Vatican’s first resident Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia and Apostolic Delegate to Brunei, Archbishop Joseph Marino addressed the Arch/bishops at the opening session. Ten Arch/bishops from the region were present.
Earlier Archbishop John Ha, president of the CBCMSM chaired the CBC meeting and welcomed Archbishop Joseph Marino and Msgr Marek Zalewski, the First Counsellor of the Apostolic Nunciature in Malaysia and all Arch/bishops for their presence.
Archbishop Ha also welcomed bishop-elect Fr Richard Ng who will be installed as Bishop of Miri, Jan 25.
Meanwhile two bishops were unable to be present for the Conference. Archbishop Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur and Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom of Sandakan were indisposed.
In his greeting to the Arch/bishops present, Archbishop Marino also welcomed the newest member, Bishop-elect Richard Ng and wished him all the best in his ministry of service to the People of God. He thanked Bishop Emeritus Anthony Lee of Miri for his many years as Bishop there.
The Apostolic Nuncio also expressed his sincere thanks to Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam whose resignation from the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago in conformity with the norms of Canon Law was accepted. He extended his appreciation to him for his ministry as Bishop and then as Archbishop.
In his opening address to CBC-MSB, Archbishop Joseph Marino noted that the Church has been experiencing an authentic reawakening through the ministry of Pope Francis who has been giving much hope and joy.
He said that one of the key elements that has produced so much expectation is the Pope’s dedication towards reform, and underscored that the ultimate reform that the Church needs must take place within the local Church.
The Archbishop, in pointing out that the Church has suffered much, stressed that the Pope is calling the entire Church to manifest mercy in all its institutions and structures regardless of the extent of her suffering.
He went on to say that in order for us to become a Church of mercy, we must, according to the Holy Father, adopt three attitudes: humility, simplicity and dialogue.
Humility… that God comes into the hearts of people not by force, but by attraction, arising from his love, especially his love for the poorest and weakest.
Simplicity… the beauty of God who attracts and “he himself awakens within us a desire to keep him and his life in our homes, in our hearts”.
Dialogue… the Pope speaks about “meeting people on their way” and “capable of entering into the conversation of the people” which means to embrace everyone who comes to us, making them feel welcomed and wanted.
The Archbishop said the Holy Father is convinced that if we are close to the people, specifically to the concrete realities of their lives, we are in a perfect position to be able “to warm their hearts”, like Christ warmed the hearts of his disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Archbishop Marino stressed that the Pope, in his address to new bishops, has emphasized on the need to “journey and dialogue with others and be a welcoming heart”.
He then added that our efforts in the area of inter-religious dialogue must intensify and be manifested as a Church of mercy with the attitudes of humility, simplicity and a spirit of dialogue.
Touching on the formation of bishops, priests, religious and laity, the Archbishop relayed that the Pope insists that we must train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, and to call for a “thorough review'” of the structures in place for the formation and preparation of the clergy and laity in the Church.
The second important step to become a Church of mercy, the Nuncio continued, is to solidify our structures of collegiality and solidarity, beginning at the level of the CBC-MSB. He explained that the Arch/bishops coming from three different countries, representing different distinct cultures and languages, that even with all this diversity there must be a common vision and a common purpose.
Elaborating on the primary function of the Bishops’ Conference, which is to “jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of their territory”, the Conference must address common concerns with a spirit of care, solidarity and collegiality.
The Nuncio concluded with the observation that one of the truly great experiences he has thus far since his arrival in Kuala Lumpur is witnessing the faith of the people in this region. He said, “There is already existing a precious gift which we Arch/bishops must encourage and nourish,” adding that faith is not to be controlled, but encouraged.
The Conference of Bishops’ then proceeded to the agenda over several sessions that included matters to do with Synod on the Family, Charismatic Renewal, Justice and Peace, Migrants and Itinerants, Liturgy and Social Communications.
The Arch/bishops discussed at length on Islamization which has been a hot issue currently in Malaysia. The Conference also heard the views presented by Bishop emeritus Hwa Yung of the Methodist Church in Malaysia and his team who spoke on Islamization – a proposed program plan, challenge, and a concerted strategic response.
In an overview of the Church in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, the Arch/bishops focused on the importance of prevailing practice of justice towards a harmonious nation. They also discussed the inevitability of struggle within the ambit of the Constitution for freedom of religion and human rights.
During the course of meeting, the arch/bishops also received the questionnaire for the 3rd Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. A series of questions were deliberated and discussed in preparation for the up-coming Synod on the Family in Rome Oct 5-19 this year.
The Conference also spoke on the establishment of a Commission for the New Evangelization (NE) which the Pontifical Council for NE had requested the Conference to establish.
The Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei canonists commission which had their meeting Aug 26-28 last year in Majodi Centre presented their report to the Conference. Among the topics discussed were Mixed and Arranged Marriages, Tribunal Procedures, Organization and Services, Sexual Abuses in the Church and Formation of laity and Clergy.
The Arch/bishops during their meeting also studied a number of documents and touched on administrative issues pertaining to the daily affairs of the Church.
On the third day of the Conference, the Arch/bishops had a joint meeting with the assembled Conference of Religious Major Superiors (CRMS) who had gathered for their annual meeting. The CRMS presented the bi-annual report to the Arch/bishops.