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Shrines, Pilgrimage Centers Are ´Privileged Places´ For Dialogue, Evangelization

Updated: November 27, 2005 05:00 PM GMT
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Rectors and directors of Asian shrines and pilgrimage centers have resolved to make use of their centers to evangelize, promote the culture of life and dialogue with other religions.

Besides the rectors and directors, the 87 participants at the Second Asian Congress on Pilgrimages and Shrines included bishops, workers and volunteers. The clergy, laypeople and Religious at the meeting, held Nov. 21-23 in Uijeongbu, 30 kilometers north of Seoul, came from 14 Asian countries and the Vatican, and included presenters from Chile and the United States. The theme of the event was: "Pilgrimages and Shrines, Gifts of God-Love in Asia Today."

The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People sponsored the congress in collaboration with the Korean Catholic bishops´ Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, and Seoul archdiocese. The first Asian rectors´ congress was held in Manila in 2003.

In his opening address, Cardinal Stephen Hamao Fumio, president of the pontifical council, said shrines and pilgrimage centers in Asia should be used to protect life and families. "Shrines are privileged places of welcome for people, the family of God. Consequently, the pastoral care of the family, safeguarding of life and the defense of human rights should be present through our welcome and accompaniment of the pilgrims," the Japanese cardinal said.

Shrines also are "places for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue," he continued, pointing out that "men and women from different Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as believers with other religious convictions, come as pilgrims."

Father Manuel Martinez, secretary of the pontifical council, told UCA News Nov. 23 that this interreligious dimension is something "very interesting in Asia," with people from various religions visiting each other´s shrines.

During the three-day congress, participants spoke on their respective shrine or center´s role in nurturing pilgrims, interreligious dialogue and inculturation, and in dealing with issues related to migration.

Among them were Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun of Cheongju, South Korea, former rector of Paeti Martyrs´ Shrine; Jesuit Father Renzo De Luca, rector of the Japanese Shrine of the 26 Martyrs in Nagasaki, Japan; and Father Devasia Mathew Mangalam, rector of the Shrine of Fatima in Kolkata, India.

The program included visits to Jeoldusan Martyrs´ Shrine and Myongdong Cathedral, both in Seoul. "Jeoldusan" means "mountain of beheading," and the 10,000 Catholics who were beheaded at the top of the mountain in 1866, during a period of religious persecution, are referred to as the "Jeoldusan Martyrs."

On the final day of the congress, participants discussed the draft of their final document and decided on action plans for setting up national, regional and an Asian-level federation for shrine rectors. These federations are to serve as forums to exchange thoughts and suggestions, and to promote a culture of life and openness to families, non-Christians and migrant workers.

As input for the discussion, Claretian Bishop Gaspar Quintana Jorquera of Copiapo, Chile, spoke on his experience with the Confederation of Shrines of Latin America. Discalced Carmelite Father Cyril Guise, president of the National Association of Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate in the United States, also shared on his experience.

The final document of the congress will be released after the Vatican delegation finalizes it.

Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-ho of Jeonju, president of the Korean bishops´ Committee for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, told UCA News Nov. 23, "We should pay special care for pilgrims and make them experience God´s love."

Asian participants came from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.


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