Participants at the bishops’ conference meeting. Seated from left: Sr Margarete Sta Maria (executive secretary), Archbishop John Ha (Kuching), Bishop Sebastian Francis (Penang), Archbishop Joseph Marino (Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia), Bishop Cornelius Sim (Brunei), Archbishop John Wong (Kota Kinabalu) and Archbishop William Goh (Singapore).

Standing from left: Msgr Mario Codamo (Second Counsellor, Apostolic Nunciature), Bishop Joseph Hii (Sibu), Bishop Richard Ng (Miri), Bishop Bernard Paul (Melaka-Johor), Auxiliary Bishop Simon Poh (Kuching), Bishop Cornelius Piong (Keningau) and Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom (Sandakan). Not in photo: Archbishop Julian Leow (Kuala Lumpur).

To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective.

Archbishop Joseph Marino, Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia, made this comment at a recent meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

The key elements for creating a culture of “encounter”, such as in interreligious dialogue, is to seek out the “other” and to enter into dialogue, he told 11 bishops from the region gathered for their plenary session at Majodi Centre in Plentong, Johor.

Through dialogue, a spirit of fraternity is developed which helps to promote moral values, justice, freedom and peace, he told participants of the bishops’ conference’s 99th plenary session held from Jan 9-13.

Archbishop Marino, who is also the Apostolic Delegate to Brunei, noted that the theme of “encounter” has been a part of Pope Francis’ vision. In many cases, he told the bishops, society is waiting for them as spiritual leaders to open the doors of encounter, mercy and reconciliation.

Meeting of Conference of Religious Major Superiors.

The meeting also saw the bishops discussing organisational, spiritual and social issues affecting the Church in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

The regional bishops’ conference holds its plenary assembly twice a year to discuss various aspects of Church life in the region, and to help the Church be more effective in service its members and society.

The bishops also had a joint meeting with the Conference of Religious Major Superiors (CRMS) of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei who held their annual meeting at the same venue from Jan 10-12.

The Religious major superiors also met with Archbishop Marino who shared that during his audience with Pope Francis last September, the Holy Father emphasised the need for ministers in the Church to be accessible and close to their people.

According to Archbishop Marino, it is important to make every effort to “reintegrate” into the Church those who have drifted away or who have left it.

During the CRMS meeting, members discussed various issues affecting the conference and how CRMS could play a greater role in the region.

By Vincent D’Silva

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