As we begin the month of November, continuing the theme of justice in the world for the second time, it is crucial for us to understand the term Justice more deeply and in connection with our daily christian lives.
The Church received three very important teachings from Jesus Christ himself: 1) The mission of preaching the Gospel message, 2) Universal kinship and 3) A consequent demand for justice in the world. Out of which the Church tirelessly practices only the mission of preaching the Gospel, while the latter two are usually neglected. We as Lay faithful, often only follow the duties of attending Sunday mass regularly, joining in prayer services, participating in charitable and voluntary works lead by the church but never practice our faith beyond these matters mainly because we are not aware that it is our Christian responsibility to do so.
Paragraph 38 of ‘Justice in the World’ informs us that “The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life. They must accept their responsibilities in this entire area under the influence of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. In this way they testify to the power of the Holy Spirit through their action in the service of people in those things which are decisive for the existence and the future of humanity.”
Therefore we cannot simply neglect Jesus’ teachings of Universal Kinship and A consequent demand for justice in the world because, it altogether forms the core identity of being a true follower of Christ. As mentioned in the paragraph above we must act as a leaven (transforming influence) in our own little ways, accepting that achieving Universal Kinship (being inclusive and finding relation with one another as one family) and striving for justice through action inspired by love and right is our Christian responsibility.
God created man and woman alike, in his own image. But discrimination of women has become naturally accepted phenomena almost all over the globe. The status of women in Asia is all the
An Analysis of the Causes
The culture of domination, marginalization and exclusion which embodies ideas, beliefs, values, traditions, rules, norms, perspectives (ideologies) that prefer males/sons has been styled the culture of patriarchy. Through dominating social structures men own, control and manage financial, intellectual and ideological resources as well as the labor, fertility and sexuality of women, and thus perpetuate gender discrimination. Such a culture produces stereotyped notions of how a woman or man should behave (in words and actions), whereby they themselves become transmitters of the above value system. Consequently women also become both victims and victimizers.
The process of globalization which is marketcentered and profit driven, leads to further exploitation of women as cheap labour resulting in the increasing pauperization of women. Fundamentalism and communalism reinforce the subjugation of women to men, suppress women’s movements by dividing women along religious lines and intensify violence against women.
Situation of Women in the Church and Society
The socio-cultural situation of women should not be understood in the same way among all social classes and ethnic groups especially among the marginalised and the oppressed. It has its lights and its shadows. Though we have examples of empowered women in leadership positions and role-models like Blessed Mother Theresa and Saint Alphonsa, nevertheless the reality of women of all sections reveals instances of domestic and societal violence on young girls and women. Depending on the regions, female feticide, infanticide, rape, molestation, kidnapping, abduction, battering, dowry deaths, murdering, trafficking for sex and slavery exist even today.
Women of the marginalized groups such as dalits, tribals, indigenous people, migrants, victims of HIV AIDS, backward castes and minorities suffer much due to poverty, illhealth, lack of access to literacy and appropriate knowledge and lack of hygiene and potable water. In addition, they are being displaced from their lands and livelihoods. They suffer systemic and structural violence that enslave them and dehumanize them economically, socio-politically and religio-culturally.
Gender discrimination has negative effects on boys and men as well. It damages their psyche and increases the incidence of morbidity and crime among them. Relations of distrust, conflict, competition and many forms of subtle abuse emerge instead of those rooted in values of caring, sharing, compassion, mutual respect, collaboration and partnership. Such discrimination thus has negative consequences on human relations.
It is noticed that the structures which facilitate collaborative partnership between women and men as well as clergy and laity needs improvement. In 1992, the CBCI General Assembly stated, “with a sense of sorrow we must admit that the women feel discriminated against, even in the Church”. In the decisionmaking and the consultative structures like the Parish Pastoral Council, Diocesan Pastoral Council, Diocesan Finance Committee which are canonically advocated structures in the Church, the presence of women is inadequate.
In spite of the great contribution of lay women in spheres of education, health care, etc., their potentials are yet to be sufficiently tapped in the administrative and executive roles, as well as theological, liturgical, pastoral and missionary apostolates of the Church.
Signs of Hope
In the midst of this distressing situation there are signs of hope. The Church has been spearheading several initiatives to bring about positive changes in the life situation of women and girls. From the time of the early Christian missionaries who placed emphasis on the education of both girls and boys, through its multiple interventions in the fields of welfare, education, health and the empowerment process to organize women, the Catholic Church has played a prominent role to improve the status of women.
Besides the Church and ecumenical bodies, government and non governmental organizations, trade unions and social movements have played a significant role in facilitating change. Through its policies, for example, the National Policy on the Empowerment of Women, and legislative measures, the Government has contributed to the cause of women. By signing international declarations and conventions such as Human Rights, Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Violence against Women, the Government of India has taken a stand in favour of gender justice.
As a result, many women leaders both lay and religious are emerging in the public sphere such as local governance and political leadership. The process of generation of counter-cultural literature and media material, and the revival of subjugated memories of resistance by women against oppression and exploitation are influencing change in mindsets of people to a greater or lesser extent across space and culture. The promotion of appropriate ecclesiastical ministries among
women in the Church is another sign of their participation in the mission of the Church.
The Vision of Christ
Situating the teachings and actions of Christ in the context of Palestinian Judaism, we see how the evangelists not only highlight Jesus’ concern for women, but also his radical redefining of their place and role in their society. In a culture where women were seen only in relation to men, Christ not only liberated them from their oppressive traditions but upheld their dignity e.g. the Samaritan woman (Jn.4:7-42) and Mary and Martha (Jn.11:20-40). He used the life-experiences of women as a paradigm of God’s love and Christian discipleship for all: woman and lost coin, woman and the dough and woman at birth pangs. Even at his death and burial, women were
among those who bore testimony. Jesus entrusted to the women that they announce the Good News of Resurrection to his disciples.
St. Paul reiterates the equality of men and women (Gal.3:28) and continues to refer to many exemplary women. The early Christian Community was sustained by the deep faith of women who shared in the apostolic ministry e.g. Priscilla, Lydia, Phoebe, etc.
In her teaching, the Church continues to uphold the dignity of women, uniqueness of motherhood (Letter to Women, 2), and the complementarity and reciprocity between men and women.
In this year we celebrate the 50 th anniversary of publication of the Justice in the world , the final document of the 2 nd World Bishops’ Synod in 1971. As we have seen often in this section of the newsletter, the document was not born out of nothing. It has had much to do with and been much influenced by Vatican II especially Gaudium et Spes or Joy and Hope (1965), one of the most important documents of the first world pastoral council. Indeed, before the Vatican II documents, it could find its trace in the Mother an Teacher (1961), or Mater et Magistra, and Peace in the World (1963) or Pacem et Terris , the both encyclicals written by Pope John 23. It was Gaudium et Spes which clearly provided the idea of the just economy order in the world (no. 85) for the first time among the Church’s official documents.
We could find a more integrated perspective on Catholic Social teachings when it comes to relation of justice, peace and equality. Firstly, it shows a close connection between justice and peace issues by stating “In order to build up peace above all the causes of discord among men, especially injustice, which foment wars must be rooted out.”(no. 83, and no. 84-87). Secondly, from the perspective of justice, equality, and human dignity, it suggests ‘genuine human development’ as follows: “To satisfy the demands of justice and equity, strenuous efforts must be made, without disregarding the rights of persons or the natural qualities of each country, to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities, which now exist and in many cases are growing and which are connected with individual and social discrimination.” (no.66)
Action for Justice as Constitutive Dimension of the Gospel
These paragraphs in Gaudium et Spes mentioned right above and the encyclical Populorum Pregresio or On the Development of Peoples (1967) written by Pope Paul XI, which succeeded the spirit of the former, directly influenced the Church’s perception of justice and peace as if it is just one concept. Similarly, the document Justice in the World raised the issue of justice in earnest by proclaiming that “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (no.6, stress added.) It also insisted that “Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one’s neighbor.” (no.34).
Church Renewal or Reform in the Document
One of most important paragraphs in relation to Church renewal after Vatican II in Catholic Social Teachings was stated in the Justice in the world by stating “While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself.” (no. 40). No Church document mentioned justice within the Church as seen in the document. It goes on to point out “We also urge that women should have their own share of responsibility and participation in the community life of society and likewise of the Church. We propose that this matter be subjected to a serious study employing adequate means: for instance, a mixed commission of men and women, religious and lay people, of differing situations and competence.” (no. 42-43) It also recognized and stressed just wage and important role in the Church for lay people: “Those who serve the Church by their labor, including priests and religious, should receive a sufficient livelihood and enjoy that social security which is customary in their region. Lay people should be given fair wages and a system for promotion. We reiterate the recommendations that lay people should exercise more important functions with regard to Church property and should share in its administration.”(no. 41) In this sense the document surely is one of the champions for Church renewal in many aspects.
by Fr. Desmond De’Sousa CSsR – Former Executive Secretary of FABC-OHD
Twenty years after being thrown out from teaching, supposedly for teaching revolution when teaching Progressio Populorum, during my tenure as Executive secretary to the FABC Office of Human Development, my superiors called me back to teach the new encyclical. I agreed, but modified the late Jesuit Bernard Lonergan’s snide remark about the Church, by commenting, “[Superiors] often arrive on the scene a little late and breathless!!” Based on these two social encyclicals, the Church envisions social transformation of society as the step-by-step process of development of “the whole person and all the people… from less human conditions to more human conditions”.
The implication of “the whole person” is that it is not just the economic dimension or ‘more- money’ aspect of the person that must be catered to; but also the social dimension or ‘participation’ aspect of the persons in society, their freedom for political involvement, as well as their cultural and spiritual growth that has to be fostered and encouraged. As the Popes have emphasized, it is not ‘having more’ things available and acquiring them, but ‘being more,’ [as better human persons], that is primary in genuine human development.
Further, the implication of “all the people” is that if any group of people is left out of the development process, no human development has occurred !! “ Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all, and must be shared by the four parts of the world: East and West, North and South; or, as we say today, by the different “worlds.” If, on the contrary, people try to achieve it in only one part, precisely because the others are ignored, their own development becomes exaggerated and misdirected.” (Church’s Social Concern, Pope John Paul II, n.32)
The Church’s Social Concern (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis) provided the guidelines on how the Church should actually get involved in human development in order to make her specific contribution to the transformation of the world.
The encyclical’s framework on human development takes seriously Pope Paul Vl’s prosaic sentence in Populorum Progressio, “that the social question has become worldwide” (n.3). The core section of the encyclical on authentic human development (n.27-34) is placed between two valuable sections: survey of the contemporary world (n.11-26) and a theological or faith reflection on the contemporary world. (n.35-40).
The world offers a rather negative picture of development in 1987 as compared to 1967, as evident in the widening gap between the socalled developed North and the developing South. Wealth & Genuine Human Development in Catholic Social Teachings poverty intersect within societies themselves, whether developed or developing. Side by side with the “miseries of underdevelopment” is a form of “super-development” i.e. “an excessive availability of every kind of material goods”.
Both underdevelopment and super-development degrade the transcendent reality of the human being. The former are “deprived of hope” and tempted to violence; while the latter easily become slaves of possession and immediate gratifications, producing the “civilization of consumption or consumerism,” warns the Pope.
In the context of “having” (having possessions) and “being” (being happy), the Pope states: “There are some people — the few who posses much — who do not really succeed in ‘being’ because they are hindered by the cult of ‘having’; and there are others, the many, who have little or nothing — who do not succeed in realizing their basic human vocation because they “are deprived of essential goods” (n.28). The challenge to the Church according to her social teaching is, “to relieve the misery of the suffering not only out of her abundance, but also out of her necessities.”(n.31) Then comes a sentence from the Church Fathers, – both John Chrysostom and Ambrose – that would have gladdened the heart of Fredric Ozanam even though it will never be implemented! “Faced by cases of need [the poor], one cannot ignore them in favor of superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary it could be obligatory to sell these goods in order to provide food, drink, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things”(n.31)
Pope John Paul II then goes on to use a powerful image already used by Pope Paul VI. “On the international level, that is, the level of relations between States or, in present-day usage, between the different “worlds,” there must be complete respect for the identity of each people, with its own historical and cultural characteristics. It is likewise essential, as the Encyclical Populorum Progressio already asked, to recognize each people’s equal right “to be seated at the table of the common banquet”, instead of lying outside the door like Lazarus, while “the dogs come and lick his sores” (cf. Lk 16:21)(n.33).
Two different global analyses try to explain the growing gap between the developed North and the under-developed South, both at global and national levels. One analysis considers that the pace of progress differs and therefore widens the distance between nations and within nations. The other analysis, which appears more often, is that one group of countries develops ‘at the expense of the other’ (n.9, 32)
Whatever the analysis one uses, the end product of widespread poverty created by organized injustice, is unacceptable, according to the Pope. “One must denounce the existence of economic, f i n a n c i a l , a n d s o c i a l m e c h a n i s m w h i c h , accentuate the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. These mechanisms, which are maneuvered directly or indirectly by the more developed countries, favor the interests of the people manipulating them, but in the end they suffocate or condition the economies of the less developed countries”.
The Pope identifies some of these mechanisms: “The international trade system which is mortgaged to protectionism and increasing bilateralism”; “the world monetary and financial system, today recognized as inadequate”; “technological exchanges and their proper use”; “the structure of existing Internal Organizational. Organization need Genuine Human Development in Catholic Social Teachings review in the framework of an international juridical order.” He says however, that to overcome and replace these mechanisms with new ones which will be more just and for the common good, “an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient”(n.43)
“Church Reform”: From BEC as a Unit for Church Administration to a Neighbour-involved Basic Human Community (BHC)
By John Mansford Prior
The Dream: Basic Ecclesial Communities/Small Christian Communities are a way of releasing faith to inspire the whole of life, no longer a faith enclosed in ritual, but the light that enlightens our daily path. Faith can be lived in its entirety when the joys and the pain of society are the joys and the pain of the BECs/SCCs. If that be the case, then we can describe a neighborhood involved basic community as: An ever-developing community, which is ever on the road growing more faithful. It is not static, and its arrangements and organization are never final.
Nevertheless, while its takes on a whole variety of forms, for Christians the biblical images that underline it remain constant. The BEC/SCC consists of persons who are united in Christ and let themselves be guided by the Spirit in the journey towards the Reign of the Abba. (see, Gaudium et spes, 1)
To achieve this ongoing aim, to take on the joys and the pain of society as our very own, in the famous words of Bishop Francis to “smell like the sheep” (and not just the few perfumed sheep!), at the very least we need to see the needs of our BEC/SCC members, and those of the surrounding society; judge and evaluate how we have reached this point and how come these are our concerns (and not others); act to take up a stance and do something locally and quite possibly more widely through social networking. We can therefore understand the “ideal” BEC/SCC as 1) at the base of the local Church, 2) at the base of society, 3) at the base of our apostolic outreach and activism, and 4) at the base of the empowerment of its members and members of the surrounding society.
The Reality:The BEC/SCC as an Administrative Unit of a Parish
The “dream” outlined briefly above presupposes a prophetic vision, areas of professionalism, and deep personal motivation. The vision comes from the Scriptures which inspires and motivates daily life. The professionalism comes from learning specific skills either through experience or through training programmes. This is often motivated by local, felt-needs – such as the need to accompany children to school or to right a specific injustice. Prayer and Bible sharing/study integrate when there are at least some key members who are active Christians and are willingly and have the time to practise the necessary skills.
The problem is, many BECs/SCCs, so called, have not risen from the grassroots due to felt-needs but have been formed from above as part of parish or diocesan policy. Virtually all Asian Conferences of Bishops, as also the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), have officially prioritised the formation of BECs/SCCs.
Further, most parishes remain structured as a stable (rural) organisation although its members have long lived a much more complex (majority urban) and fluid life. At the top is the priest and “his” Pastoral Council who oversees the geographical area of “his” parish which, for practical reasons, is divided into small units. These small units, although called BECs or SCCs, in practice are administrative units for disseminating parochial news, gathering money, and assist in arranging the liturgy and the sacramental life of the parish.
Some of the elements of the “dream” may well also be present, but fundamentally, we are talking about a sub-unit of the parochial organisation. Not much to inspire, and certainly not the “participatory Church” envisioned by the FABC. In practice, the clerical, static organisational structure of the traditional Catholic parish absorbs the BEC/SCC.
The NGO as our Social Network of Choice The contrast here is with our involvement in social activism. Here the prophetic vision and personal motivation (always) come first; we are not informed that we are a member of a group, we make that personal choice ourselves. Thus, we have the motivation to learn the necessary skills and willingly join – or form – a network to carry the vision forward. And we are totally engaged. The contrast with the traditional top-down parish could not be more stark. However, as committed Christians we are also active to some extent in our parish community, at least liturgically at weekends, and quite possibly more so. The question arises: How should our experience of social activism in inter-faith networks interact with our local parochial BEC/SCC? More fundamentally, should we attempt (should we bother) to bring these two diverse experiences together?
Ideally the prophetic vision of the Bible would inspire not just our social activism but also our presence within the local Christian community (parish/diocese). The problem is, these are two different types of organisation (the one top-down, static and institutional, the other a dynamic network with local, regional and international social engagement). They also have diverse membership (in the one all are baptised into a specific Christian community, in the other we find adherents from two or more faith communities). Allow me to make the following suggestions.
Two Key Principles 1] The principle that “the Church is for mission not mission for Church” must be upheld. The centre of the parish is the household and its social networks and outreach. Our key Christian witness is not expressed in internal engagement within the parish, but rather with our social witness outside. As Bishop Francis of Rome emphasises time and time again, this priority must remain clear. Rather than a clean, neat, tidy Church suffocating in the sacristy, Bishop Francis calls for a Church out in the streets and by-ways of society, where it will surely get dirty and “smell like the sheep”. 2] Authentic, integral and prophetic faith drives our wish to transform our local BEC/SCC from being a sub-unit within a traditional top-down parish into becoming a vibrant faith-inspired, mission-motivated community. By bringing the BEC/SCC and our NGO experience together we can live more authentic lives.
Widening the Horizon 3] Based on these two principles (the Church-inmission and thus for mission, and the desire to live an authentic, prophetic, integral life of faith), I do not think that we should spend too much time or energy “battling” with a conservative, ritualcentred priest and “his” parish council to the detriment of our faith-inspired, social activism with like-minded and prophetic colleagues of other faith communities. By all means let us make our voice heard at BEC/SCC and parish levels, but let our energy be focused on social engagement. That is what Church community is all about: mission in society. 4] When we participate in our local BEC/SCC, possibly not every week but probably at key moments in the Church’s life such as during Advent and Lent or during the Bible month, then we can allow our experience of social activism inform and shape our Bible sharing and indeed the general conversation. Our social concerns, our experience and our learned skills can assist the BEC/SCC to “think outside the parochial box”, and possibly take up a key social issue. 5] If our local BEC/SCC is focused on internal parish issues (administration and liturgy), then our engagement with the wider society can be utilised to open up our fellow Christians to key social issues which as a matter of fact are impinging on our common life, such as migration that splits families, the rapid though quiet spread of HIV, opencast mining. Our function, then, is to open eyes to the wider social horizon of faith. 6] When occasion arises and it is seen as nonthreatening, we can introduce Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim friends and colleagues to the BEC/SCC, such as when their specific experience or skills would contribute to a social issue that is to be taken up by the BEC/SCC. Also, when an inter-faith “incident” arises, and their presence would help to dissipate harmful prejudice.
Faith Inspiring Social Activism 7] The prophetic “dream” of the BEC/SCC can also inspire our involvement in our social network. As committed Christians we learn to read the Bible with social eyes, picking out the social background and assumptions of each biblical character. We also learn to read the Bible with “the eyes of the other” – with the eyes of the poor, the discarded, the stigmatised. We also listen to our Buddhist/Hindu/Muslim colleagues as they talk of their faith commitment, and perhaps engage in inter-scriptural sharing.
What of the Parish? The above suggestions are all for grassroots transformation. If (by a miracle!) the local priest is like-minded and socially-engaged, and sees the parish as a community-in-mission and not as a religious/ritual-organisation over against society, then the “dream” of the BEC/SCC and our NGO activist experience may also assist in a wider transformation of the local Catholic community at parish and diocesan levels.
In this case the rather static, top-down traditional parish organisation divided into many small administrative sub-units would be transformed into a loose network of a whole kaleidoscope of possible small communities: some of the baptised only, others inter-faith, all in some crucial way involved in mission in society. Here the Pastoral Council with its various committees would not “control” let along “instruct” the “sub-units”, but would rather facilitate open and sincere communication between the more devotional and sacramental minded communites and the more socially-engaged, between those focused on “charity” and those more focused on “justice”, between the poor and the rich, between the young and the old, between the physically and socially disabled and the “healthy”. And so forth.
The parish would not be at the centre, but would facilitate open communication between all the various social networks and commitments in which we are involved: the household, the family, the neighbourhood, work colleagues, giving support through prophetic inspiration, through liturgical celebration of life, through engaging in what it is to be truly human. The parish as a network of a whole variety of communities would be as open to inter-faith communities as it is to communities of the baptised only. Boundaries would not blur, but they would be open to mutual enrichment, mutual conversion, mutual advance towards what the Gospel calls the Reign of God.
Reflection on ALL Forum Course 2: Basic Understanding of Church Teaching
by Rashali Pieris, Catholic Students’ Movement, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka
Firstly, I would like to thank Dr. Paul Hwang for this very enlightening session on few of the most fundamental and primary teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I am a bioscience undergraduate reading in my final year, and though it has been a very keen desire of mine to study in depth about my religion (Christianity), did not have the opportunity to do so thus far, therefore these sessions were very informative, useful and interesting to me personally. A lot of the points made in the session were relatively new and eye opening for me, as this is my first time studying theology (I used to do bible studies). Few concepts were quite difficult for me to grasp, but the simple explanations, the organization of slides and the style the contents were mentioned, the group discussions were really helpful for me to understand the concepts.
From course 2, firstly I was introduced to what religion was, and that faith and tradition are parts of religion and that it’s development is evolutionary and meant to reunite the relationship broken by sin. Also I was introduced to terms such as fetishism, Animism, polytheism and monotheism. Then God’s nature, relying on the old testament as identified by scholars such as Rudolf Otto and Mercia Eliade were taught to us, such as God’s HOLINESS, that he transcends everything and anything, Numinous experience by man in the presence of God, SACRED and PROFANE nature of God, Supernormal powers of God. Then the difference in faith and belief, and the cosmotheandric nature of God, as by Raimon Panikkar (one of my most favourite ideas delivered in this course) was discussed broadly and in depth. Then on the next session, Faith seeking understanding that is theology was introduced to the class, as explained by many saints and scholars such as: St. Augustine, St. Anslem Of Canterbury, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
In the next few sessions, the most important and complex doctrines in the Catholic church were discussed in the class. A few of my favourite topics and concepts are as follows. The explanatory session done on the Holy Trinity: In this session I learned that the Holy Trinity is incomprehensible, and that it is one of the most fundamental and important doctrine in the church. The Holy Trinity in the bible and the concept of the Holy Trinity explained by St. Bonaventure and Jacques Dupuis, on pluralism deeply intrigued me.
Another important topic I’d like to reflect on is the Paschal mystery and its relationship to the Christian Faith. It is one of the central concepts in the church, also celebrated by other churches such as the Orthodox Church. In this session, the relationship between the Baptism and the Passion- it was pointed out that though in the Gospels there were confessions on who Jesus was, St. Peter confessed him as saviour, but no one really understood who he was or his nature. Jesus mentioned to the disciples in the Gospel about this relationship between baptism and passion. Also the relationship between the baptism and death was discussed in the session broadly.
Topics such as adult faith, and what it is to be a Christian and become a Christian was taught in the course. Overall, I am extremely pleased and grateful to Asian Lay Leaders Forum (ALL Forum) for organizing such enlightening sessions which helped me to improve my understanding on church teaching and to solidify and root more in my faith.
It was my first time to join a course or even to discuss about the documents of Vatican II. I read the bible rarely and too lazy to read Vatican documents. I say that I was sceptical about the Vatican. Somehow, I thought that the Vatican or church can never be brave enough to make a statement or perhaps take action about the issues that are actually going on this world; gender issues for example. But, for the past two years maybe its not the Vatican who’s not brave enough rather myself who blindly did not see the Vatican’s actions; and their actions lay between words on the Vatican documents. The first time when I joined the course, I was completely confused and lost during the discussions. My knowledge about the history of the Vatican or church is really poor. But that’s what made me more curious about how exactly the church is looking at the global issues and where actually the churches stand is.
During the discussions in the session, my I always thought it would be easier if the Pope could make a “mandatory” or doctrine, in order to make a global movement. But…the change is never easy isn’t it? And for hundreds of years the church has survived, it actually has changed from the early church. And it turns out that the gospel is dynamic, it moves. The system or the way church represents to the world has slowly changed. I realize that it is really hard for churches to make a very clear statement on where they stand. Why? Because there’s an impact from political or cultural issues. The church needs to embrace all the circles, whether it is conservative or progressive; whether it is pros or cons, agree or disagree. The Church needs to embrace all the circles based on humanity. Just because you disagree on something that doesn’t mean you are not valued. So, in my perspective that way one could interpret the Vatican documents and form it into actions in the society, which is most important rather than debating about The Pope statements about the global issues.perspective was changing a little bit.
And maybe that’s why Vatican II changed the way of its communication. The Church can no longer wait for people to come to church but the church needs to be present at the center in society and so it becomes easier for lay people and the world to recognize the existence of the church. But how could we make this existence possible to see? My simply answer is by ‘Us’.
I must say that we are the church. We are the face of the church, the form of the reign of God and the voices of the world. Once in my discussion during the course I said that church is like a body. Every single creature is a part of it. The brain can’t work by itself; it needs blood which carries the oxygen from the heart and the body cannot move by itself without the system of the brain. There cannot be just clergy or just lay people even the nature is a part of it. It means that the clergy needs lay people to serve and the opposite too, we need to serve the nature to give back what we take from it. And that’s what makes the church become more adaptive through the world changes.
The next question that comes to my mind is what is the benefit if we (Us) become the ‘agent of change’ of the church? In my vision the world that we’ve been living could be a better place than now. I do believe that anyone who is reading my writing right now, has a vision, an idea of how the world is supposed to be. It cannot be denied that the church always becomes a big part that witnesses and even impacts the global movements. Hence, I do believe that if The Church can hear us then the world can hear us too.