asian context
this means advancing together as a Church towards the third millennium
and proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ in word and action, not only to
all brothers and sisters within the Church in Asia but to all peoples of
In the first place, the Church in Asia wants to walk together with
the Risen Lord Jesus Christ as did the disciples of Emmaus, and to ask
him to open every heart to the Scriptures so that each person may see
the ever-new meaning and application of God's Word to the various
contemporary situations in Asia. She also prays that Asia come to
recognize him in the breaking of the bread as the source of life and all
its fullness, offered to all peoples everywhere.
In preparing for the Synod, the Church in Asia seeks to "walk by
the Spirit" (Gal 5:16), Who throughout history has illumined Asia's
sages and saints in their search for the fullness of truth and life and
enabled the people of Asia to recognize his presence and to profit by
the rays of truth present in their philosophies and religions.
In "walking together", the Church wishes to continue to
advance in the Church's living tradition, that is, in the Church of the
Apostles and their teachings, the Church of the Fathers and their
precious theological and spiritual patrimony, the Church of the great
missionaries of Europe and Asia, the Church of the medieval saints and
theologians and the Church of reform and renewal brought about by the
Council of Trent, Vatican Council I and Vatican Council II.
In her Synodal journey the Church in Asia is not alone. She is
accompanied by: the Holy Father, the Pastor of the Universal Church; her
Magisterium; and all the members of the Church outside the Asian
continent, who through mystical communion are united in solidarity and
prayer to their Asian brothers and sisters.
In addition to its universal character, the synodal pilgrimage has a
particularly Asian dimension. The Church in Asia, in faithfulness to her
Lord, seeks to walk with all the peoples of Asia - brothers and sisters
- united through common lives and cultures, whose destiny is bound up
together, whose religious and spiritual richness the Church wants to
make her own and with whom she wants to share the inexhaustible salvific
riches of Jesus Christ. The Church in Asia wants to accompany the
cultures and social customs of Asia's peoples and purify these from all
that is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, so that she may not appear to
be a stranger on the continent in which she lives, and where, in union
with her Lord, she makes her own "the joys and hopes, the griefs
and anxieties of the people".1
A vast continent of
Great religions and
2. Geographically speaking, it is difficult to determine the list of
countries which constitute the continent of Asia. However, as it
concerns the Synod, the continent of Asia can be considered as the vast
area lying between the Middle East and the Far East. This includes the
Middle East, the Gulf countries, South Asian countries, the Central
Asian countries, the South East Asian countries, Asian Siberia and the
countries of the Far East.
This extensive area has been the mother to many races and peoples and
the pantheon of the world's great religions which have resulted from the
Asian peoples' long search for the meaning and destiny of humanity and
the universe. There is no doubt that some of the most profound and
elaborate religious, philosophical, social and linguistic systems and
organizations known to history have come about as a result of Asian
sages, saints and religious visionaries from time immemorial. These have
guided the destinies of millions of peoples through centuries and
Judaism, though not widely represented in Asia, is indeed a world
religion, having its teachings on God, the Creator and Merciful. One, on
the human person who possesses freedom and dignity yet in need of
redemption from sin, and on eschatology. Hinduism is relentless in its
search for the ultimate reality, the Absolute, and the liberation of the
person from evil in all its forms through the way of knowledge, selfless
action and devotion. It places great stress on silence, contemplation,
detachment and non-violence. Buddhism seeks to show the individual a way
out of the existential predicament of suffering through the Eight Noble
Ways ultimately leading to total liberation. It insists on compassion as
a primary virtue. Buddhism has been modified in several countries
through the influence of the high ethical and mystical ideals of
Confucianism and Taoism. These put a heavy emphasise on harmonious
relationships in society. Islam is marked by its doctrine of the One
God, the Creator, who is all-merciful and forgiving. He calls for total
submission to his commandments through obedience, prayer, almsgiving,
fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca in one's lifetime. Traditional
religion views the whole of the cosmos, i.e., the visible world
of nature and human beings, and the invisible world of spirits as
"inter-penetrating". Traditional Religion emphasizes communion
and harmony with God, the spirits, nature and immediate members of
family, clan and tribe.
The people of Asia
3. The greatest wealth of Asia is its peoples with their rich and
millennia-old cultures, generally known for their emphasis on
industriousness and frugal habits as well as their perseverance and
The religious and cultural values, e.g., love for philosophical
inquiry, contemplation, simplicity, detachment, silence, non-violence,
etc., are considered by the Asian peoples as powerful assets. A profound
sense of religion, love for the family, respect for life, compassion
for all beings, love for and closeness to nature, respect for parents,
elders and ancestors and a sense of community are other sources of
strength for the peoples of Asia.
Plurality of religions has been a constant fact of history in Asia.
Despite occasional tensions and even wars, Asia has demonstrated a great
degree of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. At a times
there has been a dialogue of life among religions, a sense of
accommodation and a desire for mutual enrichment.
Despite the process of modernization and secularization, Asian
religions are showing vitality and a capacity for renewal, as evidenced
by movements towards reform. These groups are showing a greater social
concern now than in the past. There are also signs of a deep thirst for
spiritual values demonstrated by people in all walks of life, especially
by the youth. This phenomenon is also accompanied by the rise of new
A growing Asian consciousness
4. There is a growing sense among the Asian people of "being
Asian", resulting from a shared consciousness of Asia's rich and
varied cultures, common elements in a religious and cultural heritage, a
shared experience of colonialism, commonly held religious values, the
Asian heritage of wisdom contained in the books of the great religious
founders, wise men and sages, e.g. Confucius, and mutual economic
Though ancient, Asia is, at the same time, a very young continent.
Over 60% of its population is made up of young persons. They constitute
the hope and future of Asia. A new generation of skilled workers,
scientists, and technicians is growing daily and augurs well for Asia's
At various levels Asian peoples have begun to work together and
co-operate towards a better Asia. At the government level continental
groups, like the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the
South Asian Regional Conference (SARC) and other economic and cultural
associations of nations, are already contributing to the progress of the
peoples of Asia. At non-government levels many private initiatives are
being taken to improve the lot of the poor.
Even though the signs of the times are somewhat different from
country to country in Asia, common patterns are discernible everywhere.
All over Asia there is a growing awareness of the peoples' power
to change existing unjust structures of society. Work is being done for
greater social justice, for more participation in government and
industry, for equal opportunities in education and work as well as for a
just-share in the resources of the nation. People are becoming
increasingly conscious of their human dignity, human rights, legal
rights, etc.. Long dormant ethnic, social, cultural and minority peoples
are empowering themselves to become agents of change in their societies.
The Spirit of God is indeed at work in the transformation of society in
general, and in particular, in the people's yearning for the fullness of
More difficult to describe are other aspects related to the Asian
continent, i.e., socio-economic development, the political situation and
their resulting impact.
Trials and challenges
5. In the area of development, situations on the Asian continent are
so diverse that they defy classification under a single category. Some
countries in Asia are highly developed, while others are still
developing through practical economic policies. In some cases, the cost
of such development has been at the expense of traditional social and
religious values. However, some Asian countries have been able to adapt
these principles to Modern economics and political life without adverse
effects. Still others have been less fortunate in the area of
development and remain among some of the poorest countries of the world.
In the process of development, materialism and secularism are also
gaining ground, especially in urban areas. These ideologies which
undermine traditional social and religious values threaten Asia's great
cultures with incalculable damage.
Not to be underestimated in the rapid changes taking place on the
Asian continent is the impact of the mass media. Pope Paul VI,
seeing its far-reaching effects, described it as a most powerful means
of social transformation.2 Where the mass media has made many
positive contributions to development in many countries in Asia, the
beneficial effects can sometimes be outweighed by the fact that these
means are liable to be manipulated by those with vested interests. In
some cases, the media is con trolled by powerful political, economic and
ideological forces. Since the mass media can sometimes be a means of
cultural invasion, undermining the traditional religious and family
values of Asia, education and formation as to their use is very
Entwined with the positive elements affecting change on the Asian
continent are certain socio-economic concerns. Despite several decades
of independence, economic plans and a fair share of natural and human
resources, many Asian governments have failed to create even minimal
standards of human living conditions for their peoples. Reflecting on
this situation, Pope John Paul II remarked: "I am thinking of the
exploitation of workers, the exclusion of vast numbers of people from
the benefits of an advanced society, the lack of social assistance,
illiteracy, the use of drugs and other 'artificial paradises', the
spread of gambling and violence, the corruption to be found in great
cities, and the inhuman living conditions which millions of people are
forced to endure in the teeming outskirts of urban centres".4
Several Asian countries are caught up in the vicious circle of
malnutrition, under-nourishment, uncontrolled population explosion and
unplanned urbanization with all their accompanying social and moral
evils as well as political problems. In many Asian countries more than
fifty percent of the population lives under the poverty line. In Asia
there is a great number of the physically handicapped, the blind, the
deaf and those affected by communicable diseases.
Even though respect for women, closely-knit family ties, filial
piety, care of the aged and love for children are among the
deeply-rooted cultural values of Asia, some women are often treated as
second class human beings and suffer discrimination in many ways. The
organized prostitution of women, and even of children, is on the rise in
some parts of Asia. Such a tragic situation seems to be on the increase
in some countries, almost with the approval of society in general and
the sanction of religious and political powers.
At the same time, there are millions of Dalits
("marginalized people") who for centuries and millennia have
been kept economically, culturally and politically at the periphery of
society. Again, indigenous or tribal peoples all over Asia have from
time immemorial lived in social, cultural and political isolation from
the majority population. However, at the national, regional and
international levels these people are gaining increasing recognition.5
The political situation
6. The political situation on the Asian continent is as varied as its
social and economic dimensions. Many ideological hues make up the
political spectrum of Asia. There are theocratic forms of government
with an official state religion and legal systems which leave little
space for religious freedom. Some countries, though not openly declared
theocratic, reduce minorities in everyday life to the level of second
class citizens with little safeguard for their fundamental human rights.
In other countries in Asia, religious freedom is denied. At times,
believers ' this situation are looked upon as traitors of their country;
they undergo persecution and are driven underground. Genocide, large
scale dislocation of peoples, imposition of alien culture and rule, and
elimination or suppression of all dissident and critical voices have
been exercised by some governments. In some cases, this sad state
continues. The above political situation is a major hindrance to the
integral human development of the person as Pope John Paul II affirms:
"It hinders integral human development by demanding a break with
traditions, often violently imposed, and subject large numbers of
peoples to great suffering, including hunger, through unrealistic
economic plans and misguided priorities, such as costly armaments".6
At the same time, many countries in Asia are characterized by endemic
corruption at all levels of government and society. As a result, people
seem to be helpless even to rise up against corrupt politicians,
judiciary officials, administrators and bureaucrats. The situation is
further complicated by divisions among people. In many cases,
multinational and national organizations, and agencies and industrial
concerns tend to join hands to create sectional and one-sided progress
whose benefits do not reach the poor. Thus the poor remain in their
poverty or become even poorer.
The above factors inevitably lead to situations of conflict as
witnessed in Asia on the regional, national and international levels.
These conflicts have taken ethnic, religious, political and economic
forms. All these conflicts hinder the integral development and progress
of peoples. The most affected by them are the poor. In Asia such
struggles have resulted in millions of migrant peoples, workers,
refugees and those seeking asylum. These persons in search for survival
and opportunities in life are often faced with hostility, discrimination
and an uncertain future. Their family ties are often broken, thus
creating further moral and social problems.
Furthermore, unplanned and uncontrolled development in many countries
in Asia is leading to ecological disaster. Greedy and wasteful
exploitation of natural resources, by the powerful in collusion with governments,
bureaucrats, industrial-military complexes are depleting the precious
natural resources on which the present and the future generations
Many Asian countries are saddled with the heavy burden of an
international debt which siphons off their national income into debt
servicing. Between poor economic management, corruption and debt
servicing little is left for national economic growth or badly needed
Globalization of the economy and the process of modernization do not
always take into account the primary needs of the people. In the process
the poor are again left behind on the road to a more egalitarian
society. Such a situation leads also to cultural, social and demographic
Redemption in Jesus
7. Every one of Asia's realities are the living situations and
contexts in which the Church's salvific mission is to be carried out. It
is into this very Asia - with its resources, strengths and
challenges - that the disciples of Jesus Christ are sent so that
all peoples of Asia may have life and have, it in all its
fullness, i.e., in both its horizontal and transcendent dimensions. As
disciples of Jesus Christ, the members of the Church approach the Asian
situation with the power which comes from the Cross of Christ. Jesus
Christ has carried the burdens of all the peoples of all times. He has
redeemed and sanctified them for the salvation of all. This is the
source of power and inspiration for the Church. In a humble way, the
Church wants to take upon herself the burdens of Asia and carry them
along with her brothers and sisters and have them redeemed in Jesus
Christ through his saving Death and Resurrection.
The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ fills the hearts of his
disciples in Asia with hope and strength to renew themselves and,
thereby, the Asian continent. The Church in Asia, although numerically a
"small flock", wants to make the realities, potentialities and
hopes of Asia her own.7 God sent his Son into the world so
that it may have life. Part of that "world" is Asia where he
continues to be present: "The Son is always present in the history
of humanity as Redeemer. Redemption pervades all human history, even
before Christ, and prepares its eschatological future. It is the light
that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (cf.
Jn 1:5). The power of Christ's Cross and Resurrection is greater than
any evil which man could or should fear".8
Evangelization in Asia
Christianity in Asia
8. St Paul wrote to the Christians of Gallatin: "But when the
time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under
the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might
receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). It was Asia where Jesus
Christ was born in the flesh. It was Asia where he preached the Good
News, suffered, died, rose again, breathed the Holy Spirit upon his
disciples and sent them to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Good
News and gather together communities of believers.
The history of evangelization began in Jerusalem on the day of
Pentecost. The first Christian community was formed there. From
Jerusalem it spread to Antioch. From then on, it spread to the West and
to the East. Some of the early Councils were held in Asia. Several of
the great Fathers of the Church were Asians. Most of the earliest
liturgical traditions, families and patriarchates have their origins in
Asia. It was in Asia where Peter, James, John and the other Apostles of
Jesus preached the Gospel and founded the first Churches, such as the
Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch.
According to tradition Mesopotamia and Babylonia were evangelized by
the Apostles Bartholomew and Thomas. A similar tradition holds that
after establishing the Church of Babylonia (Chaldea) Bartholomew took
the land route to the northwest of India and preached the Gospel there.
The Apostle Thomas took the sea route to South India and founded the
Church on the Malabar coast around the year 50 A.D.
The tradition that St Thomas the Apostle founded the Christian
community of the Malabar coast in South India is far more convincing
than the tradition St Bartholomew. Though there is no absolutely
convincing historical evidence, the existence of a Christian community
there by the end of the first century, argues favourably for its
historicity. Furthermore, their liturgy, liturgical language, Church
organization, theology and spirituality were largely influenced by the
9. Syrian Christianity was a missionary movement that spread not only
into South Asia, but also across Central Asia as far as China. Between
the fourth century and the seventh century, lighting against many
geographical and political obstacles, the missionaries carried the
Gospel to the vast area of Turkistan, Mongolia and China. It was indeed
a "Church on fire" with missionary zeal. The "Hsianfu
tablet", a stone monument discovered in 1625 in northern China with
Chinese and Syriac writings, gives an account of the spread of
Christianity in China by East Syrian missionaries.
Most of these early missionaries and Bishops were monks; others were
merchants and ordinary Christians. They made use of the Bible to educate
people. They used Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist symbols to express
their Christian faith and thus made the Christian message intelligible
to people in their own cultures.
In the 13th century an attempt at evangelizing Asia was made by the
Franciscans. The most outstanding missionary of this period was John of
Montecorvino in China. He was succeeded by Giovanni de Marignoli who
passed through India and established some Christian communities there.
Even though the communities founded by the Franciscans eventually died
out due to persecutions, the heroism of the missionaries as well as
their love for Jesus Christ and for the people are worthy of admiration
and a source of inspiration.
mission in Asia: 16th-18th centuries
Significant missionary testimony
10. In the 13th century, navigators, explorers, mercenaries,
merchants, traders and trading companies were driven by the spirit of
exploration, a taste for adventure and profit seeking. Beginning with
Marco Polo and with Vasco da Gama (1498) there started a long period of
colonial expansion that brought most countries of Asia under the
colonial rule of Portugal, Spain, Holland, France or England. This was
also a period of great missionary undertakings. In the wake of colonial
expansion and the establishment of trading centres in Asia, missionaries
began to arrive in several parts of Asia. Between 1510 and 1640,
Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites and Theatines
all established houses in Asia.
St Francis Xavier stands out as the greatest of Modern missionaries.
Within a short span of 10 years he founded Churches along the western
coast of India from Goa to Cape Comorin, in Sri Lanka, Malacca and
finally in Japan. In each place he adopted methods unique to each
situation and the conditions of the people. However, the unchangeable
characteristics of his transparent holiness, his life of prayer, his
constant catechesis and untiring pastoral activity stand out as reasons
for his success as a missionary.
The missionary trail blazed by Francis Xavier was followed in Asia by
equally brilliant, teamed and saintly missionaries in the 16th to 18th
centuries. Thus, in China and Japan Alexander Valignano, Matteo Ricci,
Ferdinand Verbiest, Adam Schall, Bento de Gomes and Vincent Lebbe tried
to dialogue with the cultures and religions of these countries and
inculturate the Gospel, liturgy and theological language in a manner
intelligible to the people. Similar efforts were made in India by
equally great missionaries, such as Robert de Nobili, Constant Beschi
and John de Britto, who sought to apply Christianity to the caste system
prevalent in India. Something similar was done by Alexander
Rhodes in Viet Nam.
Other major efforts at evangelization were those of Rudolf Aquaviva.
and his companions who sought to focus their work on the Moghul court of
Akbar. Though they failed, their significance for the future of mission
cannot be denied. The efforts of Joseph Vaz, an Indian Oratorian priest,
known as the Apostle of Sri Lanka was responsible to a great extent for
the establishment of the Catholic faith there, despite the persecutions
by the Dutch colonizers. His holiness and originality of missionary
methods were the secret of his success.
The evangelization of Korea was begun by Peter Li, a layman, and his
companions. Hence, Christianity in Korea has the distinction of being
founded by the laity. Since that time, the laity have played a very
important role in evangelizing the Korean people. Thousands of men,
women and children bore witness to their faith through martyrdom during
intermittent persecutions of 18th and 19th centuries. Similarly, faith
in Japan was kept alive by the laity for considerably long periods
throughout the persecutions of 17th-19th centuries. Similar examples of
heroism and martyrdom are numerous even today in Korea and other
countries under persecution.
The major success story of evangelization in Asia during this period
is that of the Philippines. The credit for this should primarily go to
the Spanish missionaries. Today, the Philippines is the only
predominantly Catholic country in Asia, accounting for nearly half the
Catholic population of Asia.
Difficulties and setbacks in mission
11. Modern missionary efforts in Asia, like any other human
undertaking, had their failures and setbacks. Space prohibits entering
into details or descriptions of the merits and demerits of the various
events and controversies. Nor can this be the place for a proper
evaluation, of evangelization in the whole of Asia. This must be done by
each local Church in Asia. But in a presentation of this type, certain
events deserve mention.
In the first place, the Padroado system - the patronage of the
mission by the Portuguese government and Sovereign - with its rights
regarding the erection of Dioceses and ecclesiastical appointments,
though initially well-intentioned, turned out to be more a hindrance
than a help for the free development of the missionary efforts in
various parts of Asia. The condemnation of the bold missionary efforts
at inculturation, adaptation and dialogue also put an end to a very
The suppression of the Society of Jesus for about 40 years deprived
the young Christian communities in Asia of pastoral care for a long
period of time and greatly hindered the progress of evangelization.
Sometimes, rivalries among missionary institutes, religious orders and
nationalistic tendencies also proved to be a hindrance to the progress
of mission as the recommendations of Pope Benedict XV clearly stated.9
Similarly, the hesitation by some missionaries to promote native clergy
in the early centuries of mission in Asia did not help the progress of
The imposition of Latin Church jurisdiction on the Church of St
Thomas Christians in South India led to their unhappy division into
several Churches and caused tensions between the Latin Church and the
Syro-Malabar Church. These inter-Church divisions and tensions - which
in some cases still continue have adversely affected the progress of
mission in India and elsewhere.
The great mission century
12. For various reasons, the first period of Christian mission seemed
to end, except for the Philippines, in near total failure.
However, after the 16th-18th century, a new missionary awakening and
enthusiasm came about in Asia and Europe. Many
"missionary-minded" Religious Congregations sprang up
in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. Several of these
Congregations are still at work in Asia. During this same period, a
number of native Religious Congregations of men and women established
themselves in Asia, particularly in India and the Philippines.
During the 19th century, for the first time in the history of the
missions, women ventured out into distant lands in Asia to bear witness
to Christ and his Gospel and to serve the poor, orphans, lepers, the
handicapped, etc. They also became a very essential part of mission in
Asia, especially in the preparation of catechumens and the education of
children. Their efforts and witness have been crucial in the progress of
evangelization in Asia.
Many factors, such as great distances, lack of knowledge of so many
local languages and dialects, customs of people, etc., led to the
formation and deployment of catechists in evangelization work. A great
part of the success of mission in Asia must be attributed to their
efforts. Many of them have been shining examples of Christian life and
A number of seminaries specifically geared to the formation of
missionaries were founded in both Europe and Asia. The first of these
was the Seminary of Propaganda Fide, established in 1628 in Rome.
In 1893, the seminary of Kandi (Sri Lanka) came into being to serve
South Asia. The first Jesuit novitiate was opened in India in 1847. The
seminary of Penang in Malaysia began receiving students in the first
half of 19th century.
Towards the end of the 19th century further progress in
evangelization work was made in several parts of Asia. During this
period, Constant Lievens and his Jesuit companions were responsible for
the mass conversion of the Adivasis of the Chotanagpur region in central
India. This young Church now numbers about two million Catholics.
13. The re-establishment of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy by Pope Leo
XIII was an important event in the life of the Church both in and
outside India, because a very large number of missionaries and religious
working in the Latin Dioceses of India come from this Church. Many
priests and religious working in Asian and African countries are also
from this Church. Furthermore, there are large numbers of migrant
workers from this Church all over India and the Gulf States.
This period in the history of Christian mission in Asia coincides
with independence movements all over Asia. In most Asian countries the
Church in this period grew in numbers, in some places into a minority
with significant influence. A widespread commitment in these Churches
has been made to education, development of health programmes and
The Church in Indonesia, which began with the apostolate of St
Francis Xavier, has made impressive progress during the last hundred
years because of the significant missionary efforts of the Divine Word
Fathers. Indonesia has a large number of well educated and well formed
laity, a fine network of schools, universities and a press which
commands much attention in the country.
South Korea has also witnessed an extraordinary conversion movement
to the Church during the last few decades from every stratum of society.
Though the movement has decelerated, it still continues. A similar
conversion movement is taking place in South Viet Nam, despite the
Communist take-over of the South since 1975.
In Northeast India, during the last hundred years, the conversion
movement, which started with the arrival of the first Salvatorian
missionaries, has been carried on, mostly by the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Today, there are about one million Christians, and their number is
The communist take-over of China led to renewed persecutions and the
exodus of many Catholics from the mainland to Taiwan and elsewhere. A
similar large scale exodus has taken place from North Korea to South
Korea and from North Viet Nam to South Viet Nam. In Kampuchea, most
Catholics perished in the appalling genocide under the Khmer Rouge
According to estimates, there are in the Gulf States nearly a million
Catholic migrant workers, mostly from India and the Philippines. This
group's religious freedom is severely restricted.
The post-conciliar years have been marked by a dramatic change in the
understanding of mission, its methods and most of all its attitudes. The
theological uncertainties of Vatican II are seen in the missiological
uncertainties. These are in turn reflected in the actual mission field.
Is mission the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the gathering together
of Christian communities? Is it the promotion of the Kingdom of God and
its values of justice and peace? Is it inculturation? Is it human
promotion and liberation? And if all these together, where is the
emphasis to be placed? Other theological and Christological questions,
such as the salvation of the followers of other religions and their
relationship to Jesus Christ and his Church, are now being discussed by
missiologists and missionaries.
Lessons learned from
the history of mission in Asia
14. The history of Catholic mission in Asia would be incomplete
without briefly mentioning the contribution of the Vatican's
Congregation of Propaganda Fide, now called the Congregation for
the Evangelization of Peoples. For nearly five centuries of
evangelization in Asia, Propaganda Fide has consistently
supported the promotion of native clergy through its various documents,
decrees and recommendations. It has encouraged the appointment of native
clergy as Bishops and the creation of many new Dioceses. It has always
supported the establishment of seminaries and religious congregations.
It was also this same Congregation which requested religious
congregations to take up mission territories for evangelization.
Many Popes have taken a personal interest in evangelization work in
Asia. This is reflected especially in a series of missionary encyclicals
and documents on the theology of mission, its methods, ecumenical
relations, relationship of Christianity with world religions,
relationship between mission and social justice, human development,
liberation and promotion.11 The first of these was Maximum
illud which has been called the magna carta of Modern
Catholic mission, Fidei donum of Pius XII has inspired the growth
of mission societies in Asia and the missionary movement from these
young Churches to other countries.
The Church's mission and its missionary activity are the work of the
Spirit, who is its transcendent agent.12 At the same time, it
is also a human enterprise. Like any other human enterprise it has had
its limitations and failures. Hence, mission is semper riformanda, namely,
to be always renewed and reformulated to suit the times and the needs of
peoples. Such a process requires an examination of conscience,
repentance for failures of the past and renewal for the mission of
Christ in the third millennium. It must also thank God for what has been
accomplished by missionaries in the past, both foreign and local.
With a few exceptions, the Church in Asia is mostly the result
of the heroic sacrifices, holiness and zeal of the missionaries of the
past. Today, in nearly all the countries of Asia the Church is present
and is able to give witness to Jesus Christ. The young Churches of Asia
have come of age with their own hierarchy, clergy, religious and laity.
They have also the necessary structures, such as seminaries, formation
centres, pastoral centres, theological faculties, theological reviews,
qualified formation and teaching personnel. They have a significant
presence in the mass media with a good number of weekly newspapers; in
some countries, even daily newspapers. There is a relatively good number
of vocations to the various ministries in the Church. Continental
structures for Asian Bishops, like the Federation of Asian Bishops'
Conferences (FABC), and others for the Religious in Asia, such as the
Asian Meeting of Religious (AMOR), bring the particular Churches in Asia
together and help co-ordinate their missionary and pastoral activities.
Positive signs for the future
15. Vatican II has been, and still is, a great source of
renewal in the Particular Churches in Asia. Major ecclesial
events in Asia, such as International Eucharistic congresses and the
visits of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, have been significant
occurrences which have stimulated the growth of the Church in Asia.
There are also many positive signs for mission in Asia. Greater
attention is being given today to the laity and their formation. This
means also that the local Churches are becoming more aware of their
missionary vocation and responsibility. Many new areas of mission, such
as Ashram life, are undergoing experimentation. Thus, a good number of
Ashrams have sprung up in Asia especially in India, Japan and the
Philippines, under various names and structures. They have become
centres of dialogue, inculturation, Asian spirituality, contemplation,
God-experience, sharing of spiritual experiences and contact with
followers of other religions. The Particular Churches in Asia are now
deeply involved in the work of human promotion and liberation. They
support refugees, migrants, oppressed classes, tribals and the landless.
They promote and defend the legal rights of minorities and the
marginalized as part of the mission of the Church.
One important sign that the local Churches are now becoming
"mission-sending" Churches, instead of being exclusively or
mostly "mission-receiving" Churches, is the emergence of new
Asian Mission Societies. In the first four centuries of mission in Asia,
the agents of mission were mostly members of religious orders,
congregations and missionary institutes. Today the local Churches of
Asia have a number of Asian missionary institutes. The Philippines
Foreign Mission Society, the St Thomas Missionary Society and the
Heralds of the Good News in India, the Korean Mission Society, and the
Thai Mission Society are examples of local Churches becoming
The Asian Church, though a "little flock", is called to be
leaven among the people of other religious and secular traditions. Its
source of inspiration and power is the Crucified-Risen Lord and the gift
of his Holy Spirit. Every Asian reality is a challenge and opportunity
to be transformed by the Church's mission of love and service to life in
all its fullness.
God's salvific design in
The Spirit of God in creation
16. The whole of creation has its origin in God. The sacred writer
rightly begins his statement on creation with the words: "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1: 1). It is
not so much the chronology of the universe nor the history of humankind
that he had in mind as the theology and eschatology of all things as the
basis for a progressive salvific self-revelation and self-communication
of God to humanity. Though God made all things in order to share his
glory, truth, goodness and harmony with all creatures, he did so in a
unique manner with humanity. This divine action is a result of God's
infinite wisdom and goodness: "The eternal Father, in accordance
with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and
goodness, created the whole universe, and chose to raise up men to share
in his own divine life".13 It is said that God's glory
is the purpose of creation. But in reality, divine glory consists in
sharing his life with humanity. St Irenaeus said: "God's glory is
the person fully alive".14 A line from St Bonaventure
also aptly states the fact: "God created all things not to increase
His glory and goodness, but to manifest them and to communicate
them".15 The ultimate purpose of creation is God's
glory, in so far as it is shared by humans, so that God may be all in
The Genesis account of the creation of the universe and man serves as
an introduction to the Scriptures in order to express and define the
essential religious dimensions of the human person, i.e., the
individual's origin, destiny, nature, transcendent image, existential
need for God to be truly human, vocation to self-realization in God,
non-submission to God, and the essential goodness of all creatures, the
mystery of sin and evil in the world, the astounding drama of religious
and moral ignorance, man's rejection of God's salvific plan, the origin
of pain, suffering and death, and the person's longing for the fullness
of life, truth and harmony. 16 The first chapters of Genesis
are indeed high drama as well as profound theological, spiritual and
anthropological statements which explain the origin of humanity, its
present predicament and its ultimate vocation.
Touched by the
transcendent Spirit of God
A Christian anthropology
17. All creative and salvific activity in the world flows from the
One God. It is only by appropriation that one particular activity is
applied, in the light of New Testament revelation, to one of the Three
Divine Persons. Hence, wherever the Spirit of God is present, it is
understood that the Logos is also present.
All persons are essentially and existentially touched by the
transcendent Spirit of God. They are in constant search, questioning
about and yearning for the fullness of life. The Spirit of God urges
them on and leads them to communion with him. In this regard Pope John
Paul II states: "The Spirit, therefore, is at very source of man's
existential and religious questioning, a questioning which is occasioned
not only by contingent situations but by the very structure of his
The Spirit of God, therefore, is shown to be active at the very
beginning of creation, drawing order, harmony and beauty out of chaos
(cf. Gen 1:1ff). The area of his activity is the whole of creation,
particularly the human family. The specific and historical manifestation
of the Spirit's salvific activity in Israel and in the Christian
dispensation only continues and perfects the initial creative-salvific
work.18 The Spirit has been sowing the seeds of salvific
truth and grace among all peoples, their cultures, philosophies and
religions as Vatican II teaches in the following words: "He
generously pours out, and never ceases to pour out, his divine goodness,
so that he who is creator of all things might at last become 'all in
The heart's deep yearnings
18. The salvific activity of the Spirit is in some manner present in
the various religions and philosophies on the Asian continent through
which peoples of all faiths have found their way to God. The Church
wants to respect and build on this saving presence of the Spirit of God
among the peoples of Asia. In this regard, Pope John Paul II has stated:
"The Church's relationship with other religions is dictated by
twofold respect: 'Respect for man in his quest for answers to the
deepest questions of life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in
The yearning and search for wholeness, liberation and fullness of
life has been no better expressed than in some of the traditional
prayers so familiar to Asians. Pope Paul VI quoted one of these prayers
while on a visit to the Asian continent:
From the unreal, lead me to the real;
from darkness, lead me to the light;
from death, lead me to immortality (Br. 1, 3, 28) .21
The human yearning for life and wholeness, love and communion makes
it possible for persons to accept God's self-communication not only in
creation but also in history, when God chooses to reveal and communicate
himself in Christ as their Way, Truth and Life (cf. Jn 14:6).
Man's longing for God and the fullness of life is constantly
frustrated by sin. Though created in God's image, persons do not always
acknowledge and love their creator and obey his dictates imprinted on
their consciences. The account of original sin illustrates the presence
of evil in some form in the world from the very beginning, some radical
disharmony, a rupture or existential deviation, some culpable ignorance
in humanity from its origin and an inexplicable insubordination to God's
God's salvific plan in
God's Spirit at work
19. Despite the presence of sin, recognized as the root cause of
humanity's present condition, persons are not left without the rays of
God's truth and saving grace: "... he himself gives all men life
and breath and every other gift".22 "In him we live
and move and have our being ... we are his offspring" (Acts
17:25-28). Thus, Vatican II teaches: "He has never ceased to take
care of the human race, so as to give eternal life to those who
perseveringly do good in search of salvation".23 The
seeds of the Word hidden among nations or manifestly known, the
spiritual riches he has given to nations,24 and elements of
truth and grace he has bestowed on peoples25 are all means of
salvation to all peoples. It is through these that the Spirit of God
leads them to salvation. The saving revelation and salvation of God did
not remain a "vague and uncertain family of religious truths,
originally from God, but sojourning without the sanction of miracle, or
a definite home, as pilgrims up and down the world ...".26
It did not remain a hidden mystery. It finds a concrete expression in
the on-going history of salvation. The same Spirit of God at work in
creation and in the "sinful" world of men and women revealed
Jesus Christ, when he came. Such salvific revelation is not an
accidental addition to the salvific work of the Spirit of God in the
world, but its fulfillment and its authentication. Sin could not forever
thwart God's plan of creating human beings in his own image. God
continued his creative work until the new "Adam", Jesus Christ
was revealed to humankind.
The mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is to be situated in the
context of the universal salvific will of God at work in the world from
the beginning. Thus, the Fathers of the Church spoke of the Spirit
preceding, accompanying and following the mission of Jesus Christ in
history. The Spirit precedes, accompanies, and follows the mission of
Jesus, because there is only one saving design, namely, participation in
the trinitarian life of God. The Father began this saving design already
in creation through the mission of the Spirit and the Logos and
continued it in the mission of Jesus Christ which was accompanied by the
The Incarnation of the Son took place under the power of the Holy
Spirit (cf. Mt 1: 18). Jesus is anointed with the Spirit of God in the
river Jordan, and led into his desert experience (cf. Mk 1:10-12). Jesus
is anointed by the Spirit and begins his saving ministry of word and
deed in the power of the Spirit (cf. Lk 4:14-18). The public ministry of
proclaiming the reign of God, teaching, healing and restoring wholeness
and life to those who were sick was done under the power of the Spirit.
Acts states: "You know... the word which was proclaimed throughout
all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached:
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power;
how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the
devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:37-38).
The salvific revelation of God finds its fulfillment in the Death and
Resurrection of Jesus Christ. His Death on the cross was a sacrifice
offered up in the Spirit as the letter to the Hebrews tells us:
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal
Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience
from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb 9:14).
The mission of Jesus and the Spirit
20. One of the effects of the life and saving death of Jesus was the
giving of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. On the day of his
Resurrection, Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples and breathed the
Holy Spirit upon them saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn
20:22). From the day of Pentecost, the Spirit carries on the saving work
of Jesus in the Church. The Spirit was poured out upon the disciples to
continue the saving work of Jesus, making present his word and his
saving death-resurrection in the Church's sacraments so that people at
all times and in all places could participate in Jesus' Paschal Mystery.
The Spirit's task is to make all peoples into the image of Jesus Christ
in his obedience to the Father's will, and thus recreate the
image of God in persons so that they can find the fullness of communion
In this, there is a salvific cycle and not salvific parallels: the
Father sending the Logos and the Spirit into creation and then
into Israel; the same Spirit accompanying the life and
death-resurrection of Jesus; and Jesus, in turn, sending the same Spirit
into his disciples in a definitive salvific act. The Spirit is at work
in the proclamation of Jesus Christ, recreating each person in the
likeness of Jesus Christ so that all may share in the life of the
Father, the Son and the Spirit.
The presence of the Spirit in creation and human history was not an
end in itself, isolated from the mission of Jesus Christ. The salvific
presence of the Spirit in humanity was to lead all peoples into the full
participation of the life of God in Jesus Christ his Son. All divine
activity - creative, salvific, and sanctifying - is always the activity
of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Spirit. It is only by
way of appropriation that a particular activity can be said to be
carried out by one person of the Trinity or another. Thus, wherever the
Spirit is present, the Logos is also present. But this secret,
saving presence is now made manifest in Jesus Christ and his Church as
St Paul states: "The mystery hidden for ages and generations, but
now made manifest to the saints" (Col 1:26). As minister in God's
divine plan, St Paul was to preach so "that through the Church the
manifold wisdom of God might now be made known..." (Eph 3:10).
The Fathers of the Church repudiated a division of the economy of
salvation into three epochs, and under the direction of one of the
divine persons. All three are involved, they asserted, in each and every
divine operation.27 It can be concluded that the salvific
presence of the Spirit with his manifold gifts among the peoples of Asia
is meant to lead all to Jesus Christ and to be made into his image.
Through the Spirit to Christ the fullness of life
21. On the one hand, there can be rejoicing at whatever saving truth
and grace the Spirit has bestowed on Asian peoples in their deep sense
of religion, philosophies and cultures, as John Paul II says:
"Every form of the Spirit's presence is to be welcomed with respect
and gratitude ...".28 These manifestations of the Spirit
are approached with great respect. On the other hand, it must be
admitted that the Spirit is present in all peoples for the purpose of
leading them to Jesus Christ. As a result, the Church has proclaimed
Jesus Christ - and continues to do so - so that all the peoples of Asia
might receive from him the fullness of the Spirit and arrive at the
fullness of salvation, which is participation in the life the
The mission of the Logos and the Spirit in the history of
humanity and its religions, far from nullifying or rendering the mission
of Jesus Christ in any way marginal, is precisely to lead to Jesus
Christ. Pope John Paul II says as much in the following words: "He
(the Spirit) therefore is not an alternative to Christ, nor does he fill
a sort of void which is sometimes suggested as existing between Christ
and the Logos".29 The "seeds of the Word" sown
by the Spirit become ripe for eternal life through the Word incarnate,
crucified and risen. The mission of the Spirit and the Word in history
constitute one, single mission. The universal salvific will of God and
the particular salvific will of God revealed in Jesus Christ complement
each other. If the universal were not there, human beings would not be
able to receive the particular; and if the particular were not there,
the general would have no substance or credibility.
The universal plan of God for salvation and wholeness of life takes a
concrete shape and human form in the Incarnation of his Son,
Jesus Christ. Vatican II had this in mind when it declared: "The
universal plan of God for the salvation of mankind is not carried out
solely in a secret manner, as it were, in the minds of men, nor by the
efforts, even religious, through which they in many ways seek God in an
attempt to touch him and find him ... their efforts need to be
enlightened and corrected ... God decided to enter into the history of
mankind in a new and definitive manner, by sending his own Son in human
All this is very true of the Asian situation. That is why the Church
in Asia has and wants to proclaim Jesus Christ to her brothers and
sisters on the continent so that they may be enriched by the
inexhaustible. riches of Jesus Christ. In turn, the Church shall be
enriched by the profound seeds of truth and goodness present among
them through dialogue. In this regard, Pope John Paul II has this to
say: "Indeed, it is always the Spirit who is at work, both when he
gives life to the Church and impels her to proclaim Christ, and when he
implants and develops his gifts in all individuals and peoples, guiding
the Church to discover these gifts, foster them and receive them through
Jesus Christ: God's good
news of salvation to all
The person of Christ
Fulfillment and fullness of life
22. Jesus Christ is God's good news of salvation to the whole world.
Faith teaches that God sent him into the world to save humanity and that
he is truly the Son of God. He came so that all peoples may have
life, and have it in all its abundance. He came from God; but he also
came from the Asian continent. He experienced Asian conditions and
realities. He was born poor in a stable. He was a refugee in Egypt. His
life was constantly threatened from its very beginning. He lived by the
work of his hands. He went about doing good. He was an itinerant
messenger of God, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, a reign of peace
between God and all human beings.
Faith proclaims that Jesus Christ is the fullness of life, truth and
goodness. All the hopes and longings of the human heart find fulfillment
in him. All spiritual yearning for healing and wholeness, freedom and
justice, human dignity and love find their fulfillment in him. Equally
in him are fulfilled the religious quest and longing for final
liberation, fulfillment and freedom from all types of ignorance,
liberation from sin and freedom from all selfishness which is the source
of all sin and evil in the world. He attained all these things through
his perfect gift of himself to God the Father in his kenosis or
"emptying of self" in obedience even unto death. The
Resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee that God the Father has put his
seal upon the mission of Jesus Christ to humankind, a mission of
redemption and salvation to all peoples of the world. Pope John Paul II
teaches us: "In this definitive Word of his revelation, God has
made himself known in the fullest possible way. He has revealed to
mankind who he is. This definitive 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".32
Jesus Christ is not only the fullness of the revelation of God, but
also the fullness of the revelation for each person. The fullness of the
divinity was pleased to dwell in him as Paul says: "For in him all
the fullness God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to
himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the
blood of his cross" (Col 1:19-20). In him humanity reaches it
highest possible expression. Jesus Christ is the new, definitive and
perfect definition of what each person is. In this sense, he is the
fullness of the revelation of man, as Vatican II has very aptly put it:
"Such is the nature and the greatness of the mystery of man as
enlightened for the faithful by the Christian revelation. It is
therefore through Christ and in Christ, that light is thrown on the
riddle of suffering and death which, apart from his Gospel, overwhelms
us ".33 Pope John Paul II reiterates the fact that the
definitive meaning of man becomes clear in the Person of Christ through
his Death and Resurrection: "Christ the Redeemer fully reveals man
to himself ... The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly ...
must draw near to Christ.... The Redemption that took place through the
Cross has definitively restored to man his dignity and given back
meaning to his life".34
Jesus Christ: one and only saviour
23. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent by the Father to bring life
and wholeness to humanity. The traditional term for this act is
"redemption". Jesus is God's wisdom for human salvation as
Paul tells us: "… but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling
block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both
Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1
According to Christian revelation, Jesus Christ is the way, the truth
and the life. In other words, all salvation is through him and in him.
He alone mediates it. This need not be an obstacle to other ways of
mediating salvation: "Christ's one, universal mediation, far from
being an obstacle on the journey towards God, is the way established by
God himself...".35 The mediation of salvation by Jesus
Christ does not exclude that other forms of mediation share, in
different ways and degrees, in his one and only mediation. Instead, from
this perspective they acquire a new meaning and value. It must be
stated, however, that they are not a mediation parallel or complementary
Various contemporary Christologies have a positive value: they offer
assistance in re-reading the Gospels and the New Testament and in
applying them to the present. These Christologies seek to take into
account the social implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where
such re-reading of the Gospel might help to shake off any
spiritual and social lethargy, self-satisfaction or complacency in
presenting the person of Christ, the re-writing of the Gospels
based on social, political and cultural agendas would be an injustice to
the faith. History teaches that such re-readings are soon discarded with
the ideologies that inspire them. The Gospels need to be re-read with
the Apostles, the early Church, the Magisterium of the Church, the
cultures and peoples of the Asian continent and never unilaterally.
The above problem does exist in Asia today as the Federation of Asian
Bishops' Conferences acknowledges in its documents. For example, the
introduction to the book For all the Peoples of Asia: Federation of
Asian Bishops' Conferences Documents from 1970 to 1991 says that it
is no secret that radical questions have been raised about the
uniqueness of Jesus Christ in the history of salvation and the so
called "myth of Christian uniqueness".37 This has
been re-stated recently in the Fifth Plenary Assembly of FABC:
"These theologians may be in the minority, but they are a
vociferous minority. The inner inspiration, the driving force, the
motivation for Christian mission - which are inseparably connected with
the affirmation of the uniqueness and centrality of Christ as Saviour -
must be safeguarded".38
Adapting the Christian faith to the cultures of Asia is not to mean
proclaiming a partial Jesus Christ or a Jesus Christ reduced to human
and cultural requirements. While Asian Christologies must interpret
Jesus Christ for Asians, as has been done by others during the 20
centuries of the Church's existence, all Christologies must be measured
against the faith of the Apostles, the apostolic Church and the
testimony of the New Testament. No sectarian or partial Christology can
do justice to the true Jesus Christ of the Gospels. He is more than a
social reformer, a political liberator, master of a spirituality,
champion of human rights, or saviour of the marginalized.
Jesus Christ: the Church's gift to Asia
24. God's offer of salvation is not a set of doctrines, however
lofty, nor a code of ascetical principles. It does not arise from
the worship which human beings offer to God. It is a unique gift from
God because it is the person of Jesus himself. In him divinity and
humanity meet in a salvific union. He accomplishes salvation in himself,
and thus accomplishes salvation in his person. In fact, St Paul
explicitly states: "... Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our
righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30).
The Church's faith in Jesus Christ is born of her experience of the
Risen Lord and the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In
this way, hers is a faith in a Trinitarian God as witnessed by the
earliest tradition of the Church and the Scriptures. It is not the
result of a theological-christological journey necessitated by
Hellenistic philosophy or any later philosophies. The formulation of
this experience into credal formulas and dogmatic propositions took a
long time, but the constant point of reference was apostolic tradition
and the Scriptures.
The Church cannot abandon her faith in Jesus Christ for the sake of a
false inculturation or irenicism, despite the fact that Asia has such a
wide variety of cultures and religions. If she did, the Church would not
be true to herself. It must be admitted that a Trinitarian faith may
indeed be a stumbling block to cultures which are so diverse. Yet, if
this faith is lived in love, service and humility, it will receive
increasing acceptance, as it has at all times in the history of
evangelization. This lays a heavy responsibility on Church leaders that
they become truly Christ-like in their lives. A life of witness wins
hearts, not theoretical doctrines.
By his life, words, Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus revealed
also what human redemption salvation means and how it is to be attained.
Therefore, the event of Jesus Christ has a universal application beyond
the borders of the Church. This is the reason why the Church wants to
proclaim Jesus Christ to the world: because she believes that in him
human salvation finds its fulfillment and through him salvation comes to
Asia's multi-cultural and multi-religious society is looking for the
truly human, for total liberation from all oppressive forces and for
wholeness of life. Jesus Christ is the One who offers all these and
more. Asian peoples have always welcomed saints, sages and seers who
brought them the message of truth and life. There is no doubt that Asia
will increasingly welcome Jesus Christ provided that the Church's
members seek to become men and women of God who have seen and touched
what they proclaim as St John put it: "That which was from the
beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which
we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of
life ... we ... proclaim to you ..." (1 Jn 1:1-2).
This work of proclamation is done not from any earthly motive, but to
share with others the new life which Jesus brought and the fellowship
enjoyed in the Church. The Church seeks to proclaim Christ because she
has experienced God's saving love. John states again, "For God so
loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him
should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). The Church does
this because she wants to share with everyone the fellowship she enjoys
with the Triune God: "... that which we have seen and heard we proclaim
also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1:3).
Such fellowship will only add to - and not in any way take away - Asian
Salvation offered to all
25. Salvation in Jesus Christ is offered to all. It is not the
privilege of any particular group of people, because salvation comes
from God and is gratuitously given. Jesus sent his disciples forth with
the command to proclaim it to all peoples: "Go, therefore, and make
disciples of all nations" (Matt 28:19). Wherever human beings
accept it in their hearts in obedience to God's law and live it in
charity, somehow they participate in Jesus' obedience and love. While
God wills that all peoples come to the knowledge of his Son through
faith and baptism, He also wills that his salvation not be withheld from
those who do not know him, through no fault of their own, because of
historical and cultural reasons. He offers to all the possibility of
being made partners, in His Paschal Mystery.39
The Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ consists in his Passion, Death
and Resurrection. This mystery flows from his supreme obedience to his
Father and his love for his disciples and all peoples. Wherever people
are obedient to God's will and show love for their neighbour in concrete
acts, they participate in their own way in Jesus' Paschal Mystery. At
the same time, the work of following and imitating Christ is rendered
difficult because of the presence of sin. God's grace is needed. Such
grace is offered to all through the Holy Spirit, but it always remains
the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Salvation in Jesus Christ has a newness and power of its own because
it is God who offers it. Its ultimate goal is participation in the very
life of God. It concerns the salvation of the whole human person. It
answers the heart's deepest yearnings. Hence, it is to be proclaimed to
peoples of all religions, races, nationalities and cultures, peoples of
all times and in all places. There can be no changes or additions to
God's saving plan in Jesus Christ for humankind: Christus heri et
hodie, ipse et in saecula, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday
and today and for ever" (Heb 13:8).
This is the faith of the Apostles, the faith of the martyrs of the
first centuries, the faith of Christians of all times. This is the faith
of tens of thousands of martyrs among the Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and
Vietnamese. This is the faith which is preached, even in the difficult
cultural situations of Asia. Along with St. Peter, the Church bears
witness to her Lord with the words: "You are the Christ, the Son of
the living God" (Mt 16:16).
The Church offers to the peoples of Asia her unique and greatest
treasure, Jesus Christ. Whatever else the Church offers is only because
of Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul II emphasizes that "it is the
light of Christ which enables the Church to proclaim boldly the
dignity and fundamental rights of each and every person in the face of
great injustices. It is the love of God revealed in Christ which
leads you courageously to apply the Church's social teaching to the real
life-situation of the peoples of Asia and to foster social progress and
a wider material and cultural development. It is service of Christ which
sustains your educational and charitable institutions ...".40
The peoples of Asia are looking for liberation and fullness of life.
Such a quest for freedom, dignity, communion and fullness of life can
find its fulfillment only in Jesus Christ, as the Asian Bishops stated
in their First Plenary Assembly at Taipei: "Its our belief that
only in and through Jesus Christ and his Gospel, and by the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit, that these quests can come to realization. For
Christ alone, we believe, is for every man 'the Way, the Truth, and the
Life' (Jn 14:6), 'the true light that enlightens every man ...’"
While the Church praises God for his salvific presence and activity
among the Asian peoples, she is not unaware of the presence of sin and
its effects at every level of Asian society, keeping hundreds of
millions of people slaves to many social evils. In this context she
wants to proclaim to the peoples of Asia the dignity, the freedom and
the peace that Jesus Christ has won. He has shared the humble state of
the Asian people. He took upon Himself the human condition in all its
weakness and raised it to the right hand of God in glory and fullness of
life. His Gospel has always been a leaven in every society. His Gospel
has inspired tens of thousands of missionaries - despite their human
limitations - to go to Asia to work for all peoples, especially the
illiterate, the sick and the poor. The Church is convinced that by
offering Jesus Christ she is offering the leaven of human dignity in all
its temporal and eschatological dimensions.
Jesus Christ is at the centre of the Church's life and ministry. He
is at the centre of the lives of each of her members because he is the
way to God and salvation. He is at the centre of her ministry because
the Church's ministry consists in offering Jesus Christ to the peoples
of Asia. Jesus Christ is the twofold way - to God and to the peoples of
Asia - as John Paul II states: "Jesus Christ is the chief way for
the Church. He himself is our way to the Father's house and is the way
to each man" .42 In Jesus Christ the Asian quest for
salvation will find its temporal and eschatological fulfillment.
In this regard, John Paul II said to the Bishops of Asia: "The
salvation with which you are concerned as Bishops is the salvation
achieved and offered by Christ: the salvation of the whole person, a
salvation that is complete and universal, unique and absolute, full and
all-embracing. The Christian apostle is not just a social worker; nor is
the Christian faith merely an ideology or a humanistic programme".43
The Church as communion
Continuing the mission of Jesus Christ and the Spirit
To bring all things to fulfillment
26. The salvific design of God does not end in the mission of the Son
and the Spirit. Once their mission was accomplished, its saving effects
had to be made available to all peoples of all times. This was done in
the establishment of the Church, the community of believers in Jesus
Christ brought together by the ministry of Jesus and the work of the
Spirit. The community of disciples came into existence by the power of
the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ and through the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit. Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
"The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion
in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy
The Church is the necessary corollary to the mission of the Son and
the Spirit and their saving activity in the world. It is in no way an
appendix to their mission, or something marginal or complementary. The
Church is the necessary and essential consequence of the divine salvific
mission: "Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of
Christ and the Holy Spirit, but it is a sacrament ...".45
Her only purpose is to continue the saving mission of the Son and the
Spirit in the world. Her mission is unique in several ways: to be the
bearer of the words of Jesus, and the channel of the salvific effects of
his Death and Resurrection so that people at all times can be brought
into contact with the saving words and deeds of Jesus and find their
salvation: "... in her whole being and in all her members, the
Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present and spread the
mystery of communion of the Holy Trinity".46
In the Church the saving design of the Father, the saving words and
deeds of Jesus and the saving power of the Spirit are kept alive, made
present, lived and proclaimed. The Church is entrusted with the saving
mission of the Son through the Spirit. In fact, Jesus tells his
disciples after the Resurrection: "As the Father has sent me, even
so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said
to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit ...’" (Jn 20:21-22). This means
that the mission of the Church is analogous to the mission of the Son
since her purpose is to carry on his mission.
The presence of the Spirit in the world, in cultures and religions is
intended to lead all to the mystery of Jesus Christ: "The Spirit prepares
men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to
Christ. The Spirit manifests the Risen Lord to them, recalls his
word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and
Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ ...".47
The Church's primary mission cannot be different from the mission of
the Son received from the Father through the Spirit. The mission from
the Father was primarily to communicate his divine life to all through
the Son in the Spirit. The Father sent the Son so that all
may have life and have it in all its abundance. It is clear from the New
Testament that the life to which Jesus referred is primarily the life of
the Spirit. It is eternal life or the life of grace.
The Church is born of the mission of the Son, through the Holy
Spirit. From the day of Pentecost, the mission of Christ becomes the
mission of the Church.48 The Church on earth has a twofold
mission: to be the kingdom of God as Jesus was, and to proclaim it and
bring it about in the hearts of all peoples. Her mission is to be the
kingdom, to grow into its fullness and be at its service. That means the
Church is daily called to become more and more the Reign of God by her
constant listening to the word of God, by celebrating the mystery of
Jesus in the Eucharist and the sacraments, in prayer, contemplation and
works of charity and justice. On the other hand, she goes out to
proclaim the Kingdom very concretely, that is, by proclaiming Jesus
Christ as the Kingdom, and invite all to accept him in faith.49
The Church is thus the sign and instrument of God's Reign to all
peoples of the world for God wills that all peoples be saved and come to
the knowledge of the truth through the one mediator, Jesus Christ (cf. 1
The Church is born of mission and for mission. This is the reason why
the Church is said to be missionary by her very nature.50 Her
existence flows from mission and it leads her into mission. This is the
reason why Pope Paul VI repeated the words of the Synod Fathers at the
Third Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1974): "We
wish to confirm anew that the mandate to evangelize all men constitutes
the essential mission of the Church".51 This sense of
mission derives from God's own communication of his Trinitarian
Life to the Church.
Mission in the mystery of communion
27. The Church is primarily the mystery of God's loving salvific
design.52 Before everything else, the Church is the locus
of his encounter with humanity in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The Church is the community where God realizes his plan of love and
salvation, where he reveals the inner mystery of his life and
communicates it to people. The Church is essentially not an
organization, a welfare establishment, or an efficient enterprise, but
the mystery of Trinitarian communion: "‘O blessed light, O
Trinity and first Unity!' God is eternal blessedness, undying life,
unfailing light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely
wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life".53
God's saving plan in Jesus Christ stems from this Trinitarian love:
"It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation
after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are
continued in the mission of the Church".54
The Church's communion with the life of the Holy Trinity, the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit is the basis of the life of the Church and
her mission. The koinonia between the Father, the Son and the
Spirit leads to ecclesial koinonia, fellowship, communion. The
Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of 1985 spoke of the
ecclesiology of communion as the central insight of all the conciliar
documents and the motivating force of all post-conciliar renewal. The
Synod's final statement sums up the main points of such an ecclesiology:
1) The ecclesiology of communion is founded on the Trinitarian
communion; 2) the Church, the people of the new covenant, is the sign
and binding force of the communion between God and humanity; 3) the
Church is essentially a communion of all the disciples of Jesus in him
and among themselves; and 4) the Church is the locus and symbol
of the communion of all peoples.
Participation in Trinitarian communion binds all the members of the
Church into a unique communion which is called the Body of Christ. But
the Church has a human dimension and thus subject to the sin of
division. Many divisions in history have wounded the communion of the
Churches in Asia. Thus, inter-ecclesial relations have been marred for
centuries between Churches of different liturgical and ecclesial
traditions, ecclesiastical jurisdictions, missionary methods and
pastoral care. These wounds have been partially healed, but a complete
healing has yet to come about. Wherever communion is weakened, the
Church's witness, evangelizing value and effectiveness are also
What Pope John Paul II said to the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church
regarding ecclesial communion and constant dialogue with the Bishops of
the Latin Church is applicable to the whole Church in Asia in some way
or other: - The first form of communion is that which unites all the
believers in Christ, children of the one Church of Christ. All
things must be undertaken in an atmosphere of trust and common purpose,
examining the various situations with objectivity and seeking to resolve
them in a spirit of heartfelt collaboration. Conflicts must be banned,
since no good can come except from love.55
Most Church communities of Asia are composed of different ethnic,
linguistic, cultural and social groups. In most countries of Asia,
homogenous communities are rare. Thus migrant Chinese, Philippino,
Korean and Indian Christians form part of the local Christian
communities in many parts of Asia. Again, tribal and non-tribal
Christians, multi-tribal communities, Dalit Christians and non-Dalit
Christians form part of many Christian communities. Tensions and
rivalries among the various groups of Christians that make up these
heterogeneous communities as well as those between clergy and laity are
a counter witness to the very essential nature of the Church as
communion with the Trinity and with each other.56
Credible witness of the Church as communion depends on overcoming the
above-mentioned divisions so that she can be an effective sign and
instrument of communion to the peoples of Asia. The Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici has so well expressed:
... communion begets communion: essentially it is likened to a mission
on behalf of communion.... Communion and mission are profoundly
connected with each other, they interpenetrate and mutually imply each
other, to the point that communion represents both the source and
fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is
accomplished in communion.57
Towards sharing communion
Mission to others
28. Communion with other Christian Churches in bearing common witness
to Jesus Christ is very important today. In the past, the hostilities
and rivalries between Catholics and various ecclesial communities of the
Reformation in Europe were brought into Asia in the wake of colonial
expansion. The particular Catholic Churches in Asia have a special duty
to develop an ecumenical spirit in Asia in bearing common witness to
As the third millennium approaches, the Church in Asia seeks to put
off the burdens of disunity and walk towards greater unity, if not to
complete unity. This calls for a sincere examination of conscience,
acceptance of responsibility for the mistakes of the past, in which, at
times, all sides were involved.59 All believers in
their own way are responsible for the sins of division in the Church,
past and present. All need to repent for the ecclesial communion that
has been painfully wounded during the past thousand years and
beyond. All need to grow towards greater Christian unity.60
The Church in Asia is a "little flock", a very small
minority, except for the Philippines. She lives among hundreds and
thousands of Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic brethren and followers of
Traditional Religion. The Church in Asia has a very special task to be a
sacrament of unity among the followers of all religions. Communion is
fostered by true dialogue, a theme often stressed in many FABC documents
in the past.61
The Church must become truly universal, catholic. To be catholic is
the very nature of the Church. It is a gift from the Lord. While the
Church has a very special communion and hence a unity of her own, she is
not an exclusive communion and unity. It has to be an inclusive unity
since God's Spirit and his Word, the Logos, were already present
in the world, leading everything to its final end: the character of
universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord
himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks
for the return of all humanity and all its goods under Christ the Head
in the unity of his Spirit.62
Communion with the Holy Trinity should not weaken the already
existing communion and harmony with the brethren among whom she lives.
This is what Pope Paul VI has said: "The Church respects and
esteems these non-Christian religions because they are the living
expression of the soul of vast groups of people. They carry with them
the echo of thousands of years of searching for God, a quest which is
incomplete but often made with great sincerity and righteousness of
heart. They possess an impressive patrimony of deeply religious texts.
They have taught generations of people how to pray".63
In her evangelizing activity the Church seeks to heal the age-old
divisions in Asian society by her own example of lived communion, thus
showing that unity is possible. Again, she searches out means for
promoting such communion among peoples through dialogue and
Hence Christian mission is respectful to all religions and
their followers. In the past, Christian mission with its proclamation of
Jesus Christ and conversion also meant at times alienation from one's
own people and culture. Christian mission is not meant to be an
alienation, but a greater communion and harmony with all brethren. The
ultimate scope of all mission is communion with God and one another:
"The ultimate purpose of mission is to enable people to share in
the communion which exists between the Father and the Son".65
Mission as the sacrament of unity
29. The Church is often called the kingdom of God, that is, the Reign
of God. Christ's life is lived in the community where his teachings are
accepted and lived out. Through the power of his Death-Resurrection and
his Spirit, the Church is able to accept the will of the Father and have
love for one another as Jesus did. Through his obedience even unto
death, Jesus became the perfect Kingdom or Reign of God. Likewise, in
following Christ the Church is called to become the Reign of God.
The life of Christ is communicated to the Church through the word,
sacraments and Christian living in order that the likeness of Christ may
be formed in believers gradually: "All members of the Church ought
to be formed into Christ's image, until he is formed in them" (cf.
Gal 4:19).66 This is the primary vocation of the Church, to
be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ as St Paul relates: "For
those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the
likeness of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many
brethren" (Rom 8:29).
The Church is the community on which the light of Christ has shone
and from which the light of Christ is reflected to the world.
Significantly, Vatican Council II's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
begins with the words: "Lumen gentium cum sit Christus (Since
Christ is the light of all nations...)".67 The Church is
called to, be the light of Christ to the world. She has no other light
of her own: "The Church has no other light than Christ's;
according to a favourite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is the
moon, all its light is reflected from the sun".68 The
Church exists to bring the light of Christ to all peoples of the earth:
"... she eagerly desires to shed on all men the radiance of his
light which brightens the countenance of the Church".69
To the extent that the Church is conformed to the image of Christ,
she is the Church and also able to become a light to the nations. Her
primary mission is to be the likeness of Jesus Christ and to strive ever
more to be so. In this sense, the Church becomes a sacrament of Christ.
That means somehow the Church is an efficacious sign of Jesus Christ.
Those who sincerely seek his face can recognize him in the face of the
Church community. In her and through her, they can hear his word,
experience his love, mercy, pardon and goodness. This is what the
Council intends when it says: "By her relationship with Christ, the
Church is a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of
the unity of all mankind ...".70
The Church's mission love and service in Asia
Evangelization in Asia today
30. It is true that evangelization today has acquired a wider meaning
than in the past. Evangelization is a complex reality and has many
essential elements such as witnessing to the Gospel, working for the
values of the Kingdom, struggle for human liberation and promotion,
dialogue, mutual sharing of the God-experience, inculturation, dialogue
with other religions, etc..71
In every age, the accidentals of the mission of the Church - the way
it is inculturated and its methods - undergo change. There is always
need for a new evangelization. But Jesus Christ remains the centre
summit of her mission and proclamation.
For several theoretical and historical reasons, an opinion has been
expressed from some quarters in Asia during the last three decades that
the age of mission is over. Now is the time for dialogue and
inculturation. Radical pluralism of religion and salvation seems to
become a dogma itself. At times, one's culture is so absolutized that
conversion is looked upon as violence done to the other. Others claim
that the Church's mission is only the proclamation of the values of the
Kingdom, human promotion and liberation.
Referring to such tendencies, Paul VI already in 1975 reconfirmed the
need and urgency for the proclamation of Jesus Christ: "We wish to
point out, above all today, that neither respect and esteem for these
religions nor the complexity of the questions raised is an invitation to
the Church to withhold from these non-Christians the proclamation of
Jesus Christ" .72
The message of evangelization: Jesus Christ
31. Jesus Christ is the Father's Word to the world for the life the
world. Jesus Christ is the saving proclamation of the Father to the world.
Likewise, Jesus Christ is the proclamation of the Holy Spirit to the
world. At the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan the Father and Spirit in
different ways proclaimed Jesus as the beloved Son sent into the world
for the salvation of all (cf. Mt 3:13-17). The Church's primary duty,
then, is to proclaim Jesus Christ for the life of the world.
The primacy of the proclamation of Jesus Christ in all evangelizing
activities has been repeatedly stressed by the Council and the
Magisterium of the Church because it is of the essence of the faith and
the very continuation of the saving event of Jesus Christ. Proclamation
is of the very essence of the Church's Trinitarian experience of God.
Abandoning proclamation is to abandon this unique God-experience. Thus,
Paul VI wrote in explicit terms: "There is no true evangelization
if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom, and the
mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed" .73
The diverse elements of evangelization are held together by the
central element of proclaiming Jesus Christ: "The proclamation of
Jesus Christ is the centre and the primary element of evangelization
without which all other elements will lose their cohesion and
validity".74 Evangelization, then, is primarily about
God's offer of salvation in Jesus Christ, which can be accepted or
rejected. One may not pick and choose. The reason for the necessity,
urgency and motivation for the proclamation of Jesus Christ lies in the
fact that it is in him that God's salvation is offered. Pope Paul VI
makes this very clear in Evangelii nuntiandi:
"Evangelization will also contain as the foundation, centre, and at
the same time summit of its dynamism - a dear proclamation that, in
Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead,
salvation is offered to all men, as a gift from God's grace and
The reason for this insistence on Jesus Christ is not a sectarian fad
because God's salvation is not an immanent salvation, as Pope Paul VI
continues to say. It is not meeting man's material or even spiritual
needs. It is not restricted to the framework of temporal existence and
all human yearnings. Salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ exceeds
all these limits to reach fulfillment in a communion with the one and
only divine Absolute: transcendent and eschatological salvation which
has been already realized in Jesus Christ .76
Agents of evangelization
32. In the first centuries. the Church considered herself to be the
subject of mission. Emphasis has recently been placed on this original
understanding of the Church as missionary. If the Church is missionary
by her very nature, then the whole Church is missionary. Thus, for
example, the entire community at Antioch was involved in sending Paul
and Barnabas to evangelize the Nations.77 The implication -
as John Paul II maintains - is that what was done in the
beginning of Christianity is valid and urgent for the Church's mission
today. The universal mission of the Church is entrusted to the universal
Church, and every individual Church is sent to all peoples .78
Within the Church community, the primary agents of mission are the
Bishops, for Jesus gave to the Twelve Apostles the mandate to go into
the whole world and preach the Gospel (cf. Jn 20:21; Mt 28:19; Mk
16:15; Lk 24:47, Acts 1:8).79 Bishops are consecrated for a
mission to the whole world.80 Missionary activity is the
greatest and holiest duty of the Church.81
In the current theological, missiological and missionary situation of
Asia, the proclamation of Jesus Christ is the central issue of the faith
and life of the Church. It is encumbent on the pastors of the Church to
give priority to proclamation in all their pastoral planning. They must
be seen primarily as evangelizers and only secondarily as
administrators. This is what the Apostles said about proclamation:
."It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God
to serve tables.... But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the
ministry of the word" (Acts 6:2-4). The phrase "word of
God" in this passage is not meant to refer to a homily or sermon,
but to the proclamation of Jesus Christ in the strict sense of the word.
Every priest shares with the Bishop in the universal mission of the
Church ad gentes. "The spiritual gift which priests receive
at their ordination prepares them not for any limited and narrow
mission, but on the widest scope of the universal mission of salvation,
‘even to the very ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). For every priestly
ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ
to his apostles".82
Their mission transcends the boundaries of their parish, Diocese,
country or Church sui iuris and are called to preach the Gospel
to the whole world. This is true, as Pope John Paul II says, especially
in areas where Christians are a minority.83 Each priest
should have the "heart of a missionary".84
It is a very heartening thing to note that many particular Churches
in Asia have already established missionary institutes to send
missionaries to other countries, even though they themselves are
in need of missionaries in their own countries. Asian Bishops
have a particular responsibility to promote missionary institutes and to
be generous with their personnel for mission areas.85
Religious orders, congregations and missionary institutes have played
a very remarkable role in the evangelization of Asia from the very
beginning. Consecrated life is a very privileged means of
evangelization, as Paul VI states.86 Persons consecrated by
religious vows can dedicate themselves fully to evangelization work
because of their radical choice of the evangelical counsels, their total
availability, their capacity for originality in missionary methods - as
the history of mission shows, - their spirit of generosity and their
Asia has been, and still is, blessed with relatively large numbers of
vocations to the religious congregations and missionary institutes,
especially religious of Brothers and Sisters. Among them, there is an
immense evangelizing potential for mission yet to be fully exploited.
Vatican II and the Magisterium of the Church ask religious institutes of
active life to consider broadening traditional apostolates to include
missionary activity: "Whether they pursue a strictly missionary
goal or not, such Institutes should ask themselves how willing and able
they are to broaden their action in order to extend God's Kingdom".88
Mission ad gentes is especially relevant for the laity in Asia
since the field of evangelization is so vast and because of many
cultural and social problems. It is their task to bring the Gospel to
millions and millions of people who do not know Jesus Christ yet.89
To carry out this duty and privilege of being truly missionary requires
a look at present mentalities and ways of functioning in the particular
Churches in Asia, especially at structures and programmes for the
formation of the laity.
The institution of missionary catechists in Asia goes back to the
16th century. Since then they have made an immense contribution to the
first evangelization, catechumenate and the preparation of people for
the various sacraments. Without their contribution the Church in Asia
would not be what it is today. Consideration needs to be given to this
institution, especially in the area of formation structures and adequate
In the Asian context, Christian families have a special role to play
in the evangelizing mission of the Church. Women and youth also have a
special role to play, since they can have access to social groups which
oftentimes professional missionaries cannot approach.
The Holy Spirit is always at work in the Church, inspiring new
movements for Christian living and mission. Among them are Basic
Christian Communities, the Focolarini, Charismatic Movements, etc. Their
evangelizing and missionary potential is still to be utilized to the
full There are several such ecclesial movements in Asia today which can
be involved in the mission ad gentes. Pope John Paul II says that
they are an essential and undeniable element in the establishment of hew
Churches.91 The Pope recommends them to every one's pastoral
and missionary attention: "I therefore recommend that they be
spread, and that they be used to give fresh energy, especially among
young people, to the Christian life and to evangelization, within a
pluralistic view of the ways in which Christians can associate and
The Church in Asia awaits a missionary renewal in which every one
will become aware of being the subject of mission: Bishops, diocesan
priests, religious brothers and sisters and every section of the People
Paths of evangelization
33. The evangelizing mission of the Church depends entirely on its
credibility given by the witness of life of the evangelizer.
Jesus came as the living witness of God's love and forgiveness. The
first Christians preached the Gospel by the testimony of their lives and
by word of mouth. Many missionaries in Asia in the past have borne
heroic witness to God's love and compassion in the midst of their
people. The particular Churches in Asia are called to be witnessing
Jesus' first missionary command to His disciples was to be His
witnesses: "... and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in
all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
There is no mission without adequate witnessing. Asian people are not
moved by logic, doctrine or authority, but by the power of witness and
holiness.93 Pope Paul VI called witnessing "the test of
truth, the touchstone of evangelization".94
Christian mission in Asia calls for individual mid community
witnessing in being Christ-like as well as doing deeds which
are Christ-like.95 Jesus is called "the faithful
witness" (Rv 1:5) and "the faithful and true witness" (Rv
3:14). The Church in Asia seeks to be a faithful and true witness of
Jesus Christ so that she can carry out her mission effectively.
The first disciples of Jesus went out on their mission armed only
with the power of the Spirit and the word of God: "And they
went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with
them and confirmed the message..." (Mk 16:20). The word of God
first spoken, then written down as "scripture" and again
proclaimed, had at all times primacy of place in evangelization. The
word has a power of its own for the Gospel; it "... is the power of
God for salvation ..." (Rom 1:16). All preaching, including
missionary proclamation needs to be nourished by the word of God.96
The missionary is one who is deeply in love with the word of God,
meditating on it and proclaiming it with the conviction of one who lives
by the word of God. Asian peoples love their scriptures. They also have
a fascination for the Bible. Hence, the word of God and the Bible
are at the centre of all evangelizing activity.
The secret source of the power and effectiveness of the saving
mission of Jesus was his daily contemplation of and communion
with the Father in prayer. Mission is contemplation in
action. This is particularly true in a continent where the
God-experience is priced more than religious doctrine or works. Hence,
if the missionary has no deep God-experience in prayer and
contemplation, the missionary will have little spiritual influence and
Pope John Paul speaking of his experience of Asian religions says:
"My contact with representatives of the non-Christian spiritual
traditions, particularly those of Asia, has confirmed me in the view
that the future of mission depends to a great extent on
contemplation".97 The Church in Asia needs a true
missionary spirituality of prayer and contemplation. A truly religious
person readily wins respect and following in Asia. "Prayer, fasting
and various forms of asceticism are held in high regard. Renunciation,
detachment, humility, simplicity and silence are considered great
The importance of prayer and contemplation in Asia as a way of
mission in Asia is underlined again in the Post-Synodal Apostolic
Exhortation on Consecrated Life: "This will make it possible to
bear witness to the vitality of the traditions of Christian asceticism
and mysticism and will contribute to interreligious dialogue".99
God's offer of salvation to humankind is always a question of dialogue.
God spoke in a human language and used symbols to communicate his
saving message and life through his Son Jesus Christ. The entire mission
of Jesus was a constant dialogue with humanity. The Church can carry out
her mission only in the way God's mission to humanity was carried out in
The whole mission of the Church is, therefore, one of dialogue.
Dialogue is a part of the work of evangelization because it is a means
of mutual knowledge, enrichment and communication of the saving message
and life of Jesus Christ.100 In true dialogue there is a
giving and receiving. In dialogue the Church receives the religious and
cultural riches of the nations and in turn gives them the saving riches
of Jesus Christ.
Even though dialogue is essential and forms part of every
evangelizing activity of the Church, it does not exhaust the whole
reality of evangelization, nor is it a substitute for mission ad
gentes, and much less is it to be seen as something in opposition to
the proclamation of Jesus Christ.101
In the Asian context, dialogue is of primary importance for the
future of Christian mission, since it has to do with millennia-old
cultures and religions. The Church in Asia, therefore, must enter into
ever deeper dialogue with the great religions of Hinduism, Buddhism,
Islam and Traditional Religion without, at the same time, falling into
syncretism, eclecticism or a relativization of the Christian
Another path to be considered in the mission of evangelization is inculturation.
St John begins his Gospel by saying that "the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us" (Jn 1: 14). The Incarnation is the ultimate
foundation and pattern of all inculturation of the Christian faith. The
Gospel and all that it implies must become truly incarnate in every
culture and among every people so that the Gospel can evangelize
cultures and peoples. Hence, inculturation implies incarnating the
Gospel in a culture, and the Gospel, in turn, evangelizes culture by
purifying it from all that is sinful and dehumanizing, and by enobling
all that is good and positive in it.
Such a twofold inculturation is an urgent need in Asia so that the
Gospel may not appear to be an alien body. Inculturation goes far beyond
mere adaptation. It is a true incarnation: "... it means the
intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their
integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the
various human cultures".103 This is a process that is
profound, all-embracing, difficult and slow. It is a true symbiosis
between the culture and the Gospel. One cannot overestimate the
importance of inculturation in the context of the cultures and history
of Asia, since it is essential for the Church to become "an
intelligible sign of what she is and a more effective instrument of
Jesus made his spiritual mission evident and intelligible through his
words and deeds. The Church, following the example of the Master, is
committed to human liberation and promotion in all her
evangelizing activities. This ought to be so in a very special manner in
Asia where hundreds of millions of people still live in inhuman poverty.
Massive poverty is one of those Asian realities that should re-define
and modify the concept of evangelization in Asia.
All FABC documents from Taipei to Manila have underlined the
importance of human liberation and promotion in the evangelizing
activity of the Church in Asia. The Church in Asia is called to be on
the side of the poor who "struggle to overcome everything which
condemns them to remain at the margin of life: famine, chronic disease,
illiteracy, poverty, injustice... situations of economic and cultural
neo-colonialism... ".105 Solidarity with the poor,
involvement in their struggle for justice, reawakening the consciences
of society to the needs of the poor and works of charity are all means
of expressing the integral salvation which God offers to humanity in
Formation to mission
34. A truly Catholic theology of mission needs to be. fostered in all
seminaries and formation centres of religious in Asia. This is vital for
the future of mission in Asia. What is required is a mission theology in
keeping with the twenty centuries of Christian tradition and the clear
Magisterium of the Church. If the Christological and eccelsiological
foundations of Christian mission are weakened, then Christian mission
will suffer. Sometimes the radical pluralism of the West is repeated in
a new language in Asia: "All this has a debilitating impact, as far
as a not-insignificant sector of the Church is concerned, on the
motivation for mission as well as on missionary vocations themselves;
seminarians studying are also affected" .107
Along with a positive mission theology, there is need for a
missionary formation in Asian seminaries and formation centres. A
mission oriented formation will not only be theoretical but also include
exposure to real mission work or proclamation, understanding of mission
history, mission methods of the past, knowledge of Asian religions,
their sacred texts, customs, etc..
Missionary formation calls for a renewal of the sense of mission as
the Fifth Plenary Assembly of FABC in Bandung has clearly pointed out.108
The vastness and complexity of the Asian continent, the difficulties of
evangelization, and the paucity of means create a grave problem for
evangelization. But, they are also challenges and opportunities for the
disciples of Jesus Christ and call for a renewed sense of mission.
Ultimately, mission is the missionary. In all formation to mission,
the person of the evangelizer is the secret to the success or failure of
mission. Jesus identified himself entirely with his mission. In
the same manner, the evangelizer or missionary must identify with all
that mission should be. When the missionary is a living witness of a
person forgiven and renewed by Jesus Christ, mission receives
Mary mother and model of evangelization in Asia
Mother of the Church
35. It is significant that Mary assisted at the beginning of the
Church on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the
Apostles and the disciples of Jesus. The Acts tells us that the eleven
were gathered together in the Upper Room in prayer: "All these with
one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and
Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14). The
scene is significant because the Church has always been accompanied by
the motherly presence and example of Mary, the Mother of the Lord.
The Church in Asia, gathering together on the eve of the third
millennium and awaiting a New Pentecost, turns to Mary, Mother of the
Church. There are two reasons for doing so: primarily because Mary,
through the mystery of her Virgin birth, is the Mother of the Lord, and
secondly, because she became, in virtue of her sufferings at the foot of
the Cross, mystical Mother of all believers.
The dying Lord Jesus gave Mary as mother to John his disciple, to
accompany him in his pilgrimage of discipleship and apostleship. John
the Evangelist tells us: "But standing by the cross of Jesus were
his mother... When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved
standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he
said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the
disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19:25-27). Likewise, the
Church, the Lord's disciples, looks to Mary as Mother.
Mary was the first to receive the Gospel, the Good News of salvation
in Jesus Christ brought by the angel Gabriel from God.109
Without reservation she gave her unconditional and irrevocable
"Amen". After her example, Christians seek to accept the
Gospel and all its values into their personal lives. Secondly, Mary
shared the Good News in love and service with Elizabeth and Zacharias.
Through acts of love and service, the Church's members wish to be
servants as well - interiorly and exteriorly - to other Christians and
to non-Christian brethren.
Model of evangelization
36. From the very beginning of the Church, Mary has been part of
Catholic evangelization. It is enough to read the Fathers of Church to
see how they spoke of Mary in relation to the Church and the Church in
relation to Mary. The entire history of evangelization in every
continent and country is accompanied by the figure of Mary. It is said
that Thomas the Apostle in his missionary journey brought with him an
image of Mary painted by St Luke! The story contains a message for all
evangelizers. The very existence of the legend is a proof that Mary was
part of the missionary proclamation of the early Church. Since that
time, missionaries everywhere have borne in their person the image of
Mary, painted not on wood or canvas but in their heart, depending on the
theology of Mary prevalent in their country. These same missionaries
have presented Mary to their Christian converts as Mother of Christ and
all Believers as well as a Model for imitation and veneration.
Marian shrines abound all across Asia, from the Middle East to the
Far East, from India to the Philippines to Korea. Her sanctuaries are
visited by millions of non-Christians all across Asia every year. It can
be said, therefore, that Mary brings people to Jesus, for her image is
inseparable from the Divine Child carried in her arms.
The figure of Mary has an evangelizing and humanizing value. In many
Asian cultures, the mother is the object of great respect. Phrases like
"Mother India", "Mother God" and "Mother
Earth" are frequently heard in Asia. Hence, phrases like
"Mother of God"; "Mother of the Lord" are no
strange names for Asians. They sound in their hearts familiar religious
Again, the figure of Mary can be a very powerful symbol for the
liberation of women in Asia. Mary occupies the loftiest and the most
exalted place in Christian tradition. She is the model of all that the
Church is called to be and will be, as Vatican II teaches: "The
Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity,
and perfect union with Christ".110 The same Council
states that Mary entered, into the history of salvation as no one else
Wherever and whenever she is the object of preaching and veneration,
she leads peoples to come to her Son. As she made her constant
pilgrimage towards the perfect discipleship of Jesus, she invites all to
do the same.112 This is the reason why the Church in Asia in
her evangelizing efforts looks to Mary. The Church in Asia seeks to walk
like Mary the same pilgrimage of faith in Jesus Christ; a pilgrimage of
hope, awaiting in God's good time the harvest to be reaped from the
seeds of the Word already sown, and a pilgrimage of charity in humble
service and respect for all.
Mary and missionaries
37. Mary has always inspired the founding of many missionary
congregations in the Church. This is particularly true of hundreds of
thousands of religious sisters, brothers and priests. Hundreds of local
congregations have been inspired and sustained by the example of Mary in
her service of love and charity. The Council rightly says:
"The Virgin Mary in her own life lived an example of that maternal
love by which all should be fittingly animated who co-operate in the
apostolic mission of the Church on behalf of the rebirth of each
person".113 This is something that is characteristic of
The Church in Asia, therefore, looks to Mary for her intercession,
example, guidance and strength to carry on her mission, as the Council
tells us: "The Church, therefore, in her apostolic work also
rightly looks to her who gave birth to Christ, conceived by the Holy
Spirit and born of the Virgin, so that through the Church Christ may be
born and grow in the hearts of the faithful also" .114
On the eve of the third millennium, the Church in Asia, therefore,
turns to Mary for fresh inspiration, guidance and intercession for her
challenging mission of proclaiming her Son to the peoples of Asia.115
The Church in Asia is strengthened by her presence in her unchartered
journey into the third millennium of evangelization. But on this
journey, she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary.
38. At approach of the third millennium the Church of Jesus Christ
casts an expectant look to the future to see what might be in store for
her in Asia, and what that same future holds for all the peoples of Asia
- Christians as well as followers of other religions. She renders joyful
thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Faith, for the saving knowledge
of Jesus Christ, for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for all the
missionaries who brought the Gospel to the Asian continent, beginning
with St Thomas the Apostle. She wishes to recall the memory of the great
apostles and martyrs of the Asian continent, St Francis Xavier, De
Britto, Andrew Kim, Paul Miki and his companions, Theophane Venard and
the Thai Martyrs, Bl. Joseph Vaz, Bl. Alphonsa, Bl. Chavara Kuriakose
and thousands of others.
The Church wants to be a community whose every word and deed bears
witness to the fullness of divine life which is hers because of
communion with the Blessed Trinity. As in the early Church, she seeks to
preach Christ, and him Crucified and Risen, so that the riches of his
life might be communicated again to those who will open their hearts to
the promptings of the Spirit in conversion. The Church encourages all
her members in Asia to use the preparation for the Special Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops for Asia as an opportunity to join together in the
Church's evangelizing mission by pursuing ever more intensely a daily
life of spiritual renewal and regeneration, corresponding to each one's
state in life so that Christ's life might shine forth in a great
communal witness. The Church realizes that an important element in the
process of renewal is repentance (cf. Lk 24:47). In this regard, she
calls upon all her members to search their hearts and seek repentance
for past mistakes and divisions which might have made it difficult for
the Asian people to behold the face of Jesus Christ.
As a community of disciples who have received forgiveness through a
new outpouring of the Spirit promised by Jesus, the Church desires to
bear witness to her Lord in every part of Asia and in every way of life:
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon
you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and
Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Because of the
gift of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Church cannot help
being a missionary community, ready to proclaim Jesus Christ to all
peoples in Asia without regard for position or state in life.
This proclamation of Jesus Christ is always one of dialogue, a great
part of which will require engaging in exchanges with the religions and
cultures of the Asian peoples. The Church does this not as a
"stranger in the land", but one who is about to begin the
third millennium of her life and existence on the Asian continent. In
this dialogue, the Church wants to proclaim what God has revealed in his
Son Jesus Christ. The message is one of life, life in all its fullness.
This is the answer to what all hearts in Asia have been secretly longing
for, for centuries and millennia.
As Servant of the Lord, Servant of the Kingdom, and Servant of the
peoples of Asia, the Church desires to continue to put her proclamation
of Christ into concrete actions of love and service to the peoples of
Asia in their search for God and in their quest for human dignity and a
better life. "As servant of Yahweh and of humanity, the Church will
also invite to full participation in the Christian community those who
are led to it by the Spirit of God".117 This service is
done in a spirit of compassion for all, especially the poor. In each
instance the Church seeks to be like her Lord, the Good Samaritan, who
came to bind and heal the wounds of sin, injustice, oppression and
exploitation of every kind. "This compassion will be seen even
deeper, and will welcome in each human being - but especially the poor,
deprived and oppressed - the very person of Christ, who has united
himself to every human being, though he/she may be unaware of it".118
As the Great Jubilee Year 2000 approaches, the Church, by way of
encouragement and as a sure reason for hope, cannot forget the great
moments of evangelization in Asia. The Jubilee is a reminder of the
preaching and testimony of the Apostles who for the most part fulfilled
their ministry on the Asian continent. This Jubilee period also marks
the seventh centenary of the evangelization of China by Giovanni da
Montecorvino, the fifth centenary of St Francis Xavier and the Modern
mission to Asia, the fourth centenary of the evangelization of the
Philippines and the fourth centenary of the Japanese martyrs. 119
In remembering the past, the Church seeks to move forward in the
history of Catholic mission in Asia. The occasion can serve as a new
beginning in evangelization: "new" in its attitudes to
religions and cultures, "new" in methods and "new"
in the paths of mission. This evangelizing mission is undertaken not in
a spirit of rivalry or self-interest, but in communion and harmony with
all the peoples of Asia. In this way the face of Christ will shine
through the Church, so that all peoples of Asia can see and believe (cf
Jn 20:8), and thereby experience Christ's love, pardon and grace, and
share in the Church's fullness of life, which Christ came to give:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).
Chapter 1 - Asian realities
1. Describe some of the positive aspects as well as the shortcomings
of evangelization in your area in relation to Asian realities, i.e.,
religious, socio-economic, political, etc. In light of these realities,
what specific areas should receive attention and what specific
approaches should be taken by the Church in her evangelizing mission in
Chapter 2 - The evangelization in Asia
2. Evaluate the state of the Church's missionary activity in Asia and
in your area (structures, programmes, movements, etc.). Mention specific
ways to promote and assist the Church's missionary activity in this
3. What is being done for the formation of the agents of missionary
activity, e.g., Bishops, clergy, religious, seminarians, laity,
missionary institutes, ecclesial movements, etc.? According to
your opinion, what should be done in this area?
Chapter 3 - God's salvific design in history
4. What is being done in your area to help members of the Church
become better acquainted with the traditions of other religions in Asia.
What can the Church learn from her dialogue with other Asian religions
and the knowledge obtained? To what extent can the specific aspects of
Asian religions be used and developed in the fulfilment of the Church's
mission of bringing salvation to all peoples in Asia?
Chapter 4 - Jesus Christ the Saviour: God's good news to all
5. In your area how is the Person of Christ viewed and proposed in
the Church's mission of proclaiming him and his Salvation to the Asian
people? Describe ways in which the Church can maintain the centrality of
the proclamation of Jesus Christ in very difficult political, social and
cultural situations? In what ways can the Church present Jesus Christ as
the one and only Saviour as well as the universality of salvation in
Chapter 5 - The Church as communion
6. Evaluate in your area the Church's understanding of the need and
responsibility of carrying on Christ's mission in the Spirit? How is the
work of formation in this regard being fulfilled at various levels of
the Church's life? Mention some concrete efforts undertaken by the
Church in the mission field in your area and their results. Describe the
various elements which should be involved in any future initiatives in
7. Give an assessment of how Church communion is lived in the local
Church in your area. Describe how various Christian Churches give a
common witness in their evangelizing activities. How do persons from
other religions view these Christian communities? Indicate ways in which
Church communities can become more conscious of their unity in Christ
and display it more effectively in the Church's evangelizing mission in
8. What efforts are being made in your area towards fostering greater
ecumenical understanding and unity among various Churches and various
9. What is being done by the Church in your area to engage in
dialogue with other religions: Hindu-Christian, Buddhist-Christian,
Islamic-Christian, Traditional Religion, etc.? What are the different
levels at which dialogue is being carried out? What are the concrete
results? What should be the concerns of the Church in this area in the
Chapter 6 - The Church's mission of love and service in Asia
10. Describe the extent of inculturation in the various aspects of
the Church's life in your area (e.g., Christian theology, liturgy,
spirituality, liturgical art, architecture, etc.) and its effects in
relation to the Church's mission. What is the contribution of the
efforts at inculturation in your area to the universal Church?
11. How is the social doctrine of the Church being utilized in the
Church's evangelizing mission of love and service in Asia (human
promotion and development, situations of civil war and ethnic conflicts,
refugees, migrants, marginalized peoples, etc.)?
12. What has the Church done in your area to use the means of social
communications in the Church's evangelizing mission, especially
the press, radio, television, film, video, internet, etc.? What
initiatives need to be taken in the future?
13. How would you describe Marian spirituality and devotion in your
area as a means of evangelization and catechesis? In what ways is Our
Lady seen and appreciated as the perfect model of Christian
discipleship? Give concrete examples of how Marian devotion leads people
to a genuine imitation of Jesus Christ.
14. Give any remarks and suggestions on matters related to the synod
topic not included in the above series of questions.
1. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the
Church Gaudium et spes, 1.
2. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Octogesimo adveniens, 20: AAS 63
3. Cf. John Paul II, Letter to the Delegates, Federation of
Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung
(Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990: FABC PAPERS, n. 59, p. 2.
5. Cf. United Nations, Report of the International Conference on
Population and Development, Cairo (Egypt), 5-13 September 1994, D,
6. John Paul II, Letter to the Delegates, Federation of Asian
Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung
(Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990: FABC PAPERS, n. 59, p. 2.
7. Cf. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution
on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes , 1.
8. John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, (London:
Jonathan Cape, 1994), p. 219.
9. Cf. Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Maximum illud, 9: AAS 11
10. Cf. ibid. 7: AAS 11 (1919) 443.
11. Cf. Benedict XV, Apostolic Letter Maximum illud: AAS 11
(1919) 440-455; Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Rerum ecclesiae:
AAS 18 (1926) 65-83; Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Evangelii
praecones: AAS 43 (1951) 497-528; Encyclical Letter Fidei
donum: AAS 49 (1957) 225-248; John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Princeps
pastorum: AAS 51 (1950) 833-864; Paul VI, Apostolic
Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi: AAS 68 (1976) 5-76; John
Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio: AAS 83 (1991)
12. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 21:
AAS 83 (1991) 268.
13. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 2.
14. St Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4, 20, 7: PG 7/1,
15. St Bonaventure, In secundum librum sententiarum, 1, 2.2.1:
Opera Omnia, Ad Claras Aquas (prope Korentiam), Tipografia Collegii S.
Bonaventurae, 1885, II, p. 44.
16. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 289.
17. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 28:
AAS 83 (1991) 274; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum
et Vivificantem, 54: AAS 78 (1986) 875-876.
18. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem, 53:
AAS 78 (1986) 874-875.
19. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Church's
Missionary Activity Ad gentes 3, 11, 15.
20. John Paul II Apostolic Visitation of India (1-10 February 1986),
Address to Representatives of Non-Christian Religions, (3 February
- Madras), 2-4: AAS 78 (1986) 762-765.
21. Paul VI, Insegnamenti, 1964, II, (Vatican City:
Vatican Polyglot Press, 1965), p. 693.
22. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 16.
23. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
Divine Revelation Dei verbum, 3.
24. Cf. ibid., 11.
25. Cf. ibid., 9.
26. Cardinal John Henry Newman, The Arians of the 4th Century, (Longmans:
London, 1872), pp. 80-81.
27. Cf. St John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 13:8: PG 60, 519.
28. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 29: AAS
83 (1991) 275.
30. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Church's
Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 3.
31. John Paul II Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 29: AAS
83 (1991) 275.
32. Ibid., 5: AAS 83 (1991) 254.
33. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes, 22.
34. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor hominis, 10:
AAS 71 (1979) 274-275.
35. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5: AAS
83 (1991) 254.
36. Cf. ibid.
37. G. Rosales and C. G. Arevalo, ed., For All The Peoples of
Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Documents from 1971 to
1991, (Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Publications, 1992), p.
38. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Report of the
Workshop: The Church in Asia and Mission in the 1990's, Fifth
Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990: FABC Papers, n.
59, p. 53.
39. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on
the Church in the Modern World Gaudium, et spes, 22.
40. John Paul II, Letter to the Delegates, Federation of Asian
Bishops' Conferences -FABC, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia),
17-27 July 1990: FABC Papers, n. 59, p. 3.
41. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Statement of
the Assembly, First Plenary Assembly, Taipei (Taiwan), 22-26 April
1974, 7: G. Rosales and C. G. Arevalo, ed., For All The Peoples of
Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Documents from 1971 to
1991, (Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Publications, 1994), p.
42. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor hominis, 13: AAS
71 (1979) 282.
43. John Paul II, Letter to the Delegates, Federation of Asian
Bishops' Conferences -FABC, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia),
17-27 July 1990: FABC Papers, n. 59, p. 3.
44. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 737.
45. Ibid., n. 738.
47. Ibid., n. 737.
48. Cf. ibid., n. 730.
49. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen gentium, 5.
50. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Church's
Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 2.
51. Third Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1974)
"Evangelization in the Modern World", Declaration of the
Synod Fathers, 4: L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in
English, 7 November 1974, p. 3; cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii
nuntiandi, 14: AAS 68 (1976) 13.
52. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen gentium, 2ff.
53. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 257.
55. John Paul II, Discourse at the Synod of Bishops of the
Syro-Malabar Church, 6: L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition
in English, 17 January 1996, p. 5.
56. Cf. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Final
Statement, Third Plenary Assembly, Bangkok (Thailand), 20-27 October
1982: G. Rosales and C. G. Arevalo, ed., For All The Peoples of Asia:
Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Documents from 1971 to 1991, (Quezon
City , Philippines: Claretian Publications, 1994), pp. 49-65.
57. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles
laici, 32: AAS 81 (1989) 451- 452.
58. Cf. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Office of
Evangelization, Conclusions of the Theological Consultation, Hua
Hin (Thailand), 3-10 November 1991, 1-54: G. Rosales and C. G . Arevalo,
ed., For All The Peoples of Asia: Federation of Asian Bishops'
Conferences Documents from 1971 to 1991, (Quezon City, Philippines:
Claretian Publications, 1994), p. 335-347.
59. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis
60. Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente,
34; AAS 87 (1995) 26-27.
61. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, for example,
Statements from the Third Plenary Assembly, Bangkok (Thailand), 20-27
October 1982; Fourth Plenary Assembly, Tokyo (Japan),16-25 September
1986; All-Asia Conference on Evangelization, Suwon (Korea), 24-31 August
1988; Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990;
Sixth Plenary Assembly, Manila (Philippines), January 1994.
62. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen gentium, 13.
63. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 53; AAS
68 (1976) 41.
64. Cf. Bishops Institute for Interreligious Affairs on the Theology
of Dialogue – BIRA IV/12 Statement of the Final Assembly,
Hua Hin (Thailand), 21-26 February 1991, 1-58: G. Rosales and C. G.
Arevalo, ed., For All The Peoples of Asia: Federation of Asian
Bishops' Conferences Documents from 1971 to 1991, (Quezon City,
Philippines- Claretian Publications, 1994), pp. 325-334.
65. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 23; AAS
83 (1991) 270.
66. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 7.
67. Ibid., 1.
68. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 748.
69. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 1.
71. Cf. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Final
Statement, All-Asia Conference on Evangelization, Suwon (Korea),
24-31 August 1988: FABC Papers, n. 64, pp. 20-23; Paul VI, Apostolic
Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 17-21: AAS 68 (1976)
17-20; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 17,
52-59: AAS 83 (1991) 264-265, 299-308.
72. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 53: AAS
68 (1976) 41-42.
73. Ibid., 22: AAS 68 (1976) 20.
74. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Final
Statement, All Asia Conference on Evangelization, Suwon (Korea),
24-31 August 1988, 6: FABC Papers, n. 64, pp. 20-21.
75. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 27: AAS
68 (1976) 23
76. Cf. ibid.
77. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio,
61: AAS 83 (1991) 310.
78. Cf. ibid., 6: AAS 83 (1991) 310.
79. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Church's
Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 23.
80. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
Church Lumen gentium, 23; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris
missio, 61, 63: AAS 83 (1991) 309-312.
81. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Bishops'
Pastoral Office in the Church Christus Dominus, 1ff.
82. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and
Life of Priests Presbyterorum ordinis, 10; cf. Decree on
the Church's Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 39; John Paul II,
Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 67; AAS 83 (1991)
83. Cf. ibid.
84. Ibid.; also Guide to Pastoral Activity of Priests, CEP,
85. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 66:
AAS 83 (1991) 314; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on
the Church's Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 23-27.
86. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 69:
AAS 68 (1976) 58-59.
87. Cf. ibid.; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio,
69: AAS 83 (1991) 317; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad gentes, 40.
88. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 69: AAS
83 (1991) 317.
89. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles
laici, 35: AAS 81 (1989) 457; Encyclical Letter Redemptoris
missio, 71: AAS 83 (1991) 318.
90. Cf. ibid., 73-74: AAS 83 (1991) 320-322.
91. Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles
laici, 35: AAS 81 (1989) 458.
92. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 72: AAS
83 (1991) 320.
93. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 41:
AAS 68 (1976) 31-32.
94. Ibid., 24: AAS 68 (1976) 21.
95. Cf. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Final
Statement, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July
1990, 4.1: FABC Papers, n. 59, p. 34.
96. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
Divine Revelation Dei verbum, 21.
97. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 91: AAS
83 (1991) 338.
98. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Report of the
Workshop: A Spirituality for Our 1990's, Fifth Plenary Assembly,
Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990: FABC Papers, n. 59 , p. 57.
99. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita
consecrata, 8: AAS 88 (1996) 383.
100. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55:
AAS 83 0991j, 302-304.
101. Cf. ibid.
102. Cf. John Paul II, Letter to the Delegates, Federation of
Asian Bishops' Conferences -FABC, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung
(Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990: FABC Papers, n. 59, p. 4;
Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5556: AAS 83 (1991)
103. Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1985), Final
Report, H ' D, 4.
104. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 52: AAS
83 (1991) 300.
105. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 30: AAS
68 (1976) 26,
106. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 58-60:
AAS 83 (1991) 305-309.
107. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Report of
the Workshop: The Church in Asia and Mission in the 1990's, Fifth
Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July 1990: FABC Papers, n.
59, p. 53.
108. Cf. Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Final
Statement, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July
1990, 3: FABC Papers, n. 59, pp. 31-33.
109. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen gentium, 53.
110. Ibid., 63.
111. Cf. ibid., 65.
112. Cf. ibid.
115 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 92:
AAS 83 (1991) 339.
116 Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 25ff. AAS 79
117 Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - FABC, Final
Statement, Fifth Plenary Assembly, Bandung (Indonesia), 17-27 July
1990, 6.3: FABC Papers n. 59, p. 36.
118. Ibid., 6:4; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris
missio,14: AAS 83 (1991) 262-263 ; Second Vatican Ecumenical
Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium
et spes, 22.
119. Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio, millennio
adveniente, 25: AAS 87 (1995) 21.