[Q and A] What Asia can learn from Benedict XVI
MANILA, Philippines – The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday, February 28, has created ripples reaching Asian shores.
For a Malaysian theologian from the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI) in Quezon City, Benedict's resignation “speaks volumes” for regimes that use power “for domination, subjugation, even marginalization of people.”
Jesuit priest Fr Jojo Fung, EAPI's assistant to the director for academics, said Benedict teaches Asian leaders to “step aside for the sake of new blood, for the sake of the new leaders who may be better at ethical governance for the good of the people.” (Read: Benedict XVI vows to obey next pope.)
Watch Rappler's full interview with Fung or read the transcript below.
RAPPLER: What do you think is the greatest legacy of Benedict XVI?
FUNG: One of the greatest lessons, I think, that this pope has imparted to the world at large, and of course more specifically to Asia, would be in two areas.
One is the encouragement to deepen that relationship with different religions, so that, he said, we reduce the animosity, and therefore increase the level of trust between the different religions. So I think the emphasis to really continue the legacy of John Paul II, and therefore to affirm the importance of the spirit of Vatican II in terms of really deepening the relationship with the world religions and their leaders, in order to bring about world peace.
So that peace also includes what we call the need for justice, the need for forgiveness, the need for more intimate, caring relationships with creation. That's the first lesson. And I think that has great implications for Asia, because I think Asia, we are not too alert in terms of the impact of religions on the population, on societies, and our relationship with creation, or with nature or the environment. So the level of, I think, environmental consciousness in the light of ecological disasters in Asia, I think, need to be deepened through the impact of religions in their mutual relationship, and therefore concerted relationship, working together as religions for the betterment of societies and our relationship with the environment.
I think the second legacy of this pope is in the very act of his resignation, or capacity to retire, because he speaks volumes to Asia, in our traditions of the ancient wisdom that if we cannot provide leadership, whether in the ecclesial circle or in the political circle, or any kind of leadership in any sphere in Asia, particularly in countries where there are totalitarian governments, I think those leaders should learn the lesson that if you cannot exercise power for the service and empowerment of the people, I think it's best to step aside – because power is vested in you by authority, by your office.
If authority is vested upon you by the people, or by the Church, or by the different religions, and if you fail to empower the people, then I think you ought to learn the lesson that power is for service. If power is for lustful self-gain, in terms of corruption, in terms of mismanagement of funds, or the exploitation of the natural resources, or the earth community, or even human resources, then I think that power has lost its legitimacy, its moral legitimacy. So any power that has lost its moral legitimacy calls for, I think, resignation on the part of the leaders.
I think this is the greatest legacy that Pope Benedict has imparted and given to the people of Asia.
RAPPLER: Father, how would you describe the notions of power in Asia?
FUNG: Power in Asia, I think we need to look at how, you know, both within Church and within societies, in terms of political societies, the power is for domination, subjugation, even marginalization of people. You don't see that the power is exercised to help the people to speak up the truth, for instance, to speak up for justice, to speak up for human dignity and rights, to speak up for the earth community, to speak up for harmony between the different religions. We don't see that political power, or even sometimes ecclesial power, is exercised for that purpose. In Church, we call it, 'no, for the betterment of, for the ushering of the Kingdom of God in our societies.
Power that fails in terms of ushering the Kingdom of God, to bring about greater life, justice, and peace, whether in Church or in society, that power has lost its moral legitimacy. And therefore, I think those leaders who exercise such discriminatory or oppressive power, I think they should step aside, too.
RAPPLER: In what specific countries, Father, do you see this phenomenon or this notion of power?
FUNG: Well, in countries, whether they exercise monarchical or parliamentary democracy.
RAPPLER: Like, for example, Father, what countries?
FUNG: I would say that, you know, be it China, or be it Vietnam, be it Malaysia, or be it the Philippines. Whenever this power is not at the service of people – only to embezzle political leaders – I think this pope has given the lesson: step aside for the sake of new blood, for the sake of the new leaders who may be better at ethical governance for the good of the people.
RAPPLER: But Father, the Philippines is not a totalitarian state, and we're democratic. How do you see this at play here?
FUNG: I think what is at play here is, you know, if you have leaders who do not deserve to be vested with that power, then I think you ought to call for People Power 1, 2, and 3, 4, in order to depose such tyrannical leaders, who will continue the legacy of Marcos, for instance, or Erap, for instance. Such leaders should be deposed by the people.