Bishop of Padang: meeting the Pope to strengthen and “continue the mission”

» 10/07/2011 14:41

by Dario Salvi
Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang, President of the Indonesian bishops, is in Rome for their ad Limina visit. He describes a “vibrant and lively “church with “fervour of faith and the contribution” of Catholics in building the nation. Dialogue with Muslims, and an invitation to the West: not only “compassion and charity”.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The Indonesian Church is “lively and vibrant, it is “growing in numbers” thanks to both new births and cases of conversion”, but what matters “is not the number of Catholics, but the fervour of their faith and their contribution” to the development of the country, civil society and the relationship with the Muslim majority, says Mgr. Martinus Dogma Situmorang, bishop of Padang, West Sumatra province (Western Indonesia) and President of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference. The prelate is Rome on the ad Limina visit of the Indonesian bishops, and this morning, met with Benedict XVI. The Bishop of Padang says “ I conveyed the greetings of our people” to the Pope, asking for guidance on “the role that we can play as a young Church”, in an area of the world open to the work of evangelization and proclamation of the Word of God . And the strength, he adds, to “continue our mission.”

Here, below, the AsiaNews interview with Msgr. Martinus Dogma Situmorang:

Excellency, can you speak to us about the reality of the young Church in Indonesia?

Is it alive and vibrant, growing thanks to both the number of births and those who convert in adulthood. But also and above all it is growing in faith and maturity in the field of vocational education in the field of health care and various pastoral initiatives. It is alive and growing in the participation of our laity, not only as acolytes around the altar, but in daily life, in the political, economic and social life of the country, exerting a positive influence. As for the conversions, these are mainly from those who previously professed religions typical of the local tradition, animist, and then from the Protestant to the Catholic faith.

With Muslims, the situation is more delicate …

Officially conversions are not allowed, but no doubt those who want to convert with conviction and who are full of faith take all possible steps, overtly or covertly. In fact there are no precise estimates [for conversions] and we are not really interested in numbers, because as guardians of the Church it is not the quantity but the fervour of faith and how it is exercised for the spiritual and material good of the people that interests us.
With the majority of Muslims we live in peace and in a brotherly manner. We need to change the cliché that we are persecuted and relegated to the margins of national life. There are some incidents, but with the leaders of Muslim communities we have a good working relationship, we give material and spiritual guidelines for the people. Unfortunately in some parts of the archipelago the atmosphere is not very ‘brotherly’, especially in areas where Islamic laws are imposed in public life. These laws are not in accord with our Constitution and founding principles of the state.

Bishop Situmorang, what is the Church’s message to the young Indonesian generation, who often look to wealth and work as the main goal?

In our country we have seen and experienced this trend that is intrinsic to modernity and development. But we are conscious of our educational task, which is to teach young people that spiritual wealth is not unimportant, that it does not exclude possibilities of prosperity and material well-being. On the contrary, an exclusively material and consumerist lifestyle is devoid of a deeper meaning of existence. It would be a mistake to exclude the spiritual dimension of life.

Every citizen must contribute, by looking at the Pancasila, the five pillars on which the nation is built, after a long reflection promoted by the founding fathers. As a citizen of Indonesia, the Catholic must contribute by pursuing the ideal of responsibility, by rejecting the phenomena of corruption, a selfish mentality, especially if he or she is a public servant. Moreover, the Christian values are of great benefit for the country: charity calls us to go beyond the common sense of justice and focus on the common good.

Excellency, what does the Indonesian Church have to offer the churches and societies of Europe and the West?

The Churches and the Western societies should look more to those precious goods that contributed to the making of the modern world and which are the basis of knowledge and culture: philosophy, logic, genius, creativity … we need to reflect more deeply on daily life, reflect on the substance of our being here today. The third thing, then, churches and society should look at our reality and our world with deep, honest and sincere esteem and not only as subjects worthy of compassion or charity. This also applies to governments: it saddens me that the basic logic of the relationship between nations lacks any real desire to advance all the nations of the earth.

What is the value of your meeting with Pope Benedict XVI?

As delegates of the Church in Indonesia, we will bring our living witness of faith, hope and Christian charity. To the pope, we bishops extend the greetings of our people. We will ask him what role we can promote as a young and enthusiastic Church in our part of the world and together with his apostolic blessing we will ask for the strength to continue our mission. Our social institutions are not a place for proselytizing, but centres of charity in the service of people, whatever their religion. Witness is not just in words but in the works that we carry out every day: schools, hospitals, services open to all, especially the poor who in many cases are more welcome in the church than public structures.