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News
Mangalore (India)

1st Mission Congress
of Asia and Oceania
( 1 )

 

 

Editorial…

 

 

The word mission derived from the Latin word mittere, means a sending. Theologically, ‘divine mission’ means the Son is sent by God the Father and the Holy Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the redeemer of mankind, had fulfilled his divine mission in the world, had sealed it with his death and endorsed it by his resurrection, he empowered his apostles and through them his Church to continue the same in his name and by his authority. The Acts of the Apostles, as the first mission history, sketches the early mission and the organization of the primitive Church. This first mission activity shows that the early mission force was by no means limited to the Apostles. Rather, the whole Christian community was collectively involved. Men and women, soldiers and sailors, merchants and travelers, even philosophers all spread the Gospel message as a personal commitment wherever they lived or in case of persecution, wherever they died.

 

Mindful of the last will and testament of Christ, the Church has always looked upon missionary work as an essential and solemn obligation, and upon its progress as an unfailing gauge of her vitality. Since the day of Pentecost, when she received her baptism by the Holy Spirit, the Church has mindfully carried on this apostolate in the midst of constant persecution, unfavorable political conditions and even anti-Christian legislation. Hence, the Church today is not only One, Holy and Apostolic, but also Catholic in the sense that she is called to embrace all humankind and all peoples of every time and place, of every language and religion. “The Church is missionary by her very nature”, John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, “for Christ’s mandate is not something contingent or external, but reaches the very heart of the Church. It follows that the universal Church and each individual Church is sent forth to the nations. It is highly appropriate that young Churches should share as soon as possible in the universal missionary work of the Church. They should themselves send missionaries to proclaim the Gospel all over the world, even though they are suffering from a shortage of clergy”. (n. 62). Therefore, as has often been said, missionary commitment remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity today to guide and evangelize the cultural, social and ethical transformations of mankind. However, much still remains to be done in order to respond to the missionary call which the Lord never tires of addressing to every one of the baptized. In the demanding work of evangelization we are sustained and accompanied by the certainty that he, the Lord of the harvest, is with us and continues to guide his people. Christ is the inexhaustible source of the Church’s mission.

 

The dynamism of divine life was first communicated in the Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, sent by the Father to bring mankind revelation and salvation. The coming into the world of the Word made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14) can be considered a "type" or "archetype"--as the Fathers would say--of the Church's missionary drive. Going beyond the frontiers of ancient Israel, it extends the kingdom of heaven to all humanity. This drive is carried out in particular by the "leap" of missionaries, who, like the apostles, leave their native countries to proclaim the divine message to "all nations" (Mt 28:18).

The first missionary, the only begotten Son sent on earth by the Father to redeem the world, sends the apostles out to continue his mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The missionary typology of the "Word made flesh" also includes the self-emptying of the one who exists in the form of God and who assumed the form of a servant, becoming like men (cf. Phil 2:6-7). The Pauline concept of "kenosis" allows us to see in the Incarnation the first example of the self-emptying of those who accept Christ's mandate and leave everything to bring the Good News "to the very ends of the earth."

 

The Second Vatican Council notes this in the Decree Ad Gentes, according to which, "The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father" (AG 2). It is a mystery established by the divine Trinitarian plan which is fulfilled in the Church and made manifest as permanently her own, since the day of Pentecost.

 

After the apostles had taken the message of salvation first to Israel and then throughout the Roman empire, Western Europe was evangelized part by part and then co-operated in the evangelization of Eastern Europe as well as parts of Africa and Asia. The Benedictines pioneered the evangelization of Germany and England and later the Mendicant Orders undertook missionary journeys as far as India and Eastern Asia.

 

In the 14th and 15th centuries considering that Spain and Portugal were extending their domains overseas, the Holy See delegated its task of evangelization to the crowns of Spain and Portugal through what came to be known as the rights of patronage – the Padroado. Portugal did a good deed of evangelization in the 16th century at the heights of its colonial achievements. Later however, the Padroado privileges became an impediment to the work of evangelization when Portugal sought to retain the privileges but failed to fulfill the obligations attached to them. This period coincided with the breaking up of Christendom in Europe by the Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans and others. France, England, Denmark, Holland became rivals of Spain and Portugal in the mastery of the seas and the threat to their supremacy in the East as well as in the West. The 16th and 17th centuries saw also the reform of the Catholic Church ushered in by the Council of Trent along with which some of the ancient Orders such as Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites were reformed and new Orders such as the Jesuits saw the light of the day.

 

One of the ancient Orders that was reformed with a strong missionary thrust injected into it was that of the Discalced Carmelites reformed by St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila with deep and far reaching missionary aspirations. Some of the sons of St. Teresa were among those who urgently reminded the Holy See of its missionary obligations and of the need of a centralized apostolic agency for the expansion of the Church. One of the these great sons of St. Teresa was Fr. Gracian of the Mother of God who personally met Pope Clement VIII and convinced him of the need of founding such an agency directly under the supervision of the Holy See. Other great Carmelites were Fr. Thomas of Jesus, Fr. Ferdinand of St. Mary and others. Pope Clement VIII himself dispatched a group of Christian missionaries from Rome to Persia in 1604, even before after several attempts the Congregation of the Propagation of Faith was finally established in 1622.

 

The Congregation of the Propagation used the services particularly of religious congregations for the fulfillment of its obligations of announcing Christ to the world. Portuguese, Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits had already reached many costal areas of India and East Asia. St. Francis Xavier had arrived in the Portuguese colonies in Asia in 1542 and after hectic missionary journeys from Goa to Cochin and beyond India to the East had yielded his soul to God in 1552 off the coast of China. Great Jesuit missionaries like Matthew Ricci in China and Robert de Nobili in Madura had attempted proclaiming the Gospel message through inculturation. Meanwhile, Spanish religious had been proclaiming the good news in the world discovered for Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1492. In 1991 South American Christianity celebrated the 5th centenary of the birth of Christianity in the Americans. The occasion was marked by the 4th National Mission Congress held at Lima in Peru after 3 previous National Mission Congresses held respectively in Mexico and Columbia.

 

It is impossible to recount in a brief space the mission adventures of individuals as well as religious congregations in this colossal enterprise of the conversion of the nations. Each religious congregation no doubt will have its own epic story of missionaries and martyrs from many of the Western European nations who have spent themselves in attempting to implant the church in far away regions across land and sea.

 

The Church is essentially missionary and so every Christian is a missionary. The existence and growth of the church depends on the mission that is carried out by its faithful. The Jubilee year 200 called for new way of being Church and from this grew Pastoral Plan for every region in the dioceses. To deliberate on the progress of the missions, Mission congress took birth. Mission Congress is nothing but coming together in the name of the Risen Lord for the celebration of faith and life. The first mission congress took place on the mountain at Galilee, where the Risen Lord called the 11 together for a definite goal.

 

The late Pope John Paul II had expressed his wish that there should be a Mission Congress in each of the continents every 5 years. He had already turned his attention to the evangelization of Asia when he issued his Encyclical Ecclesia in Asia. Subsequently the First Asian Mission Congress was held at Chiang Mai, Thailand in October 2006. The theme of the Congress was “Telling the story of Jesus in our life, in the cultures of Asia and among peoples of different faiths”.

 

Following suite, the Order of Discalced Carmelites recalling how much its mother St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) had cherished the missionary spirit and how its Order had worked for the foundation of the Congregation which is now known as Congregation of Evangelization of Peoples decided to have an International Congress for Asia and Oceania on Asian soil. The venue of the Congress held from 24-28 September 2007 was Ryshivana, a beautiful spot in the vicinity of Mangalore close to where the river Netravati enters the Arabian Sea. The 35 participants included all major superiors from the two above mentioned continents, besides superiors of various missions in the region and masters of theology students.

 

Fr. Luis Arostogui Gamboa, the Superior General presided over the sessions and in his key-note address reminded those gathered in the words of the Carmelite Fr. Juan Vincente, that action without contemplation would not be Carmelite and contemplation without action would not be Teresian. Hence the missions are an integral part of a Carmelite vocation. Fr. Damaso Zuazua, the General Secretary for the missions, spelt out the aims and objectives of the congress, and urged the assembly to gear towards some practical guidelines that could be implemented in the various circumscriptions as a fruit of the deliberations. Frs. Xavier Jayaraj and Angelo Madelo, the two Definitors General, in-charge respectively of the Carmelite units in the two continents, were also present.

 

On the 2nd day V. Rev. Dr. Aloysius Paul D’Souza, Bishop of Mangalore celebrated the Eucharist and addresses the gathering. We recall with great pleasure that the first three Vicars Apostolic of Mangalore from 1845 – 1873 were sons of St. Teresa.

 

The resource persons were Carmelites Fr. Paul D’Souza of the Karnataka-Goa Province and Fr. Dominic Fernandez de Mendiola (Navarra, Spain, and former rector of Alwaye Seminary, Kerala), who presented papers on “Unforgettable Carmelite missionaries on the Asian soil from the sixteenth to twentieth century” and ‘Main characterisitics of the missionary activity of the past in Asia’, respectively. Fr. Paul deals with some of the most eminent missionaries on Asian Soil – Iran, Israel, India, Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Korea, China, Singapore – from the 16th to 20th century. Fr. Dominic Fernandez de Mendiola whose health prevented him from being present had his paper read by one of the participants. He describes the main characteristics, methods and trends introduced and followed by the Carmelites in Asia particularly in Kerala where he spent many years as Rector and Professor of the Seminary.

 

Fr. Michael Amaladoss SJ (Institute of dialogue with cultures and religions, Chennai) spoke on inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism. He pointed out particularly three paradigm shifts in dialogal approach. The first shift is from dialogue as a preparation for mission to dialogue itself as mission with an objective proper to it. Religion is a socio-political reality. Hence, inter-religious dialogue today has to move from a strictly religious level to a socio-political level which involves religion. This indicates the second shift. In a situation of conflict, as we are experiencing at present, inter-religious dialogue, promoting peace, will have to start as negotiation leading to conflict-resolution and reconciliation before going on to conversation, collaboration at the socio-political level and dialogue at the religious level and this is the third shift.

 

Fr. Felix Wilfred (Head of Department of Christianity, Madras University) shared his reflections on the document ‘Ecclesia in Asia and the challenges of mission today’. After mentioning that his native region had been evangelized by Carmelites, he presented substantial reflections on the recent Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia. He made a running commentary on the document chapter by chapter and raised a few questions that would be relevant for progress in the task of evangelization.

 

Apart from the talks, many of the participants were invited to give an account of what Carmelites were doing in their respective regions. These regional accounts were followed by question-answer sessions, which were enriching and enlightening. Finally the Order renewed its commitment to further the evangelization of Asia in the best possible manner for the service of the Church and the salvation of the nations.

 

Rev. (Dr.) Dominic Vas, OCD

Provincial Superior

Discalced Carmelites

Karnataka – Goa Province

 

 

     
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Updated 24 nov 2007  by OCD General House
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