PLENTONG, Johor: “The Malaysian Church began in unity,” said Bishop Bernard Paul at the 1st Malaysian Catholic Clergy Assembly (MCCA) July 16- 20, 2018.
With the growth of new di- oceses, disunity slowly crept in with each diocese chalking its own path. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has been moving towards unity. Today, she is moving more towards synodality and collegiality. From a pietistic and individualistic experi- ence, the local Church, following the example of Pope St John XXIII, has opened her win- dows to see the world beyond herself. This has enabled her to work with others. There is a greater acceptance of others who share a common vision.
“There are similar experiences that we share and in some areas, unity is found,” he ex- plained. “We began by having a common seminary, College General, in Penang. Many dioceses from East Asia sent their seminarians there.”
With our independence in 1957 and the formation of Malaysia in 1963, new dioceses within Malaysia were created. With this came the appointment of local bishops who took over the responsibility of shepherding the new and vacant dioceses from the foreign mission- ary bishops. “This was followed by the emergence of pastoral infrastructures” and a new modus op- erandi.
“Besides our common beginnings, we also had some common grumblings: disparity of fi- nancial capablities including funding for min- istries. These inequalities we have seen.” With the formation of Malaysia, there was also a demographic shift where people from East Malaysia migrated to West Malaysia for education and career opportunities.
“This migration highlighted the emergence of the Bumiputera face of the Church. But, where is the indigenous leadership of the Church?” asked Bishop Bernard. We grew up “with a parochial attitude in our understanding of our mission which seems to say ‘It’s not my problem, but yours’.
“From the common grumblings, we found areas where we could work together and form common pastoral strategies. They are: the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei (CBCMSB), the Malay- sian Bishops Conference (MBC), the various Episcopal Commissions and the Annual Young Priests’ Gatherings. “We have also begun an integrated forma- tion for our Malaysian Seminarians.”
As a united Church, “we stood for some common issues – the ‘Allah’ case, the conver- sion cases and other court cases. We collabo- rated on the publication of the Alkitab versi Borneo. With the increased fluency in Bahasa Malaysia, it became necessary to celebrate Masses in that language.
We are also working together in the area of Mission schools and the staffing of our two main seminaries — St Pe- ter’s Seminary Kuching and College General Penang.
“We also have a common hope with the National Unity Consultative Council,” said Bishop Bernard.
Towards a Pan Malaysia Pastoral Convention 2026
“The post Vatican II growth of the Pen- insular Malaysia Church began with the 1976 Aggiornamento which focused on BECs for renewal and a spirituality of com- munion,” said Bishop Bernard Paul. This meant that there was one pastoral thrust with one pastoral think-tank — PMPT (Peninsular Malaysia Pastoral Team).
This ecclesiel growth was followed by a review every ten years by the Peninsu- lar Malaysia Pastoral Convention I, 1986 (PMPC I), PMPC II, PMPC III and PMPC IV.
There were representatives from East Malaysia at the 2016 PMPC IV, and some members suggested that we have a Pan Ma- laysia Pastoral Convention.”
“On Jan 17, 2017, the Conference of Bishops agreed for the 1st Malaysian Cath- olic Clergy Assembly (MCCA). “So what is next? The clergy must be united through friendship, learn from new experiences and accept challenges as op- portunities,” said Bishop Bernard.
“In John 17, Jesus prays for unity among the apostles — the Church’s struggles and joys at her beginning. A united Church is a Church commissioned for mission.
“The mission of the Church is to witness to the one who sent us. It is witnessing to our unity despite our diversity. It is becom- ing bridge builders so as to carry out the initiative of friendship among all peoples of goodwill,” Bishop Bernard added.
Bishop Richard Ng went on to say that after the clergy had met, it was time for the religious to meet to ensure that all are on the same wavelength.
The structures are already there. “We just need to bring our comments and sugges- tions for implementation.
“Those from the East and West Malaysia need to work together. The bishops have to come up with a common understanding with regards to priests and religious moving from one place to another in a more struc- tured way.”
PMPC V will be the First Pan Malaysian Pastoral Convention. “That is our focus but before that, the clergy and religious must first meet,” added Bishop Ng.
“On behalf of everyone here, we wish to thank all the bishops, clergy and religious for your participation at the 1st MCCA,” said Bishop Julius Dusin.
“We must not forget the Malacca Johore Diocese for hosting the MCCA. We thank you and the staff of MAJODI, including the kitchen staff too.”
Bishop Julius ended the meeting by thanking God for his blessings and im- plored His help in guiding the Malaysian Church to greater unity in the future.
–The process of planning the Pan Malay- sia Pastoral Convention (PMPC) which replaces the Peninsular Malaysia Pastoral Convention in 2026, has already begun.
Article reproduced from Herald Malaysia online