Dear Reverend Fathers,
It is a pleasure for me to be with you this morning at your annual gathering of the Catholic Commission for the Clergy. I note that this is your 25th gathering, and so a cause for some festivity as you celebrate your Silver Jubilee. I wish to thank the organisers of this meeting for allowing the Pontifical Representative to address you. In fact this has become something of an annual appointment, as this is the third time I have been able to talk with you the priests, who are in the front line pastorally and have primary responsibility for evangelisation.
This year the theme of your annual seminar is in keeping with the Asian Mission Congress (AMC), which has just concluded in Chiang Mai “Telling the Story of Jesus to Thais”. The organisers have asked that I speak to you about proclaiming Christ in the countries where I am competent as Papal Representative. That being the case, the title I have chosen for this talk, is intended to reflect the fact that, as Apostolic Nuncio and Delegate, in this part of South East Asia, I have been charged by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI with caring for seven countries. With the Kingdom of Thailand, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Singapore, the Holy See has diplomatic relations, and so I am the Apostolic Nuncio in those countries. In the Union of Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Laos, the Republic of Malaysia and Brunei Darussalm, I am the Apostolic Delegate, as the Holy See has not yet established diplomatic relations. As it already features in your programme, I shall not dwell on the proclamation of the Gospel in Thailand, but shall only speak about four of the other countries: Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia (wishing, due to space, to leave Singapore and Brunei for another moment).
I should tell you at once that I prepared this discourse prior to AMC which concluded the day before yesterday. That being the case, I am slightly limited in that I am sure the final documents of that historic gathering, the first of its kind in Asia, would be invaluable in offering insights for this talk. In addition, I feel hindered in another way: Having been present in this region of the world for a little less than three years, I am not really in position to offer you precisely formulated answers to the question you have asked of me. I must, therefore, content myself with offering you some personal insights which are the fruit of my experience, gathered especially through my pastoral visits to those countries, without being an indepth analysis.
Having said that, there are some premises I should present, before entering into this subject:
@ All the countries that I shall consider in this address have a wealth of cultural and religious tradition. Far be it from me to propose a graduated presentation of them all based on their differing historical, and sometimes contrasting, development with its repercussions for the situation today;
@ The implantation of Christianity in some of the countries happened simultaneously, whereas in others it happened at different times and with differing results;
@ As it stands today, among these countries there is real diversity with regard to the economic situation, the socio-political reality and religion;
@ By way of methodology, I shall offer some thoughts on my experiences in four areas:
I start with Myanmar, and in each of the reflections we will be guided by the Word of God, the Magisterium of the Church and a practical example:
@ The Word of God taken from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32): “And all those who were of the faith were one in heart and soul”;