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Indonesian bishop on crusade for greater inclusivity

Newly installed prelate in Purwokerto on Java says it's time for church to stop alienating social groups and show tolerance

Indonesian bishop on crusade for greater inclusivity

Bishop Christophorus Tri Harsono of Purwokerto Diocese on Indonesia's Java Island was appointed by Pope Francis in July 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Organizing Committee of the Episcopal Ordination)

Father Christophorus Tri Harsono, who has just been ordained bishop of Purwokerto on Java Island, has stressed the importance of the values encapsulated in the Nostra Aetate (In Our Time) produced by the Second Vatican Council, especially its focus on teaching Catholics to be less judgmental and more inclusive.

The 52-year-old, one of two new Indonesian bishops appointed by Pope Francis in July, was ordained Oct. 16 at the state-run General Soedirman University in the capital of Banyumas district in Central Java province.

More than 5,000 Catholics as well as hundreds of bishops, priests and nuns attended the ordination ceremony of Bishop Harsono who previously served as vicar-general of Bogor Diocese in West Java.

He succeeds Jesuit Bishop Julianus Sunarka, who resigned in December 2016 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.

"In Nostra Aetate, Catholics are taught to be inclusive instead of superior. That is why, like it or not, tolerance must be the chief characteristic of the church," the new bishop told ucanews.com.

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Nostra Aetate is a declaration on the relation of the church to non-Christian religions, as proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965.

"I want to be friends with anyone. I won't promote inclusivism. Rather, I will visit people and sit with them for a cup of coffee," Bishop Harsono said.

"This is better than just attending formal meetings of the Interfaith Communication Forum."

He was ordained as a priest in 1995 and studied Arabic in Egypt from 1998 to 2001 before continuing his education at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome.

Bishop Harsono has also served as chairman of Bogor Diocese's commission for ecumenical and interreligious affairs and is a member of West Java province's Interfaith Communication Forum.

"I must uphold the idea of being '100 percent Catholic and 100 percent Indonesian.' If we don't fully understand our Catholic faith, how can we mingle with other religious groups?" he asked.

"If Catholics have a better understanding [of God], they would be inclusive. Tolerance makes this possible, so this is what we need," he added.

To promote the motto tied to his Episcopal ordination — fiat mihi secundam verbum tuum (Let it be done to me according to Thy Word) — he said he would visit diocesan priests to clarify the direction they should be taking moving forward.

"I noticed many internal problems in relation to diocesan priests when I first arrived here," he said, declining to elaborate.

Agustinus Bambang Murdoko from St. Stephen Parish in Cilacap district welcomed the prelate's plan to visit the priests.

"Catholics need priests [to serve them]. But the number of priests is declining," he told ucanews.com.

"Many priests are leaving the priesthood for a variety of reasons."

Purwokerto Diocese has 61,000 Catholics in 25 parishes ministered to by 46 diocesan priests, 35 religious priests, 145 sisters, and 24 brothers.

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