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Indonesian bishops ask for freedom in liturgical expression

VATICAN (UCAN) : The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang, urged the Vatican to give local Churches more space to be themselves, especially in the translation of liturgical texts, during his country’s bishops five-yearly ad limina visit to Rome.

Bishop Situmorang described the Vatican officials on October 6 as being attentive saying that he found Pope Benedict XVI fatherly and warm, as well as showing he has extensive knowledge about the Church in Indonesia and the general situation in his country.

 “We asked not only for material, but also for spiritual and moral support,” Bishop Situmorang said of his meetings in Rome. “We feel close to the Vatican, to the universal Church.”

But, he added, “We do need more space to be ourselves,” citing examples like the text of liturgies.

He explained that although the Roman prescript says that they have to be precisely the same as the texts adopted in the rest of the Church, this makes it difficult for pastoral care in Indonesia.

He quoted problems of tradition, cultures and epistemology that can arise from these translations. He also said Rome-mandated bishops are sometimes transferred from one diocese to another after a really short time, leaving local Catholics in a void.

The bishop also expressed concern over rising violence by extremist Islamist groups in the country and spoke of a wave of radicalisation spreading across the country.

“It is always said that this violence is not purely religious… I cannot believe it is purely political or economic. I am worried, because the frequency is increasing and the number of places where this happens is growing.”

Nevertheless, Bishop Situmorang explained that an excellent relationship is growing with the vast majority of Muslims, whom he described as moderate, fraternal, open and cooperative.

He added that Muslims leaders across the country are concerned about these radical groups. “They told us, as leaders of other religions, that their mosques are being taken away and their flocks are very much influenced.”

He said that as Catholics in a multi-religious country, Catholics are a spiritual and moral force that want to preserve the values of the nation without any hidden agendas.

“We have to remain strong,” he concluded, “and continue working with other religions, because we cannot pretend to do the best for the country without being together with the leaders and believers of all its religions.”

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