The Word to Lead New SVD General Council (2012-2018)

The Word to Lead New SVD General Council (2012-2018):

Congrats to Fr. Heinz and Thanks to Fr. Tony


The Pope was greeted by Fr. Heinz

Hearty congratulations to Fr. Heinz Kulüke, the Provincial of the Philippine Southern (PHS) Province in Cebu, elected as the 11th Superior General of the SVD in this 175th birth anniversary year of the Society’s founder, St. Arnold Janssen, in 2012.

The 17th SVD General Chapter, held at the Ad Gentes Center in Nemi, was also specially graced with the historic visit of Pope Benedict XVI on 9 July, six days after the announcement of Fr. Heinz as the new head of the congregation. Outgoing Superior General, Fr. Tony Pernia, welcomed the Pope to the Ad Gentes Center and recalled the distinct connection between the center and the Second Vatican Council. It was at the Ad Gentes Center that the draft of the document on the Church’s mission to the world “Ad Gentes” was prepared in 1965 by the commission headed by the then SVD Superior General, Fr. Johannes Schütte. The Pope was a “peritus” (= expert) of that commission as a young theologian.

The Holy Father said: “I have often thought of those days in Nemi which for me were an essential part of the experience of the Council. And I’m happy to see that your Congregation flourishes. Father General spoke of six thousand members in so many countries, from so many nations. Clearly the missionary dynamism is alive, and it is alive only if there is the joy of the Gospel, if we experience of the good that comes from God and that must be and desires to be communicated.”

 “Thank you for this dynamism of yours. I wish you during this Chapter every blessing of the Lord, a lot of inspiration: that the same inspiring impulses of the Holy Spirit that accompanied us almost visibly during those days may be present among you and help you find the direction for your congregation, and also for the mission of the Gospel ad gentes for the coming years.”

 During his first homily given as the fresh new Superior General on 3 July, Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, Fr. Heinz gave an inspiring sharing in answer to this question: What does God want the Society and me to do within the years to come? “We know that genuine change will only happen if we allow the Lord to come back into the center – through Jesus Christ the whole structure is held together.” (cf. Eph 2:19-22)

Sr. Emma Gunanto ( Indonesia ), Estrella “Star” del Mar (Cebu) and Cecilia Chui ( Hong Kong ) happily met Fr. Heinz on the Feastday of St. Arnold in 2010

Friends of the Word based in the Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong recalled fondly meeting Fr. Heinz, the God-desired next SVD Superior General after Fr. Tony, during the closing celebration of the 100th death anniversary of St. Arnold held at the Adoration Chapel of Divine Peace (where the Pink Sisters station) on 15 January, 2010 in Cebu.

Pope Benedict’s gracious visit to Nemi on 9 July, Feast of the Chinese Martyrs and Saints, mentioned his remembrance of the 6th SVD Superior General, Fr. Johannes Schütte, as a person full of missionary zeal who had suffered in China. This highlight brought back memories of Fr. Tony’s visit to Hong Kong and Macau after his attendance at the celebration of SVD’s centennial presence in the Philippines in August 2009. That year also marked the 130th anniversary of St. Joseph Freinademetz’s arrival to Hong Kong in 1879, preparing for his future pioneer lifetime SVD missionary work in Shandong, China that commenced in 1881.

Fr. Tony was accompanied by Fr. Frank Budenholzer, Provincial Superior of the SVD China Province, for the visit to the SVD community set up in Macau since 2007. The programme also included a lunch gathering with Bishop José Lai of the Diocese of Macau. On their way back to Hong Kong from Macau, Frs. Tony and Frank enjoyed a fellowship meal with some SVD confreres, plus the presence of Cecilia Chui as guest, at the SVD House in Boundary Street. As a meaningful remembrance for their visit to Hong Kong, where St. Joseph had lived for two years (1879-1881), Cecilia offered a Chinese silk painting each to Fr. Tony and Fr. Frank.

It is interesting to note that both Fr. Tony and Fr. Heinz, as the immediate past and the new Superior Generals respectively, were from the SVD PHS Province. Looking back, the 100th death anniversary year of St. Arnold (1837-1909) in 2009 also spiritually connected with SVD’s missionary presence in the Philippines for a century (1909-2009). In one of his addresses made at the Philippine SVD Centennial event, with the adopted theme “We Remember… We Rejoice… We Renew”, in August 2009, Fr. Tony highlighted the Prologue of the SVD Constitutions: “God’s loving grace has gathered us from various peoples and continents into a religious missionary community dedicated to the Divine Word and named after him: The Society of the Divine Word …. We see our special dedication to the Divine Word and his mission expressed in our name. His life is our life, his mission our mission…. We perform our missionary service one in mind and heart with the Divine Word who offers us a living example of loving dedication to the Father and selfless service of others.”

Cecilia presented a Chinese silk painting of “Our Lady of China ” to Fr. Tony, who said it would be framed for display at the St. Joseph Freinademetz Center of the SVD Collegio in Rome

Fr. Tony described beautifully the image of the SVD and all those associated with the SVD – “Persons of the Word”, in two senses. First, a disciple of Jesus and a follower of the Divine Word, who is God’s ongoing dialogue with the world. And secondly, a person who is true to his word, who keeps his word, who “walks his talk”, who lives a coherent and integral life. We are missionaries because we wish to be witnesses to the fact that God keeps his word and is faithful to his promises.

Fr. Tony’s elaboration on “Persons of the Word” resonates with Fr. Heinz’s homily and personal sharing made in Nemi following his election as the 11th Superior General: “Holding such an office requires great trust in God and His very special blessings as well as the constant prayers of confreres around the globe.” “Persons of the Word” – that was what Arnold Janssen, Joseph Freinademetz, and our Blessed Martyrs were. Going forward, may we continue be “Persons of the Word” – persons whose lives and actions are many different words which echo the Word of God, the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.

In 2012, the new SVD General Council has emerged in the 50th anniversary year of holding the Second Vatican Council called by the great Blessed Pope John XXIII. Though he was called to eternal rest by God (in 1963) before the Council concluded, the Blessed Pope gave this insightful message: “The moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

Reflecting on the theme of the 17th SVD General Chapter – “From Every Nation, People and Language: Sharing Intercultural Life and Mission”, Fr. Heinz is convinced that “a lived intercultural spirituality also inspired by the Lay we work and live with, can be a unique contribution to people’s life wherever we work.”

 The relay of Word-oriented leadership from Fr. Tony (2000-2012) to Fr. Heinz (2012-2018) will start in Steyl at the tomb of St. Arnold in mid-September. Then on Fr. Heinz’s 56th birthday on 29 September, Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the new SVD General Council will commence its God-entrusted mission in Rome. Fr. Heinz summed up his envisioned spirit of team leadership for the next six years with the following quote from Deus Caritas Est: “In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).” (Pope Benedict, Section 35)

Agape meal with Frs. Tony and Frank (second from right) at the SVD House in Boundary Street , Kowloon , Hong Kong

Congratulations and abundant blessings to Fr. Heinz in his new responsibility with vision and dynamism! Deep thanks to Fr. Tony for his tremendous services and well-appreciated contributions in the past 12 years! May the Light of the Word and the Spirit of Grace continue to lead the SVD forward in fulfilling God’s Holy Will!

The Bandung Statement 2012



Bandung, Indonesia

August 6-10, 2012


“That which we have seen and heard ,

we proclaim also to you so that you may have also fellowship

with us and our fellowship is with the Father

and with his Son Jesus Christ”

(I Jn 1, 2-3) VD 2.

In the 6th CBF-SEA Workshop, with the theme Verbum Domini: The Word in Our World Today, we the 57 participants from six countries (Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines) came to Bandung, Indonesia, home of the CBF-SEA sub-region coordinator Sr. Emmanuel Gunanto, OSU, for an important event.  We came to celebrate the gift of our life and mission together as CBF-SEA and to move ahead by planning the programs that will implement the exhortations of the Verbum Domini in the contexts of our countries.  This hopefully prepares the CBF-SEA for the celebration of the Year of Faith.

This gathering of five days was a continuous encounter with the Lord walking with us, as in Emmaus (Lk 24, 13-35).  At the heart of this gathering is encountering the risen Lord, teaching us how to pay attention to him who comes to us in new and surprising ways as we walk along the road of discipleship and mission.

The timing of the workshop was perfect.  It began on the feast of Transfiguration and concluded on the feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr.  The Lord’s message to us as biblical pastoral workers was clear:  He wants to transfigure us as servants of the Word and encourage us to give of ourselves cheerfully relying on his providence and assured of the blossoming of his Word.  Indeed the Word of God proclaimed in the liturgy is always living and effective through the power of the Holy Spirit (VD 52) and that from the gospel we discover anew the direction for our journey (VD 51).

We feel fortunate to have been richly nourished through the wisdom of our pastors and speakers who have guided us towards a deeper understanding and appreciation of the message of the papal document.  Their bearing, so expressive of the humble, listening and loving Shepherd, has inspired us.  These experiences, together with our enriching celebration of the Word and the Eucharist, of the reports from the different countries, of fellowship, and of cultural and interreligious exposures, have challenged us to make concrete responses.  Hopefully these will make many others partakers of the same treasures of the Word and of the document.  We therefore believe in pursuing the following, either as CBF-SEA or individual local Church:

1. Translation and Production of Bibles, Programs, documents, Homiletic Aides, Bible References Guide

This is still a priority concern in all SEA countries as the Word is still a privilege of the few and many are left either without it or have to do with one in a language not their own.  This goes true for the other pertinent documents such as Verbum Domini, Bible Study Programs, Homiletic Aids and relevant pastoral-biblical ministry materials.

2. On-going Integral Formation of Pastoral-Biblical Workers

The present set of pastoral-biblical workers need an on-going integral formation in line with the thrust of the Verbum Domini.  It is also noted that more workers are to be engaged in the same apostolate and for whom a relevant formation program is to be drafted and implemented.  For all of them, both old and new, an integral pastoral care needs to be extended.

We commend our pastoral biblical workers for their commitment and sacrifices.  There is a need to provide them with skills training, updating, financial assistance, and to encourage more faithful to join them in the task.  We commit to training new co-workers especially from among the young.

3. Formation of the Faithful in the Word of God

Moved by compassion for the multitudes, “sheep without a shepherd”, the  CBF-SEA sees the importance of cascading the life-giving power of the Word through holding of seminars and workshops that will empower the laity.  In many instances, resources run short in order to realize this undertaking.

The means of the mass media cannot be underestimated and therefore every country must try to find ways how to explore and make use of it for the benefit of the proclamation of the Word.  Establishing a web site, producing videos, CD’s, magazines must be seriously considered.

 4. Collaboration with Existing Institutions/Communities

The spirit of collaboration is the heart of the CBF, bringing together the different local and international institutions united by the common concern for the Word.  It is therefore part of the CBF life to bring together these institutions through assemblies and partnerships in the different undertakings.   Assemblies in the form of mandated regular gathering of the members and open to associates and guests or for purposes of formation through seminars and workshops, may be enriched when done with the help of the expertise available within the SEA and made easier when financial constraints are overcome through generosity of some funding agencies.

We acknowledge the undertakings and programs of every country and we urge them to continue the present initiatives.  Pragmatic concerns may come into consideration but the CBF-SEA, well anchored in the providence of God proven in many ways and instances, believes that these programs cannot be hindered or delayed by lack of help from the outside.  With the existing resources within the SEA sub-region, especially in terms of expertise from among our members, much can happen.  Each must be always aware of the urgency to spread the Word, make it understood, the way Jesus commanded his apostles, “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the laborer deserves his keep” (Mt. 10, 9-10).  Our little contributions like the boy with five loaves of barley bread and two fish (Jn 6, 7-15) will surely bring a lot of fragments to gather and our harmonious working together in the spirit of angklung symphony will produce a liberating music to the spirit.

We thank all those who have made their contributions to make this assembly indeed fruitful. We make special mention of the Ursuline Sisters, the Diocese of Bandung and the members of the Angela Merici Biblical Center  and all the other lay collaborators.

May the Lord, through the help of the Virgin Mother, help us prepare the soil and let the seed grow, blossom and yield much fruit.

The Participants

headed by

Sr. Emmanuel Gunanto, OSU

Subregional Coordinator

10 August 2012






Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio David,DD                       ECBA

Most Rev. Renato P. Mayugba, DD                      ECBA

Fr. Dominador Ramos, SVD                                  SVD-PHN

Fr. Arthur Leger, SJ                                                 EAPI

Fr. Raul M.  Buhay, OAR

Fr. Anthony P. Ireneo, OAR

Fr. Cirilo Mayugba

Fr. Ferdinand T. Maguigad

Ms. Natividad Pagadut                                            ECBA

Mrs. Cynthia Gacayan                                            CLFC

Ms Carmencita B. Rojas                                         EAPI

Ms. Celsa P. Uy                                                          IPD

Ms. Felicidad  J. Gines                                            JPIBC

Mr. Teddy M. Fernandez

Mr. Charles Javier

Mr. Raymond Anthony V. Feria                             IPD


Sr. Mary Do Thi Yen                                    Conference Episcopale

Fr. Joseph Nguyen Tien Dung                 Liturgy of the Hours



 Bp. Vira Apondratana,DD                                Cath. Comm. for the Bible

Mr. Paul Sombat Ngamvong                      Catech. Center of Bangkok

Fr. Anek Namwong

Sr. Marie Reine Lekprasert

Sr. Theresia Bello

Sr. Kwanriem Pienruksa

Mrs Supannee Bunyarat

Mr. John Boonlai Boontha



Archbishop Charles Bo, DD

Fr. Bosco Saw                                  Cath Bishops’ Conference



Mr. Peter Bouy          Commission Biblique Interdiocesane



Fr. Y. B. Isdaryanto, SVD             SVD Java

Sr. Emmanuel Gunanto                 AMBC



Fr. Y. M. Vianey Lusi EmI, CMF

Sr. Antonia Simanora PK

Sr. Engelina Diah Wulandari PK

Sr. Mary Wilfrid Dayrit SPC

Sr.Delfina Nuwa,SPC.

Sr. Milagros Carpena

Sr. Jeannette Krista OSU

Sr. Agatha Linda OSU

Mr. Herman Joseph Oei

CTSI  group

Mr. Jeffrey Hehanussa

Mr. Agustinus Handoyo

Mr. Frans Kamarudin

Sr. Elisabeth Tjahjana

Mr. Carl Gunawan Untadi

Ms. Maria Immaculata

Dr. Irene Setiadi

Ms. Maria Theresia Nanik Roswati

Ms. Maria Theresia Jenny Otita>



Archbishop Charles Bo, SDB

Archbishop of Yangon – Myanmar


Respected Brother Bishops, dignitaries, Priests, religious, all the other esteemed delegates, Shalom. Minglaba, Salam alikum!

It is a great honor to address this august assembly, consisting of eminent scholars, practitioners of the Word.   I have neither the boast of scripture scholar nor the gift of an evangelical preacher.  I am not the wise man from the East, I am a shepherd, in many ways, whose knowledge of the ‘word that become flesh’ is not laudatory as the scholars assembled here.  I am a pastor from a country till recently closed to the world. I am aware there are biblical scholars here, bishops who have done studies in depth on Verbum Domini and other papal document.

So your indulgence in inviting me to deliver this key note address is an affectionate honor you bestow on the people of Myanmar, whose long night of silent tears is slowly breaking into new dawn.  In that way, we are a people who Isaiah praised as the people ‘who walked in the darkness and awaiting to see the light’.  I owe a debt of gratitude to the organizers, for this honor and friendship.

Let me begin with a little story:

The Grain of Rice

Once there was a good king who ruled wisely and who ruled well. He was loved by all the people of his kingdom. One day the king called his four daughters together and told them that he was leaving on a long journey. “I wish to learn more about God. I am going to a far off monastery to spend a long time in prayer. In my absence I am leaving the four of you in charge of my kingdom.”

 “Oh, Father,” they cried, “don’t leave us. We will never be able to rule the kingdom without you.”

The king smiled. “You’ll do well in my absence,” he said. “Now before I leave, I wish to give each of you a gift. It is my prayer that this gift will help you learn how to rule.” The king placed a single grain of rice in each daughter’s hand. Then he left on his journey.

The oldest daughter immediately went to her room. She tied a long golden thread around the grain of rice and placed it in a beautiful crystal box. Every day she picked up the box and looked at it.

The second daughter also went to her room, where she placed the grain of rice in a wooden box and put it in a secure spot under her bed.

The third daughter, a very pragmatic young woman, looked at the grain of rice and thought, “This grain of rice is no different from any other grain of rice.” She simply threw the grain of rice away.

The youngest daughter took her grain of rice to her room and wondered about the significance of the gift. She wondered for a week, then a month. When nearly a year passed, she understood the meaning of the gift.

 Months turned into years, and the four daughters ruled their father’s kingdom. And then one day, the king returned. His beard was full and his eyes sparkled with illumination gained through years of prayer. The king greeted each of his daughters, then asked to see the gifts he had left with them.

The oldest daughter rushed to her room and brought back the crystal box. “Father,” she began, “I carefully tied a golden thread around the grain of rice and have kept it near my bed where I have looked at it every day since you left.”

Bowing to his daughter, the king accepted the box and said, “Thank you.”

Next, the second daughter presented her father with a wooden box containing the grain of rice. “All these years I’ve kept the rice secure under my bed,” she said. “Here it is.”

Again the father bowed to his daughter, accepted the box, and said, “Thank you.”

The third daughter rushed into the kitchen, found a grain of rice, ran back and said, “Father, here is my grain of rice.”

Smiling, the king accepted the grain of rice, bowed, and said, “Thank you.”

Finally the youngest daughter stepped before her father and said, “I do not have the grain of rice that you gave me,” she said.

 “Well, what have you done with it?” the king inquired.

 “Father, I thought about that grain of rice for nearly a year before I discovered the meaning of the gift. I realized that the grain of rice was a seed. So I planted it in the ground. Soon it grew, and from it I harvested other seeds. I then planted all those seeds, and again I harvested the crop. Father, I’ve continued to do this. Come outside, look at the results.”

The king followed his daughter where he looked out at an enormous crop of rice stretching as far as the eye could see. There was enough rice to feed the entire nation.

Stepping before his daughter, the king took off his gold­en crown and placed it on her head. “You have learned the meaning of how to rule,” he said softly.

From that day on, the youngest daughter ruled the kingdom. She ruled long, wisely and well.

I have organized my simple talk into just three major sections:

  1. The context with special reference to the Holy Father’s intention of year of Faith and New Evangelization that has to be taken to  the modern man and woman in their context,
  2. The opportunities  a  new  world  offers and
  3. The challenges ahead.

Some of these themes are known to you all. My attempt is to initiate reflection on some of the urgent needs of the world to which the Word of God can be great answer.

His Presence Among Us today:

 I strongly feel the presence of the Lord Jesus amidst us in this conference. I wish to greet you in the words our Lord used when he entered the house of Zacchaeus. “Blessings have come to this house” (Lk 19:9)   We start with that prayer for blessings and salvation in the name of Jesus. We are gathered in the house of the Lord – believing strongly ‘the word becomes Flesh amidst us’.  (John 1:14)This is a sacred moment and sacred Place.  We gather with the same feeling that the psalmist felt ‘Come within his gates giving thanks, to his courts singing praise, give thanks to him and bless his name! (Ps: 100:4). As the Acts of the Apostles gathered in one place (Acts 2: 1-4) we pray for the pouring of spirit in these days.   We pray of fulfillment of his promise  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am amidst them. (Mathew 18:20).  Ours is a faith Journey of the disciples of Emmaus, whose little faith and doubt, ended with a magnificent prayer: stay with us Lord. (Lk 24:29). May His Spirit Animate us.

The Logo – its relevance and the Challenge

The  beautifully designed logo of this conference tells it all – Verbum Domini, the Word of the Lord is for us engraved in the Holy Book, the Sacred Scriptures which always gets a prominent place in our churches, homes, and above all, in our hearts. The world is our planet earth. The workshop is for South East Asia as partly seen on the logo.  The focus is on West Java with the yellow color. Bandung, the venue is situated there. The figure on the left depicts the “Rishi” priest or holy man in the Mahabharata or Ramayana story.  The “wayang” is a very old tradition from Hindu times. It is performed by people or by puppets made of clay or leather.  The figure here is made of leather.  The arms are moveable by sticks, controlled by the puppeteer, one who tells the story. The Rishi brings us to prayer, to worship, to communication with God. The Word invites us first of all to listen to the Word in prayer. The boy on the left is playing the angklung, a traditional bamboo instrument. It brings us to everyday life where the Word has to take root, become flesh and bones, speak to us in joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health.

1. The context of our Gathering today:

The country

We are gathering in the largest Muslim Country in the world. Their faith their adherence to the Book has always inspired us.  We, the Jews, the Christians and Muslims are the sons of Abraham, children of the covenant.  Faith is an integral part of a Muslim’s life. Parts of Koran are shared with the Christian tradition.  Isau as Jesus, Miriam as Mary, Ibrahim as Abraham, we share the same faith journey.  Let this fellowship be mutually enriching. Indonesian Christians have redefined their faith and exemplary Christian life amidst their Muslim brethren, promoting understanding and mutual admiration. Vatican II realized the special relationship we enjoy with Muslims: “The plan of Salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are Muslims, these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the One, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” (The Dogmatic Constitution on the church Lumen Gentium (LG 16). We come as brothers and fellow pilgrims in our sacred journey.

Special Year:

This is the year of Faith, the year of New Evangelization. The clarion call to all Christians to understand the Word of God and proclaim gains a new urgency with this initiative.   It started with the Second Vatican Council, re affirmed in the Encyclical Evangeli Nuntianti and popularized by the Pope John Paul II.  The present Holy Father, in his erudite wisdom has called for the whole church to take the word and proclaim it.   So there is a renewed urgency and a relevance to our gathering today.

Christ’s mandate:

Christ himself is the gift from the father.  He is the word that became flesh. He brought the good news and collected a group of disciples. The call to proclaim the word was given by our Lord Jesus Christ himself:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mt. 28: 19-20)

This word is a message revealed through Jesus himself to all of us.

 Now I want to make it quite clear to you, brothers, about the gospel that was preached by me, that it was no human message. It was not from any human being that I received it, and I was not taught it, but it came to me through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal 1: 11-12)

St Paul brought the urgency of the Gospel as he  strongly affirmed, proclamation as an obligation to every follower of Christ.  “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel (1Cor 9:16)” Know the Bible, know Christ and proclaim him. That is the command for all of us this year.

The mandate from the Church:

 Vatican II reemphasized the mission of the Word to the Ad Gentes.  Pope Paul VI   inspired the Catholic community with his Evangeli Nuntiati: “The Task of Evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church”  Pope John Paul while introducing the   phrase ‘New Evangelization’

      “Evangelization is Fundamental to the Church Mission and has its origin in Trinity itself. It is always focused on faith in and personal encounter with Christ and these results in the profound experience of Conversion. Evangelization is the task of the entire church and is concretely located in the activity of the local Church “(John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio)

2. The challenges from the Modern World

The topic given to me is:  Verbum Domini in Our World Today.  The innocent looking topic masks many challenges.  The pivotal challenge is “which world?”   Pope John Paul II identified three kinds of world – with reference to the message of Christ.

  • The world where Christ message is still not known – Ad Gentes,
  • The world that has known Christ well and made his teachings a way of life.  The need for these ‘Evangelized becoming Evangelizers’
  • The world where Christian has been diluted by onslaught of secularism and relativism where the baptized do not practice Christianity in their private and public life.   Christianity faces herculean challenges in this century.

For the last five decades, the world has achieved much. It has wired itself into a virtual world through the internet and social networking.   While technology has been galloping at a searing rapidity, in moral and spiritual sphere, humanity is on a slippery rock.  Transcendence and the sense of God is compromised with reductionist ideologies like post modernism – euphemism for existential confusion.   It is through this man made darkness at the noon time, Christ message has to pierce. Some of the main challenges we face today are:

1.    Ethical relativism and the Word of God the “tyranny of relativism” as our Holy Father has termed has commoditized and trivialized every sacred symbols and systems of the past.  Family, the cradle of human civilization lies in ruins in many countries. John’s Gospel opens up with beautiful asserting that ‘word becomes flesh”. The human body is sacred. St Paul reminds us.”Your body is the Temple of the holy Spirit” (I Cor 6:19) The sanctity of union of man and woman is threatened by western concepts of same sex marriages, abortions and genetic manipulations.  It is a travesty of human existence that in countries like Japan there are more pets than children. The moral compass that guided the human journey for centuries is lost in the pursuit of hedonism without any responsibility.  The first chapters of Genesis open with the beautiful concept of man and woman being created in God’s image. (Gen 1:26). Today that   Human body is a marketable commodity, a conduit to reckless enjoyment and exploitation.  The modern forms of slavery, human trafficking, sex trade and other existential threats are accepted as ‘freedoms’.  Europe leads the way in all this, provoking the Holy Father to urge its return to its Christian roots.  In a Globalizing world we in the east are not immune from this, especially our youth are directly exposed to these dangers.  Christ incarnation is a historical evidence of sanctification of human body.  His   establishment of the Eucharist ‘this is my body’, his death on the Cross are enduring affirmation of the sanctity of the human person, who are saved by his precious blood from eternal damnation of death.  The human family has indebtedness to Jesus. The world is his body. “All of you are Christ Body, each one is part of it” says the Apostle.  (1 Cor 12: 27). Survival of humanity depends on the return to Gospel Values of respect for Life.

2.    A Christianity without the Bible as the Centre of Life:  The Use of Bible in the life of the Catholics is sadly inadequate.  Vatican Ecclesiology gave a three dimension to Christian life with three Ws : Word, worship and Witness.   While the Catholics have taken commendable steps in worship and Witness too, Catholic faith is not marked by its fervor for the Word. After fifty years of Vatican II, the Word of God as in the Bible remains a strange book to many Catholics.  The Bible is the fountain of our faith, the inspiration and the guide in our life journey.  With the new Evangelization, all especially the laity are expected to play a major role in the spread of the Good news.

3.    The Word of God and the problem of Poverty and Starvation: Word is broken and bread is broken in every Mass.  Every day, Eucharist bread is broken with the compelling words: Take and Eat!  But we are painfully aware we break bread in an unjust world where millions do not have anything to take and eat. Every day 30000 children die of Starvation (UNICEF 2001). That amounts to 10 million children every year, 1800 children every hour and 20 Children every minute!  The Market Economy has unsettled agriculture, the very soul of millions of our people.  Urbanization has brought in slums with squalor and inhuman existence in many of our East Asian Countries. What is the ‘word of God’ for these suffering people? Bible’s strong identification with the poor, as in Exodus, (EX 3:6-8) as in the life of Jesus, (Mt 25: 31-40, Lk 4: 16-18) is a timeless message.  Once again Genesis portrays God as a generous father creating the world and giving it as a gift to all humankind for a happy life.   Poverty has increased in the last two decades, disturbing the rural communities and breaking them into pieces. The widespread problem of maids without justice, the factory girls in China and unsafe migration of our youth in other countries pose a fundamental problem to the Church. One of the methods of new Evangelization to be present among the poor, in upholding their dignity, helping in their human development. Paul VI has impressed upon the church ‘the intimate relationship between evangelization and human promotion, development, liberation that is anthropological, theological and evangelical ( EN 31). Pope John Paul II considers human development is one of the paths of Mission (RM).  Our Holy Father Benedict implores that human development and promotion of justice are integral of evangelization. (Caritas in Veritate 15).

4.    Harmony among Cultures and the Word of God: Soon after the Sep 11th attack it is customary to talk of ‘clash’ among various peoples.  After a century of clash of ‘classes’ under Marxian analysis, certain sections of intellectuals and countries mainstream a concept of ‘conflict among cultures’. The quest for God and ultimate meaning must have united the humanity towards peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately mutual suspicion has sent wrong signals to those who do not believe in God and His redeeming message.  The neo liberal economy which has sent millions to poverty has a hidden agenda in creating and maintaining conflicts among religions. Many of the Western Economies just melted away in the human greed. In this milieu of excessive greed, there is a genuine search for God and imperishable values. “God is back’ is the realization in societies that sought solace in consumerism.  The challenge is to the Church to present a “message credible and understood by the modern man”.

5.    A creation Groaning under Human Greed:  A recent study gave us shocking news, that most of the countries will go to war in future over drinking water.  The world is spending more of its natural resources like water than it can reproduce.  Water a great gift of the creator is already privatized. Millions of acres of forest disappear, the ozone turbulence, global warming and sea rising are some of the news we watch with great concern every day.  The concept of Evolution that negates God’s Creation has facilitated wanton destruction of nature.  Once again the poor are the victims.

3. Opportunties for Word of God confronted with the modern world

·       Guidance from New Evangelization: The instruction in the New Evangelization movement has given fourfold approach. Each country called upon to come out a plan of action, with active participation of the laity ‘the evangelized becoming the evangelizers”

1.    Proclamation that comes through a deep encounter with Jesus

2.    Preaching through Good deeds apart from direct proclamation

3.    Being present among the Non Christians through Direct Service

4.    Dialogue with other Cultures – learning from them and enriching them

  • The Word of God that is simple and consoling:  The Holy Father has consistently impressed on the Universal Church to make available the teachings of the Gospel to the faithful ‘with a new vigor, a new method and a new Mode”.  The power of the Bible is winning millions in many countries. The ability to make the Gospel attractive to a new Generation. Evangelical preachers whose capacity for using the Bible is well known are attracting thousands with the power of the Bible.  Often they make the truth simple (or simplistic!) and attractive.  Catholic Church has still wake up to the power of the Word of God.  Biblical instruction needs a more simple, hearer friendly approach. After all our Lord was the great communicator, communicating sublime values in simple stories.
  • A Word of God that identifies with the victim: Jesus was the lamb of God, sacrificed his life for the victims – of spiritual darkness and human evil.  He has identified himself with the suffering humanity. Church has a great opportunity in reaching out to those in the margin, with the message of the Gospel, through human development, proclamation of Jesus message.   Gospel was preached by poor apostles to the poor people. Apostles were oppressed and they carried the message to the oppressed people.  Thousands and millions need the consoling message of the Gospel
  • A word of God that promotes life:  An acute culture of death has brought in abortion, death penalty and destruction of nature. Rich and powerful nations have been challenging the church teaching on sanctity of life, pro life. One of the urgent needs is to affirm the dignity of life, especially when it is least powerful in the womb of the mother.  Every child comes with the message that God is yet not tired of man.
  • A word of God that is seen in Action: St James in his path breaking epistle and Faith in action asks the pertinent question:  “My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it?”  Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Evangeli Nuntiati has said, “The modern man has great confidence in the words of anyone whose words are followed by action”.  The new Evangelization has insisted on the need for ‘preaching without words” following the example of St Francis of Assisi who said, “Proclaim the Good new Always, use words… if needed!”
  • A word of God that is in Dialogue with Culture, poverty and major religions: Finally the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) has indicated the need for triple dialogue as spreading the word of God:  Dialogue with the Culture, with poverty and other cultures.

Conclusion:  These are the challenging times to be Christians.  The first Christians lived in more challenging times, yet they lighted the world with an inner fire that lighted thousand fires of faith. Peter’s word to the lame man at the temple gate: I have neither nor silver, receive what I have: In the name of Jesus, get up and walk”.  The world needs in of that kind of faith to help it to get up and walk in freedom and faith. I wish this conference will help us to be animated by the Spirit and help all of us to become the frontline messengers of Christ’s redeeming message.

Thank you



Dear Participants of the 6th CBF-SEA Workshop,

You see, coming together for Workshops, is not just listening to lectures and making plans.  It’s basically celebrating FRIENDSHIP IN THE WORD!  It’s celebrating our unity as South East Asian People who care for each other and willing to help one another.  It’s also celebrating our CULTURES to appreciate how beautiful people are everywhere and how beautiful the good Lord created all of us!  Our gifts, our talents, our uniqueness, our beautiful countries are all God’s gifts.  And we CELEBRATE SUCH GIFTS!  Isn’t that nice?!  

So it is very appropriate that we include in our program, presenting our cultural heritage, our hospitality, our generosity, our love to our FRIENDS!  YES, our Workshops are CELEBRATIONS – CELEBRATION OF THE WORD, Celebration of LIFE, Celebration of FRIENDSHIP.  Isn’t this the prayer of the Father?  – “That they may all be ONE!”

And I celebrate with you at a distance.  My spirit is with you!
Please give my greetings to all our friends.  I miss them all.  Hope I will be able to come for our next gathering.

Have a fruitful workshop.  The questions I prepared are quite difficult but we have to search for the answers to find our direction and our purpose in our ministry.  God needs us to help him in His plan of salvation.  Sometimes the greatest challenge is right in our midst !  And the most difficult challenge is to work on the SELF!

God bless you all !


Message from the Acting General Secretary

Message: To  the Participants at the 6th CBF-SEA Workshop

in Bandung, Indonesia

ImageYou   are   gathered   in   Bandung   for   the   6th    Catholic   Biblical   Federation   South   East   Asia   Biblical   Pastoral   Workshop   to   deepen   your   understanding   of   Pope   Benedict   XVI’s   Apostolic   Exhortation   Verbum   Domini,   to   share   your   experiences   in   the   biblical inspiration  of  all  pastoral  activity  (VD 73)  and  to  encourage  one  another  in  the  common   service  of  the  Word.

This  long  tradition  of  bringing  the  “servants  of  the  Word”  together   to  celebrate,   to  pray  and   to  share,  in   friendship  and  joy,  is  indeed  characteristic  of   the  fellowship   of   the  CBF,   on   the   regional  and subregional  levels,  as  well  as   on   the  world wide  level.

We all are indebted to Sr. Emma and her team for their continuing efforts, over the   years   and   once   again   now   in   2012,   to   network   between   the   various   CBF members in  South  East  Asia.

Our  thanks  go  as  well  to  the  speakers  who  have  accepted  to reflect  with  upon  the  Papal  Exhortation  and  the  challenges  that  this  document  presents   to  us  all  for  our  biblical  pastoral  ministry.

Verbum  Domini  is  in  more  than  one  way  the  fruit  of  the  commitment  of  the  CBF  to  the  biblical  apostolate,  to  biblical  pastoral  ministry  and  to  the  biblical  inspiration  of  all  areas of   the   life   and   mission   of   the   Church   over   the   years.

It   was   after   the   memorable international   biblical   pastoral   congress   held  in  Rome  in   2005,  which   the   CBF   together  with  the  Pontifical  Council  for  Promoting  Christian  Unity  organized  to  celebrate  40  years  of  Dei  Verbum,  that  Pope  Benedict  announced  the  Bishops’  Synod  on  the  Word  of  God  in  the  Life  and  Mission  of  the  Church.  At  the  end  of  this  Synod  in  2008  the  Holy  Father,  in  a conversation  with  the  CBF

President  Bishop  Paglia,  spoke  of  this  synod  as  the  synod  of the   Catholic   Biblical   Federation.   Indeed,   not   only   were   the   continuing   calls   for   such   a synod  by  CBF  organizations,  boards  and  officers  instrumental   for   the  convening  of   the synod,   but   the   biblical   pastoral experience   and   reflections   which   the   CBF   has   shared  with  the  bishops  during  the  preceding  40  years  nourished  the  discussions  on  the  synod floor   with   insights,   pastoral   cares   and   hopes   for   the   Church   and   the   world.

The  attentiveness   of   the   Bishops   during   the   synod   to   the   voices   of   the   Church   across   the  world,  to  the  Word  and  to  the  Spirit  led  to  the  55  propositions  which  Pope  Benedict,  in  a true  spirit  of  ecclesial  communion  heeded  and  further  elaborated  in  Verbum  Domini. Now  the  CBF  is  challenged  anew  by  this  document,  for  indeed  Verbum  Domini  is  not  the  final  word  on  the  theological  and  pastoral  reflection  on  the  Word  of  God  in  the  life  and mission   of   the   Church   in   today’s   world;   it   rather   expresses   the   Holy   Father’s   fervent  desire   to   open   the   Church  and   the  world   to   the   sowing   of  God’s  Word,   setting   free  its transforming   and   healing   power     Pope   Benedict   expressed   his  intention   for  promulgating  Verbum  Domini  at  the  very  beginning  of  this  document  (VD  1):

In  this  way   I  wish  to  point  out  certain   fundamental  approaches  to  a  rediscovery  of  God’s  word  in  the  life  of  the  Church  as  a  wellspring  [or  source]  of  constant  renewal.  At  the  same  time  I  express  my  hope  that  the  word  will  be  ever  more  fully  at  the  heart  of  every  ecclesial activity.

It   is   precisely   with   this   hope   that   the   CBF   met   in   Extraordinary   Plenary   Assembly   in  Ariccia  in  June  of  2011,  submitting  itself  to  the  challenging  process  of  renewal  that  God’s  Word  requires  of  us.  Many  efforts  have  been  made  since  then  to  reconsolidate  the  CBF around  its  fundamental  mission  of  sharing  God’s  Word  with  all  men  and  women  of  our  planet  and  to  renewing  the  relationship  between  the  various  CBF  members,  boards  and officers.

The   work   of   the   Executive   Committee,   the   election   of   a   new   administrative  board,   the   publication   now   of   two   issues   of   an   electronic   version   of   the   Bulletin   Dei  Verbum  in  growing  collaboration  with  CBF  members  across  the  planet,  the  development  of  a  new  funding  strategy,  the  reinforcement  of  the  CBF  presence  in  North  America,  the elaboration  of  a  CBF  “position  paper”  for  the  Synod  on  the  New  Evangelization  …  are  just a   few   of   the   steps   that   are   helping   the   Federation   to   renew  itself,   to   succeed   the  long awaited  “new  beginning”.

This  can  only  succeed  when  the  complex  difficulties  of  the  past  years   are   understood   and   concrete   steps   of   respectful   clarification   and   gentle   healing are  consented  by  all.   Just   recently   we   have   learned   that the   CBF   President   Bishop   Vincenzo   Paglia   was  entrusted  by  the  Holy  Father  with  the  office  of  President  of  the  Pontifical  Council  for  the  Family.  The  now  Archbishop  Paglia’s  appointment  and  his  commitment  to  deepening  the biblical  pastoral  commitment  of  the  Council  provide  a  new  challenge  and  unprecedented  possibilities  for  the  CBF’s  biblical  work  with  families.

Here  again,  Verbum  Domini  points  to   the   importance   of   the ecclesial   commitment   to   the   life   of   families   and   shows   us  concrete  ways  for  the  biblical  pastoral  ministry:  The  ecclesial   community  must   support  and  assist   them  [the   spouses]  in   fostering   family prayer,  attentive  hearing  of  the  word  of  God,  and  knowledge  of  the  Bible.  To  this  end  the  Synod  urged  that  every household have its Bible,  to  be  kept  in  a  worthy  place  and  used  for reading   and   prayer.  Whatever   help is   needed in   this   regard   can   be   provided   by   priests,  deacons  and  a  well prepared  laity.

The  Synod  also   recommended   the   formation   of   small communities  of   families,  where  common  prayer  and  meditation  on  passages  of  Scripture can   be   cultivated. Spouses   should   also   remember   that   “the   Word   of   God   is   a   precious support  amid  the  diffi  culties  which  arise  in  marriage  and  in  family  life”  (Verbum  Domini 85).

Clearly,  the  CBF  has  many  challenges  ahead  of  us,  but  we  may  be  confident  that,  with  the power  of  the  Word  and  the  help  of  the  Spirit,  the  Federation  shall  be  able  to  meet  them in  the  future.

It  is   with   great   pleasure   that   I   convey  to   you  the   greetings   of  Archbishop   Paglia   (CBF President),   Bishop   Mkude   (Executive   Committee   Moderator)   and   Bishop   Haßlberger (Chairman  of  the  Administrative  Board) as  well  as their  prayers  for  the  success  of  your

meeting.   I   myself   send   you   my   sincere   thanks   for   the   constructive   collaboration   and friendship   during   the   past   months   and   my   encouragement   for   your   endeavors,   both  during   the   meeting   in   Bandung   and   in   the   months   and   years   to   come.

I   am   eagerly  awaiting  an  echo  of  your  meeting  and  its  conclusions  so  that  we  can  share  the  news  of  your  labors,  your  projects  and  your  joy  with  all  the  members  of  the  CBF  fellowship.

Yours sincerely, in the Word,

Thomas P.  Osborne

Acting General Secretary,

Sankt  Ottilien  and  Luxembourg,

August  3,  2012

The 6th CBF-South East Asia Workshop

The 6th CBF-South East Asia Workshop

Dear Friends,

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Exhortation “Verbum Domini”, reminds all Christians that our personal and communal relationship with God depends on our growing familiarity with the Word of God. The Holy Father has also expressed his hope that the Word will be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity.

 Let us support the 6th CBF-South East Asia Workshop, themed “Verbum Domini: The Word in Our World Today”, that will take place in Bandung , Indonesia next week from 6 to 10 August, 2012 with our prayers. The important event of the subregion, with the coordination of Sr. Emma Gunanto, has the following objectives:

 1.        To be able to apply Verbum Domini in our respective contexts and specific ministries;

2.        To exchange materials and resources in the implementation of Verbum Domini to different sectors of our society;

3.        To make a common plan or program for Verbum Domini information and to implement the exhortation to different groups and ministries.

 More information about the biblical meeting can be viewed from this link:

 With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may the Verbum Domini Workshop offer enriching experiences and productive exchanges for the participants, and generate desired fruits in the churches of South East Asia !

 United in the ministry of the Word,