06Oct Indonesian bishop calls for greater independence for local church

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
Vatican City
October 6, 2011

The president of Indonesia’s bishops conference has urged the Vatican to give the local church “more space to be ourselves,” especially in the translation of liturgical texts, during a five-yearly ad limina visit to Rome by the country’s bishops.

Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang of Padang told ucanews.com the response from Vatican officials has so far been “very good” and that, in his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father was not only “very fatherly” and “very warm” but showed extensive knowledge about the “Church in Indonesia and the general situation of our country.”

The ad limina visit, which began on September 29, ends on October 8.

“We asked not only for material, but also for spiritual and moral support,” Bishop Situmorang said of the meetings in Rome. “We feel close to the Vatican, to the universal Church.”

But, he added, “we do need more space to be ourselves,” citing “minor” examples such as the “text of our liturgies.”

These have to be “precisely the same” as the texts adopted in the rest of the Church, however this “makes it difficult for us” to give pastoral care to “our flocks,” he added.

The bishop quoted “problems of tradition, cultures and epistemology” that sometimes arise from these translations. He also said Rome-mandated bishops sometimes transfer from one diocese to another after a very short time leaving local Catholics “in a void.”

Bishop Situmorang praised the local Church’s relationship with the Vatican’s diplomatic envoy to Indonesia. “We have had extraordinary nuncios and we are very close to them.”

“The nuncios have been very responsive,” he added, though “sometimes there is this attitude: ‘We are from Rome, we know better’.”

The bishop also expressed concern over rising violence by extremist Muslim groups and a wave of “radicalization” spreading in the country.

“It is always said that this violence is not purely religious” but, he said, “I cannot believe it is purely political or economic.” “I am worried because the frequency is increasing and the number of places where this happens is growing.”

Bishop Situmorang stressed, nevertheless, the excellent relationship with the “vast majority of Muslims” who “are moderate, very fraternal, very open and very cooperative.”

Muslims leaders across the country, he added, are “very concerned” about these radical groups: “They told us, as leaders of other religions, that their mosques are being taken away and their flocks are very much influenced.”

As Catholics in a multi-religious country, he said, “we are a spiritual and moral force” who wants to “preserve the values of our country” without any “hidden agenda.”

“We have to remain strong – he concluded – and continue working with other religions because we cannot pretend to do the best for the country without being together with the leaders and believers of all its religions.”


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