By Arockiasamy J.
Barrackpore, March 1, 2019: A symposium on evangelization in South Asia was held at Morning Star College, Barrackpore, Kolkata.
As desired by Pope Francis, the theme of the February 14-16 event was “Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.”
It was part of a worldwide preparation of the Catholic Church to celebrate the centenary of the historic encyclical Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV, issued on November 30, 1919, which laid down, as we have today, the modern vision of Church’s missionary activity.
To commemorate this event, Pope Francis has declared October 2019 as an “Extraordinary Missionary Month” (EMM OCTOBER 2019), with the aim of fostering awareness of Church’s evangelizing mission in our time by organizing theological conferences and symposiums on the multifaceted aspects of Church’s missionary activity at national and continental levels well in time before October
The encyclical Maximum Illud, written after the First World War and in the backdrop of the Peace Treaty of Versailles held in 1919, put an end to Eurocentric and colonialist world-view and set off a post-colonial critique of the Church’s mission. As a seminal modern mission document, the encyclical appreciated the cultural diversity of the peoples of the world and advocated to develop well-trained indigenous pastoral leaders for establishing local Churches in the mission lands.
The Symposium, which was organized by Morning Star College in collaboration with St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata (SXUK), had 120 participants, including 26 experts in different disciples of thought, namely theology, education, medical care, social scientists, legal experts, social activities, 12 archbishops and bishops, and veteran missionaries from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
The research papers presented at the symposium would be published as a resource book on Evangelization in South Asia.
In his welcome address Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta, the chairperson of the symposium committee, emphasized the need to awaken the Christian community to their duty to participate in the ministry of evangelization.
Dr. Elias Frank, who was instrumental in holding the symposium in Kolkata, explained the promulgation and scope of the Extraordinary Missionary Month – EMM October, 2019.
The challenging question discussed and clarified at length at the symposium was how to put into practice the Christian Vocation to communicate Christ and his message with passion and compassion in the midst of various challenges in South Asia.
Father Felix Wilfred, founder-director of Asian Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies, Chennai, in his key-note address noted that evangelization in South Asia need to focus on the poor as the recipient of the Good News, because this region is the home of the largest number of poor in the world today. He stressed on the need for developing a new mission method that acts in cooperation with the people of good will across religious boundaries to contribute to the transformation of the society and the wellbeing of the world in accordance with the Kingdom values of Jesus rather than building barriers and walls of separation.
Dr. John Romus, the symposium coordinator, in his paper on the magisterial documents on mission underlined the papal wisdom that led to an evolution of a progressive theology of evangelization encompassing all aspects of human life. Hence, evangelization, as we understand today, takes the world seriously because people’s historical, social, and cultural contexts are acknowledged as sources that reveal God’s will and action as seen in the life and mission of Jesus.
Mission is about cultivation, perfection, and integral restoration of human persons in their dignity created in divine image and likeness. Therefore, the Church in its evangelizing mission lives in solidarity with the concerns of the world community.
In the concluding session of the Symposium the participants proposed concrete suggestions for new evangelization in this region. Many recommended to create a South Asian Forum for pastoral cooperation and to train pastoral leaders for evangelization.
(Father Arockiasamy J is the principal, Morning Star College, Kolkata – 700121)