LETTER FROM THE BISHOP AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR 2023(ヨゼフ・アベイヤ司教年頭挨拶、英語）
Dear brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Fukuoka
The peace of the Lord be with you all.
I wish you all a happy new year.
We begin this year imploring the gift of peace. Unfortunately, the past year 2022 has been a year shrouded in the darkness of war. We have all experienced deep sadness and tremendous indignation at the news of the war that were broadcast to us every day by the social media. It is good to remember the words of Pope Francis: “Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil. Let us not remain mired in theoretical discussions but touch the wounded flesh of the victims. Let us look once more at all those civilians whose killing was considered “collateral damage.” Let us ask the victims themselves… In this way, we will be able to grasp the abyss of evil at the heart of war. Nor will it trouble us to be deemed naive for choosing peace” (Fratelli tutti, 261).
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE
The Catholic Church begins the year with the celebration of the “World Day of Prayer for Peace”. As every year, the Pope has published a message on this day. Its title is: “No one can be saved alone. Combatting Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace”. Let us start this new year by praying for peace. At the same time, on January 1 we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God. Following the example of Mary, “who kept everything in her heart”, we keep in our hearts the suffering of many people punished by war and other forms of violence, and we commit ourselves to work for a world in which peace and respect for each person are a reality.
OUR WISHES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR
What expectations do we have as we begin this new year? There is no doubt that we all hope to see COVID-19 disappear during this year. We also wish to enjoy good health and live this new year in a family environment in which we all support each other. Filled with gratitude for the presence of so many people we meet at work, at school, at church or in the neighborhood, we want to strive to make this new year a joyous time for all.
THE DIOCESE OF FUKUOKA IN THE YEAR 2023
Also, as a diocesan community we have our expectations for 2023. I want to share them with you all.
1. Put into practice the “Diocesan pastoral plan”
Last year, at Easter, the “Diocesan Pastoral Plan” was published. It is important now to put it into practice gradually. With this we intend to assume and make fruitful the effort that, for many years, has been carried out in the diocese. In the Pastoral Plan there is a long list of proposals addressed to each one personally, to the parishes, to the different pastoral areas and to the entire diocese. It is up to each one personally and to the pastoral councils of each parish, area, or diocese, to discern how to assume the proposals and how to put them into practice. Let’s start with those that we consider most feasible.
2. Diocesan Pastoral Council and Zonal Pastoral Council
On January 22, the first session of the Diocesan Pastoral Council will be held. The Diocesan Pastoral Council is a space in which the laity, religious and priests, together with the bishop, examine the state of the diocese and discern the issues that must be addressed as a priority. The Pastoral Council manifests the church model proposed by the Second Vatican Council and responds to the call of Pope Francis to assume the synodal character of the church. In the same way, in each pastoral area, a pastoral council should be established in which the lay representatives of each of the parishes, together with representatives of religious and priests, discuss and discern the pastoral priorities of the area. It is a journey that each pastoral area must carry out in close communion with the other pastoral areas of the diocese. In this way we will consolidate diocesan communion and strengthen our missionary commitment.
3. Strengthening of diocesan commissions
Once the Pastoral Council starts its journey, we want to consolidate the functioning of the different diocesan committees. There are certainly differences in the present situation of the committees. Keeping in mind the general situation of the diocese, we want to define more clearly the objectives of each of the committees and reinforce them with new members. Through this, we wish to promote a more dynamic and effective action. I ask for everyone’s generous collaboration.
4. During the year 2023 we are going to assume as a priority the first option of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan
This year we will focus mainly on the fulfillment of the actions proposed in the first line of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, which is formulated as follows:
“Becoming a church of outreach. Walk with those in positions of weakness “and both witness and transmit the Gospel”.
To make this objective a reality, three actions are proposed:
- Meditate on and share the Word of God, in order to support the journey of a “church of outreach”. It is a fundamental point. It expresses the desire to deepen the experience of faith. It is an indispensable condition to sustain any activity of the church. On page 18 of the English version of the Pastoral Plan various concrete actions are suggested. I would like to insist, above all, on the need to create groups to share the Word of God in all the parishes. Furthermore, I invite everyone to actively participate in the Christian formation programs offered by the diocese. Deepening the experience of faith is a crucial challenge for the church in Japan. If the flame of faith is not kept burning in the heart of each one, it is impossible to communicate the joy of the Gospel to others.
- Create opportunities for many people to get in touch with the Gospel. It is an invitation to share with others, beginning with those closest to each one, the joy of having known Jesus and the Gospel. It is about sharing with other people the light that illuminates the path of one’s life. On page 18 of the English version of the Pastoral Plan you will find several suggestions to carry out this objective.
- Work toward creating the kind of society hoped for by God through a wide variety of activities. In other words, it is about making what Jesus called the “Kingdom of God” a reality. We understand what this means when we carefully observe the life and actions of Jesus that are transmitted to us in the Gospels. In the diocese of Fukuoka, since many years ago, there have been numerous initiatives of social action. Above all, it is about supporting them and participating in them according to one’s own possibilities. Let’s try to participate in some of these activities. It is important to ask ourselves: what can I personally do or what can we do as a group. Various suggestions are also offered on this point on page 18 of the English text of the Pastoral Plan.
In addition to all this, we commit ourselves to support the various initiatives carried out by young people in our diocese. In the same way, we are going to make a further effort to take care of the activities for the education of the faith of children and adolescents. Each parish has the obligation to schedule catechetical activities. Given the small number of children in some parishes, some joint activities with nearby parishes can be organized from time to time.
This year the “World Youth Day” will be celebrated in Lisbon (Portugal) with the presence of Pope Francis. I hope that some young people from our diocese can participate.
May the Lord bless each of you and your families.
Fukuoka, January 1, 2023
With enormous gratitude to all,
Josep M. Abella
Bishop of the diocese of Fukuoka