Osaka (Agenzia Fides) - The opportunity to recover momentum in the proclamation of the Gospel, in Japan and elsewhere, "does not rest in the methodologies put in place by ecclesial apparatus but in returning to experience Christ's charity". Only by re-drawing from this source that the people involved in the apostolic mission can escape the danger of falling back on their own activism, to the point of forgetting that their "primary mission, like that of Jesus, is to proclaim to the poor a message of grace and proclaim the liberation to mankind, victim of so much oppression". These are some of the cues of reflection that Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, wanted to suggest with the words first addressed to the bishops and then priests, religious men and women and lay Catholics of the region of Osaka, on the fifth day of his visit to Japan.
The Cardinal, who met the bishops of the region of Osaka in the early afternoon, recalled the danger of making the Church seem a 'service agency'. Church-inspired works in the field of education, social and health care in collaboration with civil authorities have been for decades "a concrete sign of encouragement and support for the entire Japanese people, who lived very difficult moments after the Second World War". But in the present situation - Cardinal Filoni noted - "we cannot ignore the risk that the apostolic personnel becomes a "bureaucrat" of the educational or social situation, supported by the Government, from the moment one risks falling into the dynamic of competitiveness". Not so often - recalled the Cardinal, offering a concrete picture of such possible involution "parish related activities, for example, the functioning of kindergartens and schools, or frequent meetings end up taking a lot of time, limiting that for pastoral care with regards to faith and the catechesis of the faithful". To put a stop on these drifts - Cardinal Filoni suggested - in some situations it is appropriate to "rethink our role in the various sectors of social service". And if the services that the Church makes in the various fields "are not adequate" said the Prefect of Propaganda Fide, "then the Bishops must have the courage to rethink how to give priority to this missionary purpose". Cardinal Filoni also encouraged the representatives of the Japanese episcopate to intensify the already initiated pastoral care of Catholic immigrants, that "will be able to integrate in culture and become a promising resource for the evangelization of this Earth".
On the afternoon of Thursday, September 21, during the meeting with priests, religious and lay people in the ecclesiastical region of Osaka, Cardinal Filoni reiterated the factors that can renew a genuine missionary impetus also in Japanese land, in the light of what is constantly suggested by the magisterium of Pope Francis. Japan - said the Prefect - "is not immune from the evils that afflict our century: secularization, religious indifference, ethical subjectivism, loss of the sense of the sacred, that afflict many ancient Western Christian communities". Four and a half centuries have passed since the Gospel was announced for the first time in the Japanese archipelago, and Christians account for a small percentage of the population, while most of the Japanese people still regard Christianity as an "unknown" element to their own culture. In the face of this situation - Cardinal Filoni added - one can think of finding shelter in a pastoral "of conservation", which focuses on the care of structures and the few faithful, perhaps by placing their trust in pastoral methodologies presented as more 'modern'. "Yet", noted the Prefect of Propaganda Fide, "the Pope has often repeated that the mission does not rest in the methodologies put in place by the ecclesial apparatus, but in returning to experience Christ's charity. The problem is faith; there is no intimate relationship with Him in prayer; when this is lacking the face of the Church is blurry, the mission loses strength and conversion goes backwards". Instead, in the current Japanese society, also marked by the solitude of the elders, the reduction of birth rate, the high rate of suicide, the Church can return to offer comforting words to all if it returns to propose the message of salvation in Christ. Cardinal Filoni proposed again in this regard the model of St. Theresa of Calcutta: "Do not worry about the numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person closest to you", said Mother Teresa. It is the same evangelistic way of Jesus: to announce the good news of the Kingdom of God by looking into the eyes of individual people, in parishes, as in hospitals, in schools, in workplaces or in the streets, anywhere". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/9/2017)