Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In the missionary activity necessary in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, the Catholic bishops must on the one hand ensure that "the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment", but on the other must use the "true conquests" of this period, like respect for human rights and the affirmation of religious freedom. Resistance against the "dictatorship of positivist reason" - the offspring of the Enlightenment - which "tries to exclude God from public discourse" and appreciation for the true values that the century of the Enlightenment promoted were again highlighted by Benedict XVI, who situated them in the context of the promotion of the dignity of the person created in the image of God, which represents a fundamental aspect of evangelisation.
The pope gave the address late this morning to the bishops of the episcopal conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, received at the conclusion of their five-year visit "ad Limina Apostolorum".
Benedict XVI highlighted the fact that the visit took place while the universal Church is preparing to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul, an example of mission and of witness to the Gospel. In his footsteps, the Church cannot help but continue to offer to Asia "the greatest gift" that it has received, meaning Jesus. "Happily", the pope commented, "the peoples of Asia display an intense yearning for God. In handing on to them the message that you also received, you are sowing the seeds of evangelization in fertile ground".
He also said that by emphasising "the universal character of human rights, grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God's image, you carry out an important task of evangelization, since this teaching forms an essential aspect of the Gospel".
In countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, where Christians are in the minority, interreligious dialogue is of special importance, and "every avenue" available must be explored. "I realize", the pope added, "that not all the territories you represent offer the same degree of religious liberty, and many of you, for example, encounter serious difficulties in promoting Christian religious instruction in schools". "In the context of open and honest dialogue with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and the followers of other religions present in your respective countries, you assist your fellow citizens to recognize and observe the law 'written on their hearts' by clearly articulating the truth of the Gospel. In this way, your teaching can reach a wide audience and help to promote a unified vision of the common good. This in turn should help to foster growth in religious freedom and greater social cohesion between members of different ethnic groups, which can only be conducive to the peace and well-being of the entire community".