Vatican representative highlights this issue during regional bishops’ meeting

Archbishops and bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei meeting with Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino (top of photo, in white). Canossian Sr Margarete Sta Maria was the recording secretary.

By Vincent D’Silva

JOHOR BAHRU - The Vatican’s representative to Malaysia has reminded the region’s Church leaders of the importance of reviewing the way parishes operate so as to serve people better.

Apostolic nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino told the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei that Pope Francis faults some Church structures for people leaving the Church.

“We must recognise that if part of our baptised people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems,” said Archbishop Marino, quoting the pope’s words in his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel.

Archbishop Marino, who addressed the archbishops and bishops during their July 10-14 plenary meeting, noted that the pope has mentioned that in many places, an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach.

The pope has also pointed out that the call to review and renew parishes – to make them environments of communion and participation – has not yet brought them closer to people, said Archbishop Marino during the meeting held in Majodi Centre in Plentong, Johor.

The Holy Father is calling for a deep missionary conversion and for this to take place, two things are needed, said Archbishop Marino, who is also the apostolic delegate to Brunei.

First, Catholics must abandon the complacent attitude that says, “We have always done it this way”, and secondly, they must be inspired by an “evangelical spirit” which leads them “to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel”.

The nuncio highlighted the importance of a Church which listens to people – “a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn”.

He also informed the Church leaders that their audience with Pope Francis is scheduled for Feb 8 next year. This is part of the bishops’ ad limina visit that bishops are required to make periodically to the Vatican.

The bishops’ conference is the topmost body of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. It holds its plenary assembly meeting twice a year to discuss the various aspects of Church life in the region.

The five-day-long meeting included the assessment of reports by various Church offices and commissions and other practical matters.

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