Pope’s discreet, constructive engagement gets results in Asia

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Pope’s discreet, constructive engagement gets results in Asia

la-croix.com

Pope Francis’ strategy of discreet, constructive engagement with leaders of other faiths in Asia’s trouble heartland has opened a few doors amid political turbulence, according to the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica.

Pope Francis was the best example of his constructive engagement policy as he met diverse communities in Myanmar and Bangladesh during his November 2017 trip, Father Antonio Spadaro, SJ, wrote in a commentary for the journal.

The Pope eschewed calls to directly confront Myanmar, where almost a million members of the Rohingya minority have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape deadly attacks.

Father Spadaro said the pope followed the advice of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon to refrain from specific mention of the Rohingya.

But he made a pointed reference on the need to “respect the rights of all who call this land their home.”

Other news reports quote Kristian Schmidt, the EU ambassador to Myanmar discussing the legacy of Pope Francis’ visit: “It was all about values. And on values, it was absolutely eloquent and strong.”

Father Spadaro said the pope’s strategy paid off fast, with news of an agreement to allow Muslim refugees in Bangladesh to partially return home to Myanmar, even before the pope left.

This is a major breakthrough in a country that passed a law in 1982 stripping the Rohingya of recognition as a national minority.

The Pope used as analogy the church’s role in filling the health vacuum in Myanmar and Bangladesh, urging clergy and laity to show compassion to all in need to healing and comfort. He also asked Catholics to work for peace together with men and women of other religions.

The 87 Catholic health centers in Myanmar and the 98 centers and ten hospitals in Bangladesh accept patients of all faiths. The pope also visited the house in Dhaka of St. Mother Theresa, who followed the same principle.

The pope is also building bridges with superpower China, Father Spadaro said.
The pope has clearly acknowledged China as a world power.

“If we see it from this side, it can change the panorama,” Pope Francis said in a statement.
His Asian visit showed clear signs of thawing relations between the Vatican and Beijing, where the pope has contacts studying ways to improve ties.

Many Asian countries lie beside China. Myanmar shares a 2,200-km border with the superpower. Chinese Catholics were featured prominently in media reports of the pope’s visit.
Father Spadaro noted that Global Times, the tabloid subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, published a positive report on the papal journey, highlighting Pope Francis’ message.

“Respect each ethnic group: Pope,” the newspaper’s headline said.

Another major outfit, the China Daily, also wrote a flattering article on Jesuits who left their mark in Chinese society.

The pope said he hopes that talks “at a high cultural level,” could one day fulfill his desire to visit the sprawling nation.

It will be a slow thawing, said Father Spadaro, quoting Pope Francis’ preference for a step by step and delicate political dialogue, and the existence of a “patriotic church and the clandestine church.”

Sat, 01/13/2018 - 12:17
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