The 18th Asian Games in Indonesia that is completing its first week of competitions have the support of the nation’s Catholic bishops who regard the continent’s premier sporting event as an occasion to build peace among peoples.
The August 18 to September 2 pan-Asian multi-sport competition, that kicked off last Saturday in the Indonesian capital is being hosted in Jakarta and Palembang. 11 thousand athletes from 45 countries are competing in 40 different disciplines, including for the first time electronic sports and canoe polo.
Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta and Archbishop Aloysius Sudarso of Palembang have invited Catholics to show strong support for the sporting event.
In May, thousands of Catholics took part in the presentation of the event in Palembang, along with the provincial governor Alex Noerdin. Among them was also Arch. Sudarso, along with dozens of priests, nuns, religious and important local Catholic figures.
Hospitality, pastoral care
The archbishop reiterated that the community "will be an exemplary hostess". "We are preparing some priests, particularly those who can speak foreign languages, to offer Mass for Catholic athletes," Archbishop Sudarso told UCANEWS.
He said local authorities have made places of worship available, including a Catholic church close to the athletes’ village in Palembang. Several doctors from Catholic hospitals in the province will also be on hand to serve the athletes. "They are specialists who will join medical teams prepared for the competition," the archbishop said.
Dozens of Catholic lay volunteers are helping organize events, including a parishioner from St. Francis de Sales Church in Palembang, who is a member of the organizing team to stage the bowling competition.
“Let's make it a multi-cultural and multi-religious event. We hope it will carry a message of unity,” said the Archbishop of Palembang, noting that the Asian Games are a multicultural event followed by people from different religious backgrounds.
This was particularly evident and poignant in the spectacular opening ceremony, August 18, when North and South Korean athletes paraded together behind a “unification” flag, with thousands of cheering them enthusiastically. The two neighbours, still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, are fielding 60 athletes in combined teams along with larger contingents for their respective national squads.
Jakarta Archdiocese also issued a similar letter last month, calling on parishes to show solidarity by placing a banner with a message of support in church compounds and also on social media.
This is the second time that Indonesia is hosting the Asian Games, after 1962 which was hosted in Jakarta. (Source: AsiaNews/UCANEWS)