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Indonesian Catholics recall St John Paul II's ecumenical spirit

Pope's 1989 visit helped foster interfaith dialogue

<p>Picture: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-1613585p1.html?cr=00&pl=edit-00">giulio napolitano</a>/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com</a></p>

Picture: giulio napolitano/Shutterstock.com

  • Katharina R. Lestari and Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • April 29, 2014
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Indonesian Catholics recalled St John Paul II as a man whose ecumenical spirit served as a foundation for harmony among the country's different religions.

The pope, while visiting Indonesia in 1989, repeatedly reminded Indonesians that freedom of religion was a fundamental human right and called for a "respectful dialogue" among all Indonesia’s religions.

That call for dialogue still influences the world's most populous Muslim nation, said Franciscan Father Robertus Agung Suryanto of St Paschal Parish in Jakarta.

"For Indonesia, I think St John Paul II serves as the foundation of dialogue between the Catholic Church and other religions. His personal influence is huge," he told ucanews.com.

John Paul and Pope John XXIII were elevated to sainthood on Sunday by Pope Francis in a Vatican ceremony. Their elevation to sainthood was commemorated in Indonesia on Monday with a Mass celebrated in Jakarta's Miniature Park attended by 1,600 people.

Mercy Sister Vincentia said she remembered the pope as being an "ambassador of peace".

"When he came to Indonesia, religious leaders welcomed him too. He could hold a dialogue with other religions," she said.

Theophilus Bela, chairman of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, said St John Paul II's Indonesian visit encouraged Catholics to actively seek a dialogue with their Muslim neighbors.

"His visit strengthened us to embrace our brothers and sisters from other religions. Such spirit is in the hearts of Catholics now … they commit to building a good relation with the majority group, like Muslims, even though it is not easy," he said.

St John Paul II made a five-day trip to Indonesia in October 1989, visiting the capital, Jakarta, as well as Yogyakarta, East Nusa Tenggara, and the then Indonesian province of East Timor.

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