Before the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization closed on Sunday, it delivered a special message to the Church in Asia.
More than 200 bishops from all over the world, together with Vatican Curia cardinals, lay leaders and representatives of other Christian denominations met in Rome from October 7, to discuss how to re-energize the faith in the face of a modern world that grows ever more secular.
As part of its rallying call to “the people of God,” released on Friday, the Synod specifically addressed the Church in Asia: “As a small minority in the continent which houses almost two thirds of the world's population, your presence is a fruitful seed entrusted to the power of the Spirit, which grows in dialogue with the diverse cultures, with the ancient religions and with the countless poor.
“Although often outcast by society and in many places also persecuted, the Church of Asia, with its firm faith, is a valuable presence of Christ's Gospel which proclaims justice, life and harmony.”
The next day, the Synod unveiled 58 proposals to be submitted to Pope Benedict, who will then decide whether to incorporate them in the Apostolic Exhortation which he will write.
Proposals included a “commission of Church leaders representing various parts of the Church throughout the world” to “address attacks on religious liberty.”
After an intense debate at the Synod over Islam and the rise of fundamentalism in many parts of the world, the bishops also urged Christians to persevere and deepen their relations with Muslims.
“Despite difficulties,” they wrote, “this dialogue must continue, with an attitude of respect for the conscience of people.”
Pope Benedict also briefly addressed the Synod on his reasons for unexpectedly appointing six non-European cardinals. The move, he said, was aimed at showing the “universality of the Church” that does not belong to just one continent.
The previous crop of cardinal nominations was criticized for selecting churchmen from Europe, Italy in particular, and the Vatican Curia. Of the six announced last week, none comes from Europe and three come from Asia.
The Synod officially wrapped up on Sunday with a solemn Mass led by Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What is the Synod of Bishops and why is it important?