JOHOR BAHRU – In his address to the Arch/bishops at the opening session of the 94th Plenary Session of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei (CBCMSB) which took place at Majodi Centre, Plentong, from 7-11 July 2014, Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, Archbishop Marino said he was delighted to acknowledge the presence of Fr Julian Leow Beng Kim whom Pope Francis appointed as Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur on Jul 3.
He called on the CBC to welcome him and embrace him as a true brother as he carries out his ministry in the enormous vineyard of the Lord, now entrusted to him by the Pope.
Archbishop Marino addressing the CBC said he was aware of the important ministry the Arch/bishops have been given, “a ministry with all of is challenges and at times disappointments.”
He told the Bishops present that as pastors of particular churches, you are always the leader, the point of reference, the paternal guide, the spiritual guru, given the mission of fulfilling these tasks in relationship with a wide variety of people, priests, religious, laity, government officials and even those of other faiths.
He said in the midst of this already demanding mission, there is now, a new challenge, one that has been given to us by our Holy father Pope Francis.
“We are all aware of the process that he has undertaken himself to reform the Curia and many structures in the Vatican,” he said.
Archbishop Marino went on to say that in order to renew and reform ourselves at the local level we need first to examine ourselves. He said the call to reform is directly stated in the clearest of terms in Evangelii Gaudium #25 where the Pope states that we “cannot leave things as they presently are,” adding that the Church needs reform and change.
The Apostolic Nuncio explained that the reform that the Pope is speaking about is not just changing structures or establishing new structures or to reform or change for the sake of reform or change. Rather, he said, the Pope calls for a deep and overall reform with the goal of assisting the Church to fulfill her essential mission, that of evangelization, marked by enthusiasm and vitality, adopting “a definite style of evangelization in every activity which we undertake.”
Archbishop Marino went on to say that the Holy Father is insistent that reform is not something to reflect upon, but rather it is something to act upon and do.
Quoting the Pope, he said, “I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”
He said that in this “bold and creative” rethinking of who we are as Church and how we carry out our ministry of evangelization, there are three ideas that come from the document (Evangelii Gaudium) that hopefully will assist us in our evaluation of ourselves and encourage us to renew our missionary action and impulse: i) a church that proclaims with joy, ii) a church that bestows mercy without end and iii) a church that goes forth with eagerness.
Archbishop Marino told the Arch/bishops that Pope Francis wants the Church to live the experience of its life with Christ with a spirit of joy and “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy.”
He stressed that Pope Francis invites all Christians everywhere “to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them.”
He said Pope Francis tells us that we proclaim the message of joy by being with the people, among the people, adding that, “at times we need to get on our knees and wash the feet of our brothers and sisters in need.”
He urged the Arch/bishops to be supportive of people, especially the weak, not only materially but also spiritually.
He emphasized that “we must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings.”
He reminded the Arch/bishops that the Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.
To be a Church of mercy concretely means, to use the Pope’s very words, “to get involved in word and deed in people’s lives.” As such Archbishop Marino said, we must be with the people, walking with them in their daily lives, often marked by struggles and pain, “entering fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns.”
The Nuncio also stated that the Holy Father wants to have the doors of our churches open meaning that the doors of the sacraments cannot be closed for simply reasons, especially Baptism and the Eucharist.
He said to have an open door policy means to go to everyone without exception, especially the poor, “for there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor.”
According to Archbishop Marino, the Holy Father makes it clear that our lack of pastoral care for the poor is a reason for which many people are leaving the Church.
He states the reason of this breakdown include: a lack of opportunity for dialogue in families, the influence of the communications media, relativistic subjectivism, unbridled consumerism which feeds the market, lack of pastoral care among the poor, the failure of our institutions to be welcoming, and our difficulty in restoring a mystical adherence to the faith in a pluralistic religious landscape.
To reach the poor and to give special pastoral care to them, he said, the Holy Father calls us to overcome an interior life that is totally “caught up in its own interests and concerns” where “there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.”
On the other hand, he stated that we must become spirit-filled evangelizers. “If we are filled with the Spirit, we become evangelizers who pray and work.”
He said it is authentic prayer which the Holy Father calls us to, not “a privatized lifestyle that can lead Christians to take refuge in some false forms of spirituality.”
The Nuncio said that the Holy Father has asked us to undertake this activity of reform without complacency and without fear.
He said, the Pope even says, “ we should not be afraid of making mistakes. I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
Moreover, Archbishop Marino explains that the Holy Father reminds us that, “the important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.”
He said, “The bishop must always foster this missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul.”
The Bishops, according to Archbishop Marino, have the task of promoting the unity of the local Church in her missionary commitment.
He added, “There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the lay faithful in the Church, as well as a recognition that they are called to take an increasingly important role in the spread of the Gospel.” – Vincent D’Silva