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March 21, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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March 21, 1998

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ARgANSAS ,: CATHOLIC March 21, 1998 Page 11 lOS. IV[EWPCH ' : ........................ . he S ecial Assembly for fi sia Of the TSynoP of Bishops convenes in Rome April 19-May 14. It will explore ways the nurch s people can evangelize in con- texts where they represent a decided mi- nority. In this Mother Teresa of Calcutta may provide great example -- an example of what is meant by a "dialogue of life," says Maryknoll Father Joseph IL Veneroso, a missionary who served in Korea 12 years and now is editor of Maryknoll magazine. Precious Blood Father RobertJ. Schreiter, who teaches theolo at Chicago's Catho- de Theological Un n, says the issues be- :re the synod extend from what it means or the Church to become more Asian to a0w to address increased violence against Christians in Asia. Father Joseph R. Veneroso, MM Father Robert J. Schreiter, CPPS Why many Asians regard the Catholic Church as 'foreign' By hther Robert J. SchreRer, CPPS First, other religions looking Perpetual Help in Mumbai (for- at Christianity usually see a for- ow Catholics should ap- eign religion from the West as- _ . proach cultures where they sociated with the colonial pe- ddbe regarded as "foreigners" riod. :. u SOmetimes encounter hostil- Many admire Christianity but e. among issues the synod feel that to become Christian will confront, would mean they could no the birthplace of all the longer be good citizens of their aw rM s great religions: Bud- country. A debate in Thailand ,Judaism, Islafa, Taoism-- among Buddhist monks a num- Christianity. ber of years ago centered around But excent for a nresence on &in'- r r the question, What would be Western edge, where it has worse -- if a Thai became a "g~ll ' . Since apostolic times, and Christian or a Marxist. They con- _ 1all presence in India going eluded it was worse to become ancient times, Christian- Christian: A Thai Marxist might . nly began to establish itself see the error of Marxism and 'h ast Asia in the 16th century return to being a good Buddhist; i a. Catholic missionaries be- Christians never come back. their work there. hri&fternearlyhalfamillennium, Second, living as a minority, Christians in Asia have given the stians are a tiny presence rest of the world the concept of Asia's religions. Only in dialogue between religions. r=Philippines do Christians rep- Christians needed to reach " -alt a majority, out to their neighbors and ex- has not only the largest plain who they were, and to cre- lafladon of any continent, it is ate an atmosphere of mutual the most religious. In Japan trust. Later that became a com- le even belong to several mon quest to understand each erent religious groups at the other better. e,time, resultin-g in'statistics This led in some places to a e Show more religious adher-growth of contact and other de- tits . . t, people m that nauon, velopments. For example, it is ,,,-tow do Christians, a fin mi- not uncommon to see more ', ri . Y . ti0tl ?' uiteract vath these tradi- Hindu women than Catholic women at the weekly devotions Three things stand out. at the shrine of Our Lady of merly Bombay). As a result, most of the lead- ing thought on interreligious dialogue is coming out of a place like India. Indian theolo- gians also raise the most far- reaching (and for many, disturb ing) questions about how God is working in and through other religions. Third, rising religious vio- lence is encountered in coun- tries such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Christians are now under serious threat in a num- ber of places. The forces ofglobalizadon are creating new crises of identity which have led to attacks of one religious group upon another. Christians have faced attacks from Muslims and Hindus. Where Christianity is identi- fied with the West, the local Christian community becomes a symbol of all the oppression that comes from powerful Western economies and the increasing cultural dominance beamed through the media to the rest of the world. As Catholics look to the synod for Asia, these three issues will be on their minds: becoming truly Asian; the hope for greater interreligious dialogue; and the fear of religious violence. What Christian 'evangelization' requires in Asian missions By FatherJoseph R.Veneroso, MMowe their tragic demise to the cultural clash over the s alled The bishops of Asia wisely have ecognized that, with the ex- ception of the Philippines, Ca- tholicism may remain a minority religion in the Orient. Even the most zealous mission- ary must recognize that the days of overturning pagan altars and knocking down idols are gone, lest we find our own churches and shrines the objects of icono- clastic wrath. Still, we must be true to our Lord's mandate to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, the bishops continue to call for a "dialogue of life." Chris- tians may still witness to the Gospel through acts of charity and good deeds in areas, such as Bangladesh, where open prosely- tizing is outlawed and convert- hag is forbidden. Catholicism has had a rather rough time getting a foothold in Asia. Unlike Africa and the Americas, where animists and shamans survived the onslaught of European missionaries only by accommodation or going under- ground, Asia has highly orga- nized, deep-rooted religions to counter Catholic inroads. Hindu- ism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buck dh/sm and Islam have coexisted for centuries to form a multilay- ered social tapestry. Opposition to Catholicism in Asia can be waced as much to the Church's attitude in the pre- Vatican 1I era as to local resis- tance and resentment. Imagine foreign missionaries coming to the United States and erecting a statue of their gt,.ardian spirit slay- ing an American bald eaglel Yet Catholics did this in the 1950s in Kyoto, Japan, when they put a stained-glass window in the new cathedral depicting St. George lancing a dragon. In Asia, not only does the dragon sym- bolize good fortune; in Japan, it symbolizes the emperor. Most of the tens of thousands of 19th- century Korean Catholic martyrs "rites question." Offering "chae sa" for ancestors was Confucian society's cornerstone in Korea. The Church strictly forbade such "ancestor worship." The king and his advisers saw this refusal by Catholics to perform "chae sa" as an act of treason. Today, how- ever, modem Korean Catholics offer "chae sa" in good con- science, incorporating it into prayers for souls in purgatory. Indeed, in the canon of the Mass in Korean, during the Offertory Prayer the term "chae sa" actually is used for the bread and wine. Since Vatican II, the Church has experienced a shift in ap- proach to other religions. In ad- dition to calling for "a change of attitude" by Catholics toward other faiths, the council's "Dec- laration on Non-Christian Reli- gions" says, "The Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in these religions." The Vatican backed up this new attitude by appointing bish- ops and cardinals who are Asian. As a result, Asian Catholics and we foreign missioners who serve them have had to rethink our motives and methods. In Korean, there are two words for "con rt." One is "kei jong," which means "change religion." The other, "kei shim," means "change heart." No one objects to inviting people to a change of heart. Here the Church's mission can continue unfettered. This was lived out by the most famous missionary of our time, Mother Teresa. Asked if she con- verted people, she replied: "Of course .... I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you've found God, it's up to you to decide how to worship him. Mother Teresa perfectly exem- plifies what the Asian bishops mean by "dialogue of life." Any- one who wanted to know what .catholicism and the Gospel are about had only to watch her. i I'ope i Vatican is repenting for mis- takes made more than 50 years ,"go When it says it did not do enough to help the Jews during the Holo- Ust. The Holocaust was an inexcus- ]le act where 6 million Jews were .S maticallv murdered It was Adolf qlU ' ,, " I _ er s final solution to the Iewish I question.,, - _ { hasO r the past 35 years mough, it / Call been Pope Plus XII who has been [ ,. ed into auestion for not standing I qhto Save more 4 ws. [ i, Ope Plus XII s actions should be [ ] UClged for themselves. One Jewish recently said the Church would have done much more if Pope John Paul II were the pope in the 1940s. Pope Plus XII was not a Nazi supporter, he always opposed Nazism and he should not be portrayed as standing by silently. The Vatican is saying today that more should have been done, but that does not mean the Church stood by silently. Much research has been done in re- cent years to fred out exactly what was said and done by the Catholic Church to rescue some Jews. Author Sister Margherita Marchione has recounted many example of the pope's action. He called for a peace conference in 1939 to avert war. He used his personal fund to free Jews from Nazis. The Church operated an underground railroad that rescued 800,000 Jews from the Holo- caust. Unfortunately, the pope saw evidence that the more he said, the harsher the retaliation. A deputy chief of the Nuremburg war-crimes tribunal said, "All the arguments and writings eventually used by the Catholic Church against Hitler only provoked suicide; the execu- tion of Jews was followed by that of Catho- lic priests." Albert Einstein said in 1940, "The 9 Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom." After the war, Jewish leaders gath- ered to thank the pope for helping the Jews persecuted under Nazism. Golda Meir was quoted as saying, "When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the pope was raised for its victims." The pope still continued to do what he could. An editorial in The New York Times on Dec. 25, 1942, said, "He is about the only ruler left on the conti- nent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all."