JOHOR BAHRU – At the 100th Plenary Session of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (CBCMSB), eleven arch/bishops of the region were urged to “to make the mission of the Church effectively more present in the daily lives of the people entrusted to our care.”
For that to happen, the Church herself must constantly reform and purify herself, said Archbishop Joseph Marino, Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia and Apostolic Delegate to Brunei.
He added, “This is to ensure that nothing stands in the way, hinders or complicates the relationship between the Lord and His people for whom we are shepherds.”
Archbishop Marino, who opened the bi-annual meeting of the CBC, held at Majodi Centre, Plentong on 10-14 July 2017, directed his address to his audience based on the Holy Father’s reflection on reform dedicated to the Roman Curia in December 2016.
The pope said that this logic has been the theological basis or foundation for the reform of the Roman Curia (RC), adding that, “to assure that no one, as a result of the institution or its organisms, would feel removed, distant or even worse unable or impeded to approach the Lord himself.”
First, the Holy Father said, it should be interpreted as “conforming” itself to the Good News, the Gospel, which must be proclaimed joyously and courageously to all, especially to the poor, the least and the outcast (RC).”
The nuncio stressed that the Curia and by extension all institutions of the Church must conform to the signs of the times and to all human achievements, so that, as the Holy Father said, we can “better meet the needs of the men and women we are called to serve.”
Second, the Church structures are understood as assisting the bishop in his office as pastor, and therefore must be guided by an ecclesiology of service and care for the salvation of souls.
Reform then, the nuncio said, requires a sense of conversion and represents a sign of life in the Church, both at the universal level and the local level.
Pope Francis, he said, affirmed that the Curia “is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus” but something that must always be changed as the Church walks on her pilgrim way.
The same is true for the local offices, structures and even programmes and pastoral approaches. No part of the Church is free from constant evaluation and reform.
To begin with, such institutions must be staffed by people who themselves are renewed and are open to change and conversion and purification. In any institution, “without a change in mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain” (RC).
Simply put, reform, which is based on conformity to the Gospel and an ecclesiology of service for the good of souls, requires “an ongoing personal and structural process of conversion” (RC).
An authentic reform of the structures of the Church makes them more apt to serve the Gospel and the people of God.
After giving the theological/philosophical foundation for the reform, the Holy Father then listed twelve principles that have guided his reform of the Roman Curia, and they are: individual responsibility, pastoral concern, missionary spirit, organisational clarity, improved functioning, modernisation, sobriety, subsidiarity, synodality, catholicity, professionalism and gradualism.
The pope further sub-defined the groups of principles under headings such as personal conversion, pastoral conversion and Christocentrism, which are rooted in His Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel.
The nuncio dwelt at length into the principles of pastoral and missionary conversion, personal and communal conversion, administrative and pastoral approaches, evangelical spirit, Gospel-centred and service-centred, path of synodality, etc (details found in The Joy of the Gospel).
Concluding his address, Abp Marino said it is the hope of Pope Francis that “we will move from remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe.”
He added, “What should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.” – Vincent D’Silva