VATICAN CITY – Lay members of Asia’s tiny Catholic minority can be effective witnesses of the Christian faith by being models of married love, defending human life, helping the poor and showing their willingness to forgive those who hurt them, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Asia’s Catholics are called to be a sign and promise of that unity and communion – communion with God and among men – which the whole human family is meant to enjoy and which Christ alone makes possible,” the pope said in a message published at the Vatican Sept. 1.

The papal message was addressed to participants in the Congress of Asian Catholic Laity, meeting Aug. 31-Sept. 5 in Seoul, South Korea. Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the congress included representatives of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and lay movements active throughout Asia.
“Asia, home to two-thirds of the world’s people, the cradle of great religions and spiritual traditions, and the birthplace of diverse cultures, is currently undergoing unprecedented processes of economic growth and social transformation,” the pope said.

Catholics need to be part of that social transformation, bringing Gospel values to bear on economic, social and political life and sharing their faith in Jesus with their neighbors, he said.

Pope Benedict said there are “vast horizons of mission” open to Asian Catholics, many of them relying more on giving an example of faith and holy living than on simply preaching about Jesus.

“I think especially of the opportunities offered by their example of Christian married love and family life, their defense of God’s gift of life from conception to natural death, their loving concern for the poor and the oppressed, their willingness to forgive their enemies and persecutors, their example of justice, truthfulness and solidarity in the workplace, and their presence in public life,” the pope said.

The pope told the congress delegates that anyone who loves Jesus and experiences the joy of faith will naturally want to share that with others.

And, he said, the church itself has an obligation to provide education and formation for lay people so that they are more comfortable and better informed in sharing their faith.  By Cindy Wooden, CNS