Indonesian Bishops to champion social issues

At a special session, Indonesian Bishops’ Conference discusses the papal visit and the plans to mark the 100th anniversary

May 31, 2024

Indonesian Catholics at a church service. (Vatican News)

JAKARTA: The Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI), marking the centenary of its foundation, has decided to address national issues like poverty and intolerance as the Muslim-majority nation prepares for a papal visit in September.

"The presence of the Catholic Church is to build the Church and the nation as mandated by God," Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin of Bandung, president of the conference, said at a special meeting of the KWI in the capital Jakarta.

“This session is a reflection on what we have not implemented and what must be implemented,” the prelate said.

At a press conference on May 17, Bishop Subianto said they discussed the presence and meaning of the Catholic Church in Indonesia's diverse society.

Subianto added that since its formation in 1924 with six dioceses when Indonesia was under Dutch rule, the conference has become a trusted partner of the government.

He said the conference was committed to continuing to "be a community of hope" amidst poverty and other social problems in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation.

The bishops held a four-day meeting in the capital which commenced on May 13. Of its 270 million population, over 9.36 per cent are poor, staying in the Christian-majority provinces.

Also, Eastern Papua province is plagued by a conflict between armed rebels and the military.

Bunjamin expressed readiness to support President Prabowo Subianto's new government.

It does not mean political support, the prelate added.

"The Church must be neutral in practical politics but never neutral in morals," he said.

"The church that believes in Jesus Christ must be grounded in Indonesia," said Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor, secretary general of the conference.

Syukur said many dioceses, particularly those in the Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province, have implemented programs to eradicate poverty.

However, this needs to be developed further, he said.

Syukur flayed the recent attack on a rosary prayer of Catholic students in Banten Province on the outskirts of Jakarta.

He criticized the action initiated by the head of a neighborhood association.

The special session, attended by 33 bishops, three diocesan administrators, one vicar-general, and six bishop emeriti, discussed Pope Francis’ four-day visit to Indonesia, scheduled for Sept 3.

Bishop Syukur said the papal visit, which has the theme of faith, fraternity, and compassion, will strengthen faith in the

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