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Lay People in the Asian Church

A Critical Study of the Theology of the Laity in the Documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences with Special Reference to John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation «Ecclesia in Asia» and the Pastoral Letters of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conf

Peter Nguyen Van Hai

This book investigates the role of the laity in the Asian Church. Lay people have three responsibilities: proclaiming the Gospel, be a witness of life, and the triple dialogue with the cultures, the religions, and the poor. Focusing on the triple dialogue, the bishops of Asia have offered fresh ideas to address three global trends in society: the revolution in communications technologies which blurs the cultures; the conflicts between followers of different religions; and the advance of globalisation which leaves in its aftermath the poverty of the masses.


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Chapter 8. John Paul II’s Theology of the Laity and the Teachings of the Asian Bishops


165 Chapter 8 John Paul II’s Theology of the Laity and the Teachings of the Asian Bishops In his assessment of John Paul II’s achievements in the twilight of his long pon- tificate Jewish human rights activist Elie Wiesel, who was receiver of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, states that if Pope John XXIII had opened the windows of the Church by his vision and actions, then John Paul II opened its doors�1 Indeed, John Paul II’s journeys to all parts of the world highlighted the Catholic presence as never before�2 During those pilgrimages the pontiff never failed to meet with lay people or to discuss the laity question to emphasise their role and responsi- bility� Addressing the Italian Episcopal Conference in May 1985 he recalled the importance that Vatican II had placed on the laity’s contribution to the mission of the Church in the world and gave two reasons for choosing the vocation and the mission of the laity as the topic of the 1987 Ordinary Synod of Bishops, the first being “the increased awareness of the role that the laity play in the work of salvation,” and the second the need to respond to the suggestion of many bishops throughout the world�3 Fifteen months after the conclusion of this Synod, John Paul II promulgated the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici�4 He would often revisit and deepen this topic in his vast corpus of writings and 1 Elie Wiesel, “Pope John Paul II: Pointing...

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