Charles Bertille, vice-president of Fondacio and coordinator of the movement in Asia, publishes a book on the laity in Asia, "Empowering Asia's Laity" . Before its publication in French and to make us wait, we met him to know more about this book. Interview.
Why are you interested in the theme of the laity?
First of all, I was touched when Pope Benedict XVI said that lay people are not mere collaborators of priests, but co-leaders of the Church. Then, feedback from IFF Asia students, mentioning their challenges and needs on the ground in local churches, showed this need to work on this theme. Finally, my personal experience of the lack of a support structure for lay people on mission. It remained for me to explore the link between the Church, lay people and ministries, and also to see to what extent the theology of Vatican II and the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Asia are applied in our local churches.
How did you come up with the idea of making a book?
It all started during my theology studies, during which I had to write a memoir, and chose to focus on the laity. As my work progressed and I learned more about it through my readings and research, I thought all of this might be of interest to other lay people. I kept thinking of sharing it with others but I had never really thought of publishing it, juggling with time and different revisions of the text. One day, a call from my teacher made everything rock and pushed me to publish this book. Two editors also pushed me to do it: I had only to start. Between the first word on the paper, and the printing of the book, 3 years were necessary.
How did being a member of Fondacio help you in this work? Is it your commitment within Fondacio that made you want to work on this subject?
Certainly ! The whole thesis is tinged and influenced by my belonging to Fondacio. One of the challenges was to find the words to talk about the experience and training we give at IFF Asia, and to link this to the theology of the Federation of Asian Episcopal Conferences (FABC). Now that this challenge has been met, I see much better the links and contribution of Fondacio to the appeal and vision of the FABC. It gives momentum and credibility to our efforts.
You are familiar with the European culture and way of life, can you tell us how the situation of the laity differs in Europe and Asia? What challenges do you face in Asia?
The context is different. In Europe, religious practice is problematic, but initiatives, particularly from movements, help to revive the faith. In Asia, faith and religiosity are always very present. Many lay people go to Mass, even among the young. What we have to face is materialism, exclusion and suffering. We must also show young people a new image of the Church. In Asia, the biggest challenge is to help lay people find their voice and their role in the church and in society as Christians.
How can this book be useful to other lay people around the world?
For centuries, the identity and vocation of the laity have been masked by the pre-eminence of religious and clergy. Based on the experience of the Church in the Scriptures and tradition, and on Vatican II, we find this call made to the laity.
What did this work bring you on a spiritual and personal level?
Discipline I had to sit and finish this job. Conversion too, a deeper relationship to God and the saints. I learned a lot too, I could understand and dissect our experiences in Fondacio. Finally, gratitude for my wife, my children, my friends, the opportunities that led me so far.
All the profits of the book "Empowering Asia's Laity" will go to missions to the laity in Asia.
To order this book (in the Philippines), complete this coupon: