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Ad Limina: Bishops of Thailand

August 30, 1996

Inculturation will ensure Church is firmly rooted in Thai culture

(excerpt)

  

"By sharing their experience of affective prayer, meditation and contemplation, they [women religious in Thailand] help to forge closer bonds between the followers of Christianity and Buddhism, while opening the way for greater co-operation in the promotion of integral human development. In this context the Church's social doctrine is also a bridge linking Christians and Buddhists", the Holy Father said to the Bishops of Thailand when he received them in audience at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo on Friday, 30 August, at the end of their ad limina visit. Here is the text of the Pope's address, which was given in English.

  

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, the members of the Bishops' Conference of Thailand, on the occasion of your ad limina visit to the Apostolic See, faithful depositary of the preaching and supreme witness of the Princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. I am convinced that our meetings of these days will further strengthen the bonds of unity, charity and peace which bring us together in the communion of Christ's Body - the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. In particular I wish to thank Cardinal Michai Kitbunchu for the cordial greetings which he conveyed on behalf of the priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful of the Church in Thailand.

From my Pastoral Visit to your country 12 years ago I retain vivid memories of your people's courteous hospitality and enterprising vitality, their spirit of tolerance, their unbounded generosity to refugees and strangers, their ethnic and cultural richness, and their profound religious sense. With joy I remember the warm welcome of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his accession to the throne I wish to acknowledge his role in guaranteeing Thailand's tradition of religious freedom and his promotion of the lofty ideals of social justice and solidarity.

2. Dear Brothers, reflecting on your ministry I cannot but recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught so incisively, namely that the Church is "missionary by her very nature" (Ad gentes, n. 2). Still fresh in the memory of your particular Churches is the evangelization accomplished in a spirit of generosity and self-renunciation by the first missionaries and sealed by the blood of the Seven Martyrs of Thailand. These noble beginnings cannot but stimulate you to renew and invigorate the work of evangelization among the Christian faithful.

In fact, as the dawn of the third millennium breaks upon us, the Church turns her eyes with special attention to Asia, "towards which the Church's mission ad gentes ought to be chiefly directed" (Redemptoris missio, n. 37). Today this missionary endeavour has to be carried out primarily by Asians themselves. Having received the faith from dedicated missionaries, Thai Catholics are called to bear witness to the Gospel before new sectors of society, especially tribal peoples and the poor, migrants and refugees, as well as workers and professional people. With you I am deeply grateful for the priests of the Thai Missionary Society - itself a maturing fruit of the plantatio Ecclesiae - who are now spreading the Good News both within your country and abroad. Through you I also urge consecrated men and women, who "have a special share in the Church's missionary activity, in virtue of their interior consecration made to God" (Vita consecrata, n. 77), to make new efforts to assist the growth of God's kingdom in Thailand and beyond. Zeal for this pressing evangelical effort must be conveyed to all young men and women in houses of formation, fostering in them a generous and courageous commitment to the task of spreading the Good News.

Laity need your help to carry out their mission

3. As servants of the Spirit of Truth, who brings to remembrance all that Christ has taught his Church (cf. Jn 14:26, 16:13), Bishops must see to it that their people are formed in a thorough and systematic knowledge of Jesus' person and message, a knowledge which will enable them to communicate to others the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Eph 3:8) with joy and conviction, and with a readiness to give an account of the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). One of the great blessings bestowed on the universal Church in recent years has been the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and I gladly encourage your Conference in its desire to prepare a translation so that its doctrine will enliven the faith of your people.

Through you I send a special greeting to all catechists - parents, lay men and women, and religious - who give so generously of themselves in bringing Jesus Christ, the "one Mediator between God and men" (1 Tm 2:5) and the hope of humanity, to children, young people and adults "in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life" (Catechesi tradendae, n. 18). Their apostolate is indispensable to the growth of Dioceses, parishes and Christian families. Centres of catechetical formation, programmes of doctrinal and spiritual renewal, and constant personal encouragement are invaluable means of educating all those responsible for handing on the faith. I pray that the catechists in your local communities - obedient to Christ as their Teacher (cf. Mt 23:8) - will, with your support, by word and deed, faithfully transmit the living Gospel, the very person of Jesus who is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6).

4. Your local Churches are blessed with lay men and women who are deeply faithful to Christian life and to the celebration of the Liturgy with dignity and prayerful solemnity. At the same time the laity require your help in order to carry out their specific mission in the temporal order, a mission which involves many of them in helping migrants and refugees, the homeless, those suffering from AIDS, and the women and children gravely offended in their human dignity by a veritable industry of sexual exploitation. Likewise, young people's restless search for meaning in life, their desire for close communion with God and with the ecclesial community and their enthusiasm in volunteer service to those in need is a challenge to all pastoral workers. Thai youth "ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society" (Christifideles laici, n. 46).

It is however through the family, which is the foundation of society and the first cell of ecclesial life, that lay people fulfil their primary vocation. For this reason the family deserves your attentive pastoral care, especially where it is threatened by a growing materialism and a consumer attitude, foreign to the traditional values of Thai culture and often promoted by outside institutions. The result is the advance of a "contraceptive mentality" which not only contradicts the full truth of conjugal love but also leads to a more ready acceptance of the terrible crime of abortion (cf. Evangelium vitae, n. 13). To offset this grave threat, every Diocese should develop a programme for the family apostolate which will help parents and children to live their vocation according to the mind of Christ.

A specific problem which you are facing in the care of families involves interfaith marriages. Couples in these situations often require special assistance. Preparation for marriage, which is "above all the task of the family" (Letter to Families, n. 16) but which also calls for the help of priests and other ministers, should ensure that there are proper pastoral safeguards for the faith of the Catholic partner and its free exercise, above all with regard to the duty to do everything to ensure the Catholic Baptism and education of the children of the marriage (cf. Familiaris consortio, n. 78). Authentic interreligious dialogue and understanding within families is not furthered by religious indifferentism but by love for the truth and by sincere mutual respect. ….


Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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