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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 3 Fides Quaerens Dialogum: Theological Methodologies of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences


For Karl Rahner the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) marked the beginning of the Church’s “official self-realization as a world Church.”1 In his view there were three great epochs in Church history. The first one was a short period of Jewish Christianity, followed by the second, much longer period of the Church in a particular cultural group, namely of Hellenism and European culture and civilisation. With Vatican II the Church has entered into the third period where the Church’s living space is the whole world, and has begun the transition from a Western Church to a universal Church.2 Rahner contends that this caesura or break in the history of the Church can be compared to the opening up of the primitive Church to the Gentiles, and presents many challenges for the integration of non-Western cultures.3 His world-Church vision suggests an ecclesiology that places emphasis on the local church. In his words, “a world-church as it exists outside Europe cannot simply import and imitate the life-style, law, liturgy and theology of the European church. In all these respects the churches must be independent and culturally firmly rooted in their own countries.”4 ← 43 | 44 →

Indeed, with Vatican II the global character of the Church was underscored. It emerges as a worldwide community of faith made up of local Churches,5 each of which is involved in a different cultural and social context. Such a sense of the Church in turn affects theology and its methods. One...

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