Thursday, 30 October 2003

Manila (Agenzia Fides) – “We, the rectors of Shrines in Asia, gathered in Makati, Philippines, on October 20 – 25, after Mission Sunday of the year 2003, on the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s Pontificate, resolve to form an association to present and proclaim Jesus as a gift received and also to be shared”. This affirmation is part of a statement issued at the end of the First Conference of Shrine Rectors from Asia which brought together Rectors of 51 Shrines in 14 different countries, Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan,, Korea, Macao, Malaysia, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The theme of the conference “The Shrine: a place of Welcome and of Encounter” was chosen keeping in mind the post synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia and numerous FABC documents in the subject. Organised jointly by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Commission for Migrants of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Philippines with the contribution of the Association of Shrines and Pilgrimage Directors of the Philippines, the Conference revealed the vitality of Shrines in Asia, their importance for local Catholic communities and the fact that they draw also many non Christian pilgrims. The Shrines are dedicated to hundreds of Asia’s saints officially recognised by the Church most of them martyrs.
In the vast and complex reality of Asia, where different religions and ancient cultures live side by side, religious sentiment is deeply rooted in the peoples cultural, economic and socio-political lives and it is a challenge for Christianity. The fact that many followers of other religions visit Christian Shrines opens new horizons for evangelisation and mission on this continent where Catholics are a tiny minority among 3 billion people. “How can our shrines attract more devout Asian peoples to whom we can make known and proclaim Christ and His saving message?” the Rectors ask in their final statement and promise to explore the immense possibilities for inculturation and dialogue offered by pilgrimages, religious meetings, liturgical celebrations, popular devotional events, charity work and even church architecture. “We accept the challenge to open vast horizons for dialogue between cultures and dialogues with other religious groups in the firm hope of arriving at the sure revelation of Christ. We also affirm our commitment to work together in finding God-sent solutions to the poverty afflicting many Asian peoples, desirous of extolling the dignity of life and of every human person.”
The Rectors have agreed to form Associations of Shrine Rectors in their respective countries and in the whole continent of Asia, to provide the opportunity for experiencing, sharing, learning and empowering towards a united effort to contribute in achieving the goal of evangelisation of Asia through the Shrines The second Conference of Rectors of Shrines in Asia will be held in Kazakhstan in 2005. SL (Fides Service 30/10/2003 EM lines 45 Words: 507)