The Keynote Address

For the first time, the keynote address was presented by all three Arch/Bishops. Each of them spoke on different points. Bishop Bernard Paul spoke on the call from God to Restore His Church (which St Francis of Assisi heeded).

Oct 20, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: For the first time, the keynote address was presented by all three Arch/Bishops.

Each of them spoke on different points. Bishop Bernard Paul spoke on the call from God to Restore His Church (which St Francis of Assisi heeded).

Bishop Bernard also quoted from Isaiah 54: 2, to spread unsparingly the tent — to see beyond us.

Archbishop Julian Leow then spoke on the challenges that we are facing. He challenged the delegates to be engaged in the world. He said that the Church has a social responsibility to speak up for the voiceless.

How can we achieve all these? Bishop Sebastian Francis then focused on how we must be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to ensure that there is a spirituality of communion.

Bishop Bernard Paul: Spread unspringly  the  “Tent"
In Isaiah’s time, when the Israelites had a small view of the Kingdom, this prophecy came. It was a call to see big and to think big. Israel was called to see beyond herself, to not limit God’s Kingdom to their nation. Is this, too, our malady? Suffering from a minimalistic view of Church and world view? Seeing only our little churches but failing to see the Catholic Church, nor seeing the Kingdom which is even bigger than the Church. Is the Holy Spirit correcting us and inviting us to be more than who we are and going beyond where we are? We are called to restore Christ’s Church.

What does it mean for us?

a) It is not the time to retreat and lick our wounds.
b) It is not the time to shrink from the pain of being wounded.
c) It is not the time to think we have the answers for a wounded world.
d) It is not the time to gloat at the wounds and the wounded with an attitude of superiority.

Many people, very ordinary people, have engaged the world and its cries with these basic attitudes. Their engagement sparked with just a simple “somebody needs to do it” or “is there something we can do?”

The Church will continue to be an EVANGELISING CHURCH but with a difference. The “restored” or “renewed” or new Church must be fired up by the:

a) Courage to Restore the Gospel: Bring Christ back, bring the Word of God back into the Church. Bring the Living Word into people’s lives.
b) Courage to Engage: Get involved; bridge gaps and distances; embrace wounds, become wounded, bind wounds and heal by word and deed.
c) Courage to Embrace Our Humanness: that we share a common humanity; that all of us are created in the image of the Living God; acknowledging this solidarity is touching the flesh of Christ in the other.
d) Courage to Go Beyond: Being moved by mercy; daring to be eccentric or m.a.d. (make a difference); ready to leave our comfort zone; reach peripheries in need of the light in the others.

Archbishop Julian Leow: What are the challenges that we face?
As Malaysians, we find ourselves today at the cross-roads of whether we continue to prosper as one unified nation OR we go the way of chaos, disunity and destruction.

The stakes are high and what we decide, as individuals and as communities today, will affect our whole future as a nation and the way of life as we know it now.

Here are some of the concerns that we are facing: 

--Social problems (polarisation, disunity, distrust, materialism, hedonism) 
-- Family Life (breakdown in marriages, teenage pregnancies, LGBTQ) 
-- Financial scandals (country’s wealth siphoned off and squandered, trust deficit of leaders)
-- Economic weaknesses (uncertainty about the future, making ends meet) 
-- Environmental pollution (destruction of forests, air quality, water quality) 
-- Political instability (corruption, greed, patronage, lack of statesmanship)
-- Racial and Religious tensions (supremacist tendencies, Islamisation) 
-- Religious Freedom (lack of it, shrinking space to practise faith, HUDUD) 
-- Education (standards falling, loss of confidence in national schools, unskilled workers) 
-- Security issues (threat of terrorism, extremists, fundamentalists, NSC, POTA, POCA) 
-- Lack of Communication (between races and religions, liberals and conservatives)

Engagement and social responsibility
The Church has a social responsibility to speak up for the voiceless in society. She has to be the conscience of society, the moral compass that steers the ship through the sea of relativism and error. The Church must not only speak for Catholics or Christians, but for all people of goodwill, in matters relating to humanity. Therefore, our role must be all-encompassing when it affects the dignity of the human person. For example, on the issue of Hudud. Do we speak about it? Does it just concern the Muslims and have nothing to do with the other faiths? Our Catholic lawyers have studied the case and the arguments for and against, as well as its consequences, and we need to oppose its implementation. It may seem to only affect Muslims but, in reality, the rights of all Malaysians will be curtailed. This was seen by the Civil Court abdicating its responsibility and jurisdiction to the Syariah Court in matters pertaining to conversion cases.

What kind of a future do we want for our families, our faith communities, our youth, the weakest and most vulnerable of our fellow Malaysians? We want to be United as One nation. “Unity In Diversity”. Diversity is our strength, variety is the spice of life. Let us celebrate our diversity. Let us be united in our desire for a country we can all call Home, where each person is appreciated for being an equal citizen, contributing to the building up and the sacrificing for this nation.

May we be bold and take the painful but necessary steps to chart a future, our future as Malaysians. I appeal to all stakeholders of this nation to come together, and to bind hands and minds together, to create a new Malaysia that can once again hold its head high in the international arena, to be a people united in heart and soul, peace-loving and God-fearing.

Bishop Sebastian Francis: Spirituality of communion
When we entered the 3rd millennium in the Jubilee Year of 2000, Saint Pope John Paul II invited us to “put out into the deep” (Lk 5:4) and gave us a spirituality for this journey called the ‘spirituality of communion.’ As the disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we were invited to put out into the deep more intensely at PMPC III. And through all these events, the Holy Spirit has convinced us that each one of us, and all of us as Church, is the body of Christ who are called, chosen and sent out on mission.

Here, together at the PMPC IV, we must still ask the fundamental question, What is the Holy Spirit saying to the Church of Peninsular Malaysia today in the here and now?

The Letter to the Hebrews 3:13 reminds us to “Every day, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another ...”. Yes, we must be thankful and learn from the past, or else, as the great theologian, Karl Rahner said, “If we forget the past, we are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past.” However, today, we must be grateful for God’s mighty deeds in the past and we must now put out into the deep. We must plunge into a future that is known, to some extent, by living the spirituality of communion as of today, at this moment.

In his latest exhortation on the “Joy of Love” Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis describes the spirituality of communion as a ‘supernatural communion,’ or a ‘family communion.’ As Church, we will continue to discover what this spirituality is all about, especially since the arrival of Pope Francis who exhorts us to live the Joy of the Gospel, accompanied by the Mercy of the Father as we face challenges in being faithful to the Gospel. It is also important to note that, as we plunge into the deep, even if somewhat unknown to us, Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of St. John, “to be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

I hope that PMPC IV will not just remain as slogans that have been repeated from the past, but that the Holy Spirit will provoke us to be honest, realistic, creative in the sharings and discussions. That the Holy Spirit will guide us towards the entire truth, including the teachings of Jesus on family, on marital life and on issues of political, financial, pastoral, and personal integrity and justice.

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