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Christian mission is key ingredient
for the future good of Asia

VATICAN (AsiaNews): A symposium held at the Aula Magna of the Pontifical Urbaniana University on October 9 and 10 heard that the future good of Asia can be guaranteed if religious freedom and the commitment of Christians in society is affirmed.

The opinion was also expressed that despite suffering from persecution and marginalisation, Christians are even now able to be signs of humanity full of hope for their continent and the world.

The symposium was organised to mark the 10th anniversary of the news service of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission, AsiaNews.

Run under the theme, Ten years of Asia—Ten years of our history, it retraced the pages of AsiaNews. 

George Cardinal Pell, from Sydney in Australia, noted, “AsiaNews has become an indispensable source of information on the social, political, economic and religious life in Asia.” He described it as a photograph of the Asian reality in its development and its contradictions, as well as giving a glimpse into its future path and reality.

Other speakers at the symposium included Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples: Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Islamic scholar from Beirut; and economist, Angelo Caloia, a professor at the Catholic University of Milan and Lumsa.

The two days were lightened up by performances of polyphonic choral pieces by the Millennium Ensemble, performing the Creed of the Byzantine Slavonic liturgy and an Elegy for martyrs, composed in memory of the suffering of Christians in Asia.

Representatives of Asian and European embassies to the Holy See, scholars on Asia and the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Fernando Cardinal Filoni, attended the symposium.

Cardinal Pell highlighted the influence of Asia on Oceania and in particular his own country of Australia, whose exports of raw materials and food, in large part, go to Asia and China.

He called the economies of China and Australia interdependent.

Noting that Australia is a country of immigrants, he explained that Asian Catholics from the Middle East, The Philippines, Vietnam and India have become a source of strength and vitality for the Catholic community.

“The Vietnamese community,” he added, “is a source of growth in vocations to the priesthood and in 2011, Father Vincent Long van Nguyen, who came to Australia as a refugee, became the first Vietnamese bishop in the country.”

He spoke of a strong and inevitable religious impulse in the human heart in Asia, which stands in stark opposition to the materialism and secularism of globalisation, sparking a strong religious revival.

Archbishop Hon spoke of the necessary link between contemplation and mission, and communion and action, which he said is required for all missionary activity.

The only Chinese member of the curia cited the correspondence between St. Therese of Lisieux and a missionary of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, Father Adolphe Rulland, noting that this spirit sustains all mission activity, whether it be at the coalface or in the press room.

Father Bernardo Cervellera, the editor-in-chief of AsiaNews, quoted from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who called forced labour camps the new cloisters of the Church. 

He recalled the priests, sisters and bishops who are suffering persecution and imprisonment, but who, even behind bars, are signs of God’s love.

He drew attention to the Vietnamese Francis Xavier Cardinal van Thuan, whose cause for beatification has been opened.

Father Khalil addressed the situation in the Middle East over the past 10 years, saying the growth of Islamic fundamentalism is taking its toll on both Christians and Muslims alike.

“These 10 years have also shown the failure of military operations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria) and the growth of fundamentalism is in part due to contact with the west, which is often seen as atheistic and immoral,” he pointed out.

However, he explained that there is a cultural, political and religious crisis afflicting Islam in its attempts to deal with modern society.

The scholar of Islam said it is only possible to eradicate fundamentalism if the Muslim world agrees to deal with modernity through the discernment of what is good and what is not, and if it agrees to review historical elements of the faith, saving the original core and freeing it from the weight of cultural baggage it has picked up over the centuries.

“The presence of Christians in the Islamic world is of vital importance,” he said, “in particular in collaboration with moderate Muslims, to build a society without discrimination, avoiding both fundamentalism and secularism.”

Caloia talked about the Asian economic miracle in the context of the need to pay greater attention to its own population in terms of education, health, social security and development of democracy rather than the mad rush to the export money-spinner.

He pointed out that a more humanistic process of development needs the testimony and commitment of the third sector, which highlights unsatisfied human needs that do not necessarily have an economic price on their heads.


Father Cervellera presented the Church as one such force from this third sector, which will make Asia a far bigger influence in the world. “We believe that Asia will play a leading role in the destiny of the world and the future of the Church,” he said.