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Religion: To Discover the Church

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A WEEK before he left Rome on his eight-country tour of Asia, Australia and Oceania, Pope Paul VI told a general audience that the theme of his trip was “the discovery of the church.” Paul explained that the church is “so deep, complex and involved with the destinies of individuals and mankind that we shall never succeed in grasping it adequately. We must always be exploring it.” Last week, as he completed the trip, the peripatetic Pontiff gave every evidence that he was learning from his explorations —just as many along his route were seeing a new dimension of Catholicism in the Pope’s earnest efforts to reach all classes and cultures.

Not all his discoveries were pleasant, reported TIME Rome Correspondent Wilton Wynn, who made the trip with the Pope. On his last afternoon in Manila, Paul traveled to the dilapidated shacks of the city’s Tondo slum. There he visited the home of Carlos Navarro, a construction worker who tries to support a wife and eight children on a dollar a day—when he can find work. Before he left Navarro’s dirt-floored shack, the Pope slipped $500 into Navarro’s pocket. For the astonished Navarro, the money meant at least two years’ income. The Pope left the shack with tears in his eyes.

Genuine Values. In Western Samoa, after a quick change of planes in Pago Pago, the Pontiff was received like a high chieftain. He rode through groves of mango and breadfruit under 66 arches woven of wood fibers, flowers, vines and leaves. At the church of St. Anne at Leulumoega, a quiet, respectful crowd presented the Pope with a huge roast pig after he said Mass. Though only four hours long, the Samoan visit seemed to bear out the “Message to Asia” that the Pope had broadcast before leaving Manila. “The church cannot be foreign to any nation or people,” he said. “It is held to be incarnate in each climate, culture and race. It must plunge its roots deep into the spiritual and cultural soil of each place and assimilate each genuine value.” Among Asia’s special values singled out by Paul: “The discipline of your ascetics, the profound religious spirit of your people, the filial piety and attachment to the family, the cult of ancestors” (see box).

By contrast there was a chiding note in the Pope’s major address to some 200,000 worshipers at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse later in the week. Though he praised the “characteristic dynamism” of the “young country,” the Pope questioned whether “pride in having built a prosperous Australia is enough for you.” He warned of “the temptation to be satisfied when material needs are fulfilled … to forget life’s moral and spiritual dimension … to fill its place with counterfeits, some of which lead in the end to contempt for man.” One symptom of such contempt, the Pope seemed to imply, might be Australia’s discriminatory immigration restrictions. “Do not close your limited circle,” he said at one point, “for the sake of selfish satisfaction.”

Sword Dances. Perhaps the most exotic welcome of the entire trip came in Moslem Indonesia, where some 50,000 Indonesians of all faiths streamed into Djakarta stadium for the Pope’s Mass. A dozen warriors from Timor Island, wearing red headgear and waving machetes, did sword dances in front of the Pope’s car as he was driven around the stadium track. An ecumenical procession, including Protestants, Moslems and Buddhists, bore an array of gifts —among them a copy of the Koran in Arabic. In his sermon, the Pope repeated once more his message of Catholicism’s universality. “Jesus Christ shared our human condition, making himself a part of the world of his time,” Paul reminded his listeners. “In the same way, the Christian is no stranger among his own people. He shares all their honorable customs.”

Ceylon was the last stop, and a surprising one. There the Pope was greeted by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and a crowd of at least 500,000. The country’s highest ranking Buddhist monk was on hand to declare that the Pope’s visit “will help all us Ceylonese to live like brothers.” In his reply, Paul diplomatically praised the country’s “courageous social policy.”

Paul had already made his real peroration earlier that day in Hong Kong. His major address in the Crown Colony was studiously unpolitical, though he addressed it to “all the Chinese people wherever they may be.” In a sense, it might have been addressed to all those who wondered what the Pope was doing so far from Rome in the first place. “There comes to this Far Eastern land, for the first time in history, the humble apostle of Christ that we are,” noted Paul. “And what does he say? Why does he come? To sum it up in one word: love. Christ is a teacher, a shepherd, and a loving redeemer for China too. The church cannot leave unsaid this good word: love, which will be forever.” When the papal jet touched down in Rome last Saturday, that was the message that remained behind.

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