“On this continent, where the Church is a minority, the challenges are intense.”
In the November from the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the Holy Father is asking for increased prayers for the Christians of Asia, highlighting their role as promoters of dialogue and peace.
Pope Francis’ exhortation has special relevance on a continent with more than 141 million Catholics in its 48 countries, but where there are still regions where being Catholic implies the risk of persecution.
This has especially been the case in areas of Western Asia, more commonly known as the Middle East. There Christians are under constant threat, though recent events in places like Iraq have provided limited hope that Christians will be allowed to resettle and resume their lives.
“Let us pray that Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions,” the pope urges. “On this continent, where the Church is a minority, the challenges are intense.”
Among the countries with a high percentage of Christians, East Timor and the Philippines are notable, with a 93% Christian population. There’s also Lebanon with 40%. Many of these nations have given us notable saints of the Catholic Church, such as the martyrs of Indochina in Vietnam, St. Peter Calúñgsod, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and St. Jacobo Kyushei in the Philippines; St. Andrew Kim, St. Anna Pak Ag, St. Peter Agueda Yi and Seung-hun Yi in South Korea.
“The most striking feature of Asia is the variety of its peoples who are ‘heirs to ancient cultures, religions and traditions,’” Francis states. “We must promote dialogue among religions and cultures. Dialogue is an essential part of the mission of the Church in Asia.”
Jesuit Father Frédéric Fornos, International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and its youth branch, the Eucharistic Youth Movement, remarked: “Already St. John Paul II had noted that Asia was the continent where God decided to reveal and realize his project of salvation; but today, it presents us with the immense challenge of building a present and a future of dialogue and peace. “For this, I think that the Pope decided that we should work on this intention, and that we should pray for this great continent, so rich in cultures and traditions.”
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