Participants at the regional bishops’ meeting. Front row from left: Archbishop-elect Julian Leow (Kuala Lumpur), Bishop Cornelius Sim (Brunei), Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam (Kuala Lumpur), apostolic nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino, Archbishop John Ha (Kuching), Bishop Emeritus James Chan (Melaka-Johor), Bishop Paul Tan (Melaka-Johor). Back row from left:  Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom (Sandakan), Archbishop John Wong (Kota Kinabalu), Bishop Joseph Hii (Sibu), Archbishop William Goh (Singapore), Bishop Richard Ng (Miri), Bishop Cornelius Piong (Keningau) and Bishop Sebastian Francis (Penang).JOHOR BAHRU – Pope Francis’ call for reform within the Church was emphasised to bishops from around the region during a recent meeting.

Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino told the bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei that in the midst of their already demanding work, there is now a new challenge given by the Holy Father.

“We are all aware of the process that he has undertaken himself to reform the Curia and many structures in the Vatican,” said Archbishop Marino during the 94th Plenary Session of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei.

The July 7-11 meeting was held at the Majodi Centre in Plentong, Johor Bahru.

The nuncio noted that for self-renewal to take place at the local level, there is a need for self-examination. Things cannot be left “as they presently are”, he said, quoting the pope.

 The nuncio explained that the reform the pope is referring to is not just about changing structures, establishing new structures or change for the sake of change.

Rather, he said, the pope calls for a deep and overall reform with the goal of assisting the Church to fulfil her essential mission, that of evangelisation marked by enthusiasm and vitality.

The nuncio stressed that in this “bold and creative” rethinking of what it means to be Church and how evangelisation is carried out, there are three ideas that come from the Church document Evangelii Gaudium. These are: a Church that proclaims with joy, a Church that bestows mercy without end and a Church that goes forth with eagerness.

He noted that Pope Francis said it is important to proclaim the message of joy by being with the people and among the people, adding that “at times we need to get on our knees and wash the feet of our brothers and sisters in need”.

He urged the bishops to be supportive of people, especially the weak, not just materially but also spiritually.

The nuncio emphasised that “we must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings”.

He reminded the bishops that the Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the life of the Gospel.

Quoting the pope, he said, “I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities.”

He also noted that “there has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the lay faithful in the Church, as well as a recognition that they are called to take an increasingly important role in the spread of the Gospel.”

The election of office-bearers for the term 2015-2016 was also held during the meeting. The new president will be Archbishop John Ha (Kuching), vice-president Bishop Sebastian Francis (Penang), honorary secretary Bishop Cornelius Sim (Brunei) and honorary treasurer Bishop Paul Tan (Melaka-Johor).

By Vincent D’Silva