MANILA, Philippines (Catholic Online) – Pentecostalism’s rapid growth is challenging the Catholic Church in Asia, forcing clergy, lay leaders, parishes and ecclesial communities to respond, according to a Catholic working group that gathered to discuss the effort for Christian unity.
In a statement summarizing discussions from the Feb. 7-11 seminar “The Search for Christian Unity: Where We Stand Today,” the 133 participants and representatives of the episcopal conferences of Kazakhstan, Japan, Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, Philippines, Taiwan and Mongolia pointed to need of Catholics to be “respond fully and personally to the challenge” of ecumenism.
“All Catholics are called to work for Christian unity,” said the 1,200-word document issued Feb. 10 at the Archdiocese of Manila Pius XII Catholic Center here.
“The Catholic Church’s ecumenical commitment is a journey towards a full sharing with all Christians in the one faith, sacraments and apostolic ministry, bearing in mind that unity does not mean uniformity,” it said.
The seminar, jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Federation of Asian Bishop's Conferences and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Among those attendance included Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican’s Christian unity council, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Philippines bishops’ conference, and 33 other bishops.
“The ecumenical movement is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who moves people to pray fervently and work sincerely to restore the unity intended by Christ for his disciples,” the document said, adding that spiritual ecumenism is marked by “prayer, change of heart and holiness of life.”
Pentecostalism, which emphasizes the visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit including healing and speaking in tongues, has been responsible for “profound changes” in Christian churches that Catholics have to understand and to which they must respond, the Catholic leaders said in the document.
The working group’s document acknowledged Pentecostal churches’ “attractive elements,” such as joyful and spontaneous worship, strong community life, the stress on personal prayer and personal conversion, and the welcoming of the talents and charisms of all believers.
“These are factors in drawing Christians from other churches into the Pentecostal fold,” it said.
Yet, Pentecostalism also carries with it other “negative elements” for which the “richness of Catholic sacramental life can be abandoned,” the document said.
It pointed specifically to “the overemphasis on wealth and health that often leads to a disregard for the message of the cross, the stress on feelings at the expense of truth, worship perceived more as a moment of entertainment rather than an encounter with Jesus, the misuse of mass media and the unwillingness to recognize the validity of other Christians’ faith commitment and spiritual experience.”
The Catholic Church in Asia response “must begin from a dialogue of love and life” and move to “help Catholics to rediscover a sense of belonging,” the document said.
“While keeping in mind that ignorance of the faith and the rootlessness caused by rapid urbanization are among the cause of departures from the Catholic Church, we consider it urgent to educate out faithful more deeply in the beauty of the Catholic faith through lively catechesis, sermons and Christian formation of adults,” the church leaders said.
They called creating the “necessary” environment to retain Catholics, which includes “warm, familial atmosphere in churches, worship services characterized by participation and joyful prayer, an enhanced openness to the contributions of the laity, solidarity with the poor and others with physical and spiritual needs, and the restructuring of parish life into welcoming neighborly basic communities.”
The document calls for “ecumenical formation” of lay people and clergy in order that the faithful “understand and respond positively to the challenges of the search for Christian unity.”
Further, it urges parishes, basic Christian communities and ecclesial movements to “inaugurate weekly Bible study” and opportunities for the sharing of personal testimonies and to create courses, days of recollection and retreats for lay people.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.