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Creating a civilization of love in Semarang Archdiocese

Growing intolerance in Indonesia presents new archbishop with a tough and pressing challenge

Creating a civilization of love in Semarang Archdiocese

Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko of Semarang is concerned about the growth of radical groups in Central Java and Yogyakarta. He sees growing radicalism as a serious threat to the church. (ucanews.com photo)

As the new head of Semarang, Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko is very concerned about the emergence of radical groups in his archdiocese, which covers Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces.

"What surprises me is that many young people idolize radical figures, and this shows how rebellious their souls are," says the prelate, who was ordained as archbishop May 19.

Pope Francis appointed him the sixth archbishop of Semarang on March 18 to succeed Archbishop Johannes Maria Trilaksyanta Pujasumarta, who passed away two years ago.

In one of his first acts, Archbishop Rubiyatmoko, 53, recently met with provincials from religious congregations running educational institutions to discuss the issue.

There are 493 schools ranging from kindergartens to universities in the archdiocese, which has four vicariates — Semarang, Surakarta, Kedu and Yogyakarta — and serves around 400,000 Catholics in 98 parishes and mission stations.  

"Catholic schools have to deal with it. They need to boost the national value of living together in harmony among their students, who are also non-Catholics," says Archbishop Rubiyatmoko, who was ordained a priest in 1992.

In the near future, he will meet with the archdiocese's education commission and Catholic education council to draft an integrated curriculum to be introduced in Catholic schools.

"It is hoped that Catholic schools can produce both Catholics and non-Catholics with a spirit of nationalism," he says.


Vision and missions

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His concern goes hand in hand with the archdiocese's vision for the period 2016-2035, which is to foster a civilization of love within a prosperous, dignified and faithful society in Indonesia.

"The vision encourages us to think about our archdiocese and how our archdiocese can play a significant role affecting the whole of society," he says.

To realize the vision, the archdiocese is to launch several missions including improving the quality of life for the poor and disabled, encouraging Catholics to actively participate in promoting fair public policies, organizing an ongoing faith formation, providing comprehensive education, and building cooperation among all people.

The strategies include, strengthening cooperation between religious men, women and laypeople, paying serious attention to pastoral care of the family, and nourishing a spirit of pluralism.  

"I cannot work alone in this, so I will embrace priests as they are motivators," he says.

The archdiocese — which dates back to Dec. 14, 1904 when Jesuit Father Franciscus van Lith baptized 171 villagers in Sendangsono, in Yogyakarta's Kulon Progo district — has more than 400 priests. There are also around 1,250 religious men and women.

"We need to be pro-active. We need to seek and to save," he says.

To seek and to save, or quaerere et salvum facere, taken from Luke 19:10, is his episcopal motto.

"It is not something new, it is my priestly experience. I realize that many people need help," says Archbishop Rubiyatmoko, who prior to his episcopal appointment, served as judicial vicar in Semarang Archdiocese as well as a formator at St. Paul Major Seminary and a lecturer at Wedabhakti Pontifical Faculty of Theology of Sanata Dharma University, both in Yogyakarta. He was also an assistant priest at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in the province's Sleman district.



The archdiocese faces the challenge of strengthening Catholics' faith.

"Catholics here live within a diverse society. But the fact is that intolerance has surfaced. Central Java and Yogyakarta have become hotbeds of radical groups. This is a serious threat to the church," Archbishop Rubiyatmoko says.

Central Java and Yogyakarta has 68.2 million people comprising Buddhists, Catholics, Confucians, Hindus, Muslims and Protestants as well as followers of traditional beliefs.

Social threats such as abortion, free sex and drugs, also need to be addressed, he says.

Over the last few years, the archdiocese has taken steps to improve faith formation among laypeople. The most important thing, however, is to encourage Catholics not to be exclusive.

"The theory sounds easy. In practice, it won't be that simple," he says.

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