The catholic faith, originally brought by the Portuguese, went through Dutch persecution and through varying phases as regards its presence and evangelisation and today plays a role certainly greater in importance than its numbers would suggest.
Its participation in the social development of the country is concrete as is its influence through educational institutions and the mass media. Indonesia’s Church has long been missionary with a steady impact on its sister Churches in the continent and beyond. As noted by Father Francesco Marini, former Superior general of the Xaverian Missionaries who does parish work in Jakarta, “the Church has moved from being an object of mission to being its subject: it has the right and the capacity to send its missionaries to where there is greater need.
The Church is numerically small but spiritually adult. We believe we are serving both the local and the universal Church by developing Indonesian missionary vocations”. This calls the universal Church to greater inculturation and greater integration in the local Church but also calls the local Church to sustain its missionary status, nourished by an abundance of vocations and the needs elsewhere in Asia and beyond. Despite its many achievements, there still remains a basic resistance to missionary openness in a Church that does not want to give the impression of wanting to Christianise the country and face up to radical Islamism.
Significantly, as a sign of international openness, Asian Youth Day 2017 (the seventh edition of a triennial event) has, for the first time, been held in Indonesia and for the first time in a Moslem country. Speaking of the initiative that, from 30 July to 9 August, brought together thousands of young people of the continent to the diocese of Semarang and also involved many other diocesan realities, the local ecclesiastical authorities, starting with Mons. Pius Riana Prapdi, Bishop of Ketapang, the chief organiser of the event, explained how the theme of the meeting ‘Joyful Youth of Asia! Live the Gospel in Multicultural Asia’, fits “perfectly into the experience of Indonesia, a country with great ethnic and religious variety in search of a shared life and the harmony promoted by the national teaching of the Pancasila”.