Pope says Asia offers vast opportunities for evangelization

By  John Thavis, Catholic News Service
  • November 28, 2011

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Asia offers "vast scenarios of evangelization" for the church, but currently faces difficulties and "true persecution" in some places.

The Pope made the comments Nov. 25 to members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who were meeting in a plenary assembly at the Vatican.

He noted that, last year, an important meeting of Catholic laypeople was organized in South Korea, and it became an occasion for strengthening the missionary commitment throughout Asia.

"The vast Asian continent is home to diverse populations, cultures and religions of ancient origin, but until now the Christian announcement has reached only a small minority. Not rarely, they live the faith in a difficult context, and sometimes under true persecution," the Pope said.

His remarks appeared aimed at China, which has sharply limited church freedoms and in recent months has imposed the ordination of bishops without papal approval.

Looking ahead to next October's Synod of Bishops on the theme of "new evangelization," the Pope said lay Catholics should take the lead in reawakening an awareness of God.

The tendency to shut God out of people's lives and society is common today, he said, and "the spread of this mentality has generated the crisis that we are experiencing today, which is a crisis of meaning and values even before it is an economic and social crisis."

The Pope said the challenge is not simply to engage those outside the church, but to strengthen the awareness of God among Christians themselves.

"Sometimes efforts are made to increase the impact of Christians in social, political or economic life, and perhaps the same concern has not been shown for the solidity of their faith, as if this were something to be taken for granted," he said.

Christians "do not live on a distant planet, immune from the 'diseases' of the world," but are subject to the same pressures, confusions and problems of modern society, he said.

Therefore, it is no less urgent to propose the question of God inside the church, he said.

"How many times, despite defining oneself as Christian, is God not the central point of reference in ways of thinking or acting and in the fundamental choices of life?" he said.

The Pope returned to the same theme in his Angelus talk Nov. 27, telling pilgrims that at the beginning of Advent, people should remember that "the true 'master' of the world is not man, but God."

He cited a prayer by the prophet Isaiah, who addressed God, saying, "There is none who calls upon your name ... for you have hidden your face from us."

The Pope said the passage "seems to reflect certain panoramas of the post-modern world," a world in which God seems absent and human beings consider themselves the directors of everything, including work, science and technology.

The Pope said Advent was a good time to remember that life has a dimension beyond earthly existence, and that everyone will ultimately be called to explain how they lived their lives: strictly for themselves, or for the good of all.

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