OF THE SYNOD FOR ASIA
Archbishop Oscar V.
President for the Commission for the Message
At the Twenty-second General Congregation on Wednesday morning, 13
May, Archbishop Oscar V Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, the Philippines,
President of the Commission for the Message, presented the final text of
the Message of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops,
which the Synod fathers had approved the day before. Here is the English
version of the text.
Dearly beloved Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
1. Called by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, on the eve of the
third millennium, we the Fathers of the Special Assembly for Asia of the
Synod of Bishops, together with the Fraternal Delegates and other
invitees, met in Rome from 19 April to 14 May 1998. United with you all,
our hearts are filled with profound gratitude to God the Father. He
loved the world so much that he sent his only Son Jesus our Saviour, so
that all may have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10).
A Time of Grace
2. Our coming together, for the first time, from all parts of Asia,
made this Synod a unique experience and a foundational event upon which
our particular Churches could build. From the very start, we gathered
round the Holy Father to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice near the tomb
of St Peter. We prayed and sang in the different languages of Asia. We
invoked the martyrs and saints of our people and we worshiped the Lord
with gestures taken from our own cultures. We listened to the Apostle
John sharing with us the revelation he received: "Listen to what
the Spirit says to the Churches" (Rv 3:6) of Asia, "Write what
you see in a book and send it to the seven Churches" (Rv 1: 11).
This Synod brought together participants from all over Asia as well
as representatives from other continents. We thank God for the profound
sense of communion we have felt in Christ, for the sincere sharing of
pastoral concerns and for the deep solidarity we have experienced. The
presence of delegates from countries such as Myaninar, Viet Nam, Laos
and Cambodia as well as from Central Asia, Mongolia and Siberia was a
special reason for us to thank God. Previously, persons from these
places had difficulties participating in such assemblies. We were sad
that the two Bishops, who were expected to bring us the voice of the
Church in Mainland China, could not be with us, but we prayed for them
and benefited by their prayers.
All the testimonies of the great work done by the thousands of
missionaries in Asia from the time of the Apostles down to our own
times, evoked in us a deep sense of gratitude. We are thankful for all
the help received from the various mission agencies, especially the
Pontifical Mission Societies and other Church organizations, which
generously assist the Church in Asia.
We are grateful to God for the inspiration and heroic example we have
of many missionaries and Asian martyrs. We also thank the Lord for our
sisters and brothers who today carry on the Church's mission in
challenging circumstances in different countries. Their trials were
recalled on various occasions during the Synod.
Greeting the Peoples of Asia
3. We respectfully greet all our sisters and brothers in Asia who
have put their confidence in other religious traditions. We gladly
acknowledge the spiritual values of the great religions of Asia such as
Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam. We esteem the ethical values in the
customs and practices found in the teachings of the great philosophers
of Asia, which promote natural virtues and pious devotion to ancestors.
We also respect the beliefs and religious practices of indigenous/tribal
people whose reverence for all creation manifests their closeness to the
Together with all Asian peoples, we wish to grow in sharing our
richness and in having mutual respect for our differences. We resolve to
work together to improve the quality of life of our people. We consider
our faith as our greatest treasure and would like to share it with all,
fully respecting their religious beliefs and their freedom.
Listening to the Spirit
4. We prayed together and listened every day to the one among us who
had been chosen to comment on the Word of God for us. The interventions
in the plenary assembly, the group discussions, and the peaceful and
orderly dynamics of the entire Synod, made us experience day after day
that the Spirit of the Lord was by our side. He made us aware of our
shortcomings and failings because of which we may be poor witnesses of
Christ's saving love. We ourselves need to be evangelized while we
strive to evangelize others. We wish to so live, that by seeing us,
others may catch a glimpse of the marvelous riches that God has bestowed
on us in his Son Jesus.
It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to understand what vision of the
Church in Asia we should have as we stand on the threshold of the third
millennium. The presence among us of representatives of particular
Churches who were persecuted in the past and of those now facing
increasing intolerance has added to our understanding of the situation
of Christians living in difficult circumstances.
The Fraternal Delegates from other Christian Churches rekindled in us
the longing for unity of all Christians which Our Lord desired and
prayed for. This reminded us of the urgent need to foster ecumenism. The
contributions of special guests and representatives from the laity,
religious and apostolic associations have sharpened in us our awareness
of our pastoral ministry beyond our traditional and institutional
Mission of the Church
5. The Church was entrusted by the risen Lord with the task of
proclaiming the Good News of God's kingdom in the power of the Holy
Spirit. It takes as its model the early Christians who "devoted
themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of
bread, and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Our understanding of mission is that all may have life and have it
abundantly (cf. Jn 10:10). Having its source in the Blessed Trinity,
this life is communicated to us by Jesus, the Son of God, sent to save
all humankind from sin, evil and death, and bring us to the dignity and
unity to which we are called by God.
The Word of God should have central place in our lives and should
nourish us spiritually. The Bible is not an ordinary book, but rather
the living voice of the living God who calls us every day to carry out
his plan for our lives and our world. We are happy to note that thanks
to good Bible translations available in local languages, people have
access to 'the words of eternal life' (Jn 6:68).
All Christians have the duty to proclaim Christ. The urge to do this
springs from the joy of having found a treasure and the desire of
sharing it. In Jesus Christ, the unknown and inaccessible God fully
reveals and communicates himself. The living Father sent Jesus, who
draws his life from him (cf. Jn 6:57). This is the life Jesus has come
to share with us. It is the source of all life and lasts forever.
Many creative ways, in consonance with Asian cultures, were suggested
to present Jesus to our sisters and brothers. We acknowledge the
wonderful service being rendered by those who bring the Good News to
Asians who have not heard about Jesus Christ. We believe that the
presentation of Jesus as the personification of God's love and
forgiveness has great relevance for Asia.
We are all aware that the liturgy has a key role in evangelization.
It is an event where people may touch God and experience him as the One
who takes the initiative to meet them. This evokes our response in
adoration, contemplation and silence. For this, however, the liturgy
must be participatory. The gestures should convey that something solemn
and holy is happening. Even though we felt the urgent need to take more
and more into account the local cultures in our liturgical celebrations,
we note with joy that practically everywhere in Asia the liturgy is held
in the language of the people.
Above all, it calls for a deep missionary spirituality, rooted in
Christ, with special emphasis on compassion and harmony, detachment and
self-emptying, solidarity with the poor and the suffering, and respect
for the integrity of creation. The witness of monastic and contemplative
communities is particularly called for to reveal the authentic
countenance of Jesus; likewise, the life and work of consecrated men and
For this purpose, we need formation programmes to train priests and
religious who are men and women of God devoted to prayer and living deep
spiritual lives, and who are able to guide and accompany others on their
road to God. Christians in Asia need to have zealous pastors and
spiritual guides, and not simply efficient administrators. The personal
example of formators has a crucial role to play in the formation
We highlighted the importance of inculturation so that "the
Church becomes a more intelligible sign of what she is and a more
effective instrument of mission" (Redemptoris missio, n.
In the Asian context of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and
multi-cultural situation, inter-religious dialogue has clearly become a
necessity. In our times, the Church is making major efforts to encounter
the millennia-old religions in a serious manner. Inter-religious
dialogue is a respectful and sincere meeting in which the encountering
parties want to know each other to learn from one another, to enrich
each other and to love one another, as Christians and Muslims are trying
to do in Lebanon, where their mutual relationship augurs well for the
future. For the Christian believer, this will include the desire of
sharing the saving message of Christ. The Church in Asia is called upon
to enter a triple dialogue: a dialogue with the cultures of Asia, a
dialogue with the religions of Asia and a dialogue with the peoples of
Asia, especially the poor. To carry on such a dialogue, formation for
dialogue is all-important, especially in our formation centres.
We acknowledge the wonderful service in the field of education
rendered by priests, brothers, sisters and the lay people in Asia. We
commit ourselves to promote Gospel values and foster Asian cultures and
traditions, such as hospitality, simplicity, respect for sacred persons,
places and things. The curriculum must foster critical thinking,
equipping our students with the skill of analyzing the various forces at
work in society and to discern situations when people are exploited. We
must pay greater attention to non-formal education. From time to time,
we must evaluate our education system, its contents, its methodology,
the benefit to its recipients, the relationships engendered, the values
inculcated and the impact on society.
A pastoral plan for social communications should be made in all
Dioceses so as to include a public relations office. Due attention
should be paid to media education, the constructive use of the media,
such as press and publications, television, radio and the Internet. The
media is rightly called the modern Areopagus, and it is here, as in
other fields, that the Church can play a prophetic role and, wherever
necessary, become the voice of the voiceless.
Entrusted by God the Creator to be stewards of his creation, we must
have a respect for mother earth and the life systems which nourish us.
We should do all in our power to prevent the degradation of the
environment, which is the consequence of unbridled greed among other
causes. If not, the result will be the pollution of land, rivers and air
and the cutting down of forests. We must work for ecologically
sustainable development, particularly in the agricultural sector.
The laity has an important role to play in the mission of the Church.
Many signs indicate that the Spirit is empowering them for an even
greater role in the coming millennium, which could be called the Age of
the Laity. Some signs are: their commitment to evangelization, their
involvement in ecclesial life, and their active and enthusiastic
participation in small Christian communities. Renewal programmes,
catechesis and Catholic educational institutions have a decisive role to
play in forming our laity to be missionaries. To equip them for the
transformation of the socio-cultural and politico-economic structures of
society, we must impart to them a thorough knowledge of the social and
ethical teachings of the Church.
The family is the most endangered institution in Asia. Population
control tends to discriminate against the girl child in some countries
and targets the poor of the Third World. Traditional family values are
being overturned and replaced by egotism, hedonism, materialism, and
greed. Direct assaults on life are made by contraception, sterilization
and abortion. We must save the family which, because it welcomes
and protects human beings, is the basic cell of society and the Church.
If the family is destroyed, society is destroyed. The family is the
domestic Church located at the core of the Christian community. The home
is the first school. Parents are the first teachers. The first text book
for the child is the relationships within the family, between parents
themselves and with their children and with other families.
One of the significant signs of the times is the awakening of women's
consciousness of their dignity and equality with men. The Church in
Asia, to be a credible sign of the respect and freedom of women, must
give witness to Christ as the promoter of the true dignity of women.
This can be done by encouraging active participation of women as equally
responsible for Christ's mission of love and service.
Youth are the hope of Asia and of the Church. The need of the hour is
that the Church gives youth the formation they need to face the
challenges of our fast changing society and our quite uncertain future.
By taking proper care of the millions of young people in Asia, we fill
their hearts with hope and enable them to be evangelizers. We recognize
with gratitude and wish to harness the evangelizing power of youth
already at work in the shaping of a better future for the Church and
Special attention must be paid to migrant workers. Millions of them
leave their families to earn their livelihood in other countries.
Pastoral care for them in their own ecclesial tradition is most
necessary. If they are Christians, a proper formation will enable them
to be evangelizers in their host countries.
Another group of people that should cause us concern are the
refugees. There are millions of them in Asia who have left their
countries and are in great need of all kinds of assistance.
Appeals for Justice and Peace
6. We could not help but feel deeply concerned when hearing of the
hardships people have to undergo in several countries of Asia on account
of recurring violence, internal strife, tensions and wars between
There is also the problem of Jerusalem, the heart of Christendom, a
holy city for the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity
and Islam. We appeal to all concerned to do everything within their
power to preserve the unique and sacred character of this Holy City.
When considering the suffering of the people of Iraq, especially
women and children, we strongly urge that steps be taken to lift the
embargo against that country.
Elsewhere in Asia, people are suffering under political regimes that
pay no heed to their legitimate claims for more freedom and greater
respect for their basic rights. Others are struggling to regain
sovereignty or greater autonomy.
We need to create a greater awareness of the dangers of the
development and expansion of the armaments industry. These trends serve
to suppress the people's demand for justice and democracy.
While there are beneficial effects of globalization, we are concerned
about its harmful effects. We Call on the particular Churches of the
First World to be in solidarity with the poor in Asia and to be their
advocates with their own governments and with world economic
institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and
the World Trade Organization so as to bring about what Pope John Paul II
called in this year's World Day of Peace Message: "Globalization
without marginalization. Globalization in solidarity".
We strongly recommend that during the Jubilee Year 2000, the Third
World debt be renegotiated and its crushing burden alleviated.
Reasons for Hope
7. Our greatest reason for hope is Jesus Christ, who said: "Take
heart, it is I; have no fear" (Mt 14:27), and "I have overcome
the world" (Jn 16:33).
Another reason for hope is the religiosity of our people, who have
great resilience even in the most difficult situations.
In the midst of these peoples - who are obviously called to play a
more and more important role in the evolution of humankind - the Church
is already present. Barring the special case of the Philippines,
Christians are everywhere a minority and in some cases, a tiny minority.
Nevertheless, particular Churches in Asia are very much alive and some
of them manifest an extraordinary dynamism.
Practically everywhere, we see a high number of vocations to the
priesthood and religious life, but we are equally happy to see that in
many countries of Asia a high number of lay people are fully conscious
of their Christian responsibilities. They take part in the activity of
the Church in many ways. Moreover, among them, some are very much
conscious of their obligation to be authentic witnesses of Christ and to
contribute to the progress of God's kingdom.
Wherever the Church has taken root, she renders highly appreciated
services to the people. Though it may happen that some institutions are
not truly at the service of the poorest, we are happy to note
that more and more efforts are being made to ensure that the Church's
institutions are truly helping the most needy. At the same time, we are
happy to see that some do not hesitate to get out of institutions to
share the life of the most oppressed and to struggle with them to defend
So let us be confident. The Spirit of the Lord is obviously at work
in Asia and the Church is quite active in this continent. With Christ,
we have already defeated death; with him, we have already risen.
Without being self-complacent about our past achievements, we should
preserve our fervour of spirit as Pope Paul VI said: "Let us
preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing even when it
is in tears that we must sow. May it mean for us ... an interior
enthusiasm that nobody and nothing can quench ... and may the world of
our time which is searching sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope,
be enabled to receive the Good News, not from evangelizers who are
dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the
Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who first received the joy of
Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the kingdom may
be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world"
(Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 80)
In this message, we refer only to a few issues raised during the
Synod. Many other matters were discussed which will be taken up in the
various propositions to be presented to the Holy Father and eventually
to be incorporated in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation which we
8. As we began the Synod, so we conclude it with the same Eucharistic
Sacrifice, wherein through the words of consecration the bread and wine
become the Body and Blood of Christ, and where the assembly is
transformed into one body and one spirit in Christ. This encounter with
Jesus must now continue in a greater measure all over Asia. This is the
work of the Holy Spirit, who is always the One at our side to help us.
We turn to Mary, in whose body Christ was formed by the Holy Spirit. We
pray that she may intercede for us so that, like Jesus, her divine Son,
the Church may become ever more a Servant Church to continue its mission
of love and service to the people of Asia, so that "they may have
life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).