Indonesian cardinal has been proponent of dialogue, tolerance

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Amid political and religious strife in his native Indonesia, Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta has been a voice of moderation, calling for tolerance and dialogue.

Cardinal Darmaatmadja, archbishop of Jakarta. (CNS photo from the Vat ican)

During civil unrest in 1998, when President Suharto resigned, he issued a joint statement with a Muslim leader, calling on the government and the military to end the violence. He also urged that mosques destroyed in the rioting be rebuilt.

When more than a dozen people were killed and almost 100 injured in bomb blasts near churches on Christmas Eve 2000, he called on Catholics not to jump to conclusions.

"Do not retaliate. We must respond to this situation in a rational manner. The meaning of Christmas must urge us to reconcile with everyone," the cardinal said in his Christmas Day homily at Jakarta's cathedral.

Conflicts in various parts of Indonesia have claimed thousands of lives. In a pastoral letter in 2001, the Indonesian bishops' conference, headed by Cardinal Darmaatmadja, questioned politics and morals in the country.

"The executive, legislative, judicial and military authorities whose job it is to address the country's multidimensional crises seem unable to solve the problems," they wrote. "Did the crises happen because of their inability to get rid of the problems or because they were involved in them? ... Have ethics and morality died?"

The cardinal has supported women's involvement in politics in his country, backing a decision by a Catholic women's organization to reverse its traditional nonpolitical stance and allow its members to run for public office.

In a country where about 10 percent of the population is Christian, Cardinal Darmaatmadja, 70, has called on Catholics to make Christ's love present by working with other religious believers to fight poverty and injustice, emphasizing Christian service as a means of evangelization.

"If on the surface we run schools and hospitals without living the real experience of Christian love, then there will be no conversion," the cardinal said. "If we have no love, we will draw no people."

He is also keenly aware of the obstacles to evangelization in Asia. He told a synod of the world's bishops in 2001 that the church in Asia "remains foreign in its lifestyle, in its institutional structure, in its worship, in its Western-trained leadership and in its theology."

When the United States went to war with Iraq in 2003, Indonesian church leaders worried about a backlash against Christians. Cardinal Darmaatmadja was a critic of the war and welcomed Pope John Paul II's opposition to the U.S. decision.

"We reject war and recommend peace," the Indonesian bishops said in a pastoral letter signed by Cardinal Darmaatmadja as president of the bishops' conference.

Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja was born Dec. 20, 1934, in Muntilan and was baptized the next day at St. Anthony Church in the Archdiocese of Semarang. He studied at St. Peter Canisius minor seminary in Mertoyudan from 1951 to 1957, when he entered the Jesuit novitiate. He was ordained to the priesthood in December 1969.

Before his ordination, he taught at the minor seminary where he studied and served as its rector, 1978-1981. In the late 1970s, he was also national secretary of the East Asian Jesuit Educational Commission. He headed the Jesuits' Indonesian province, 1981-1983.

He was named archbishop of Semarang Feb. 19, 1983, and was consecrated June 29 that year. He has been military ordinary for Indonesia since June 1984.

Pope John Paul made him a cardinal in the November 1994 consistory. He was transferred to Jakarta in January 1996.

Cardinal Darmaatmadja served as president delegate of the Asian Synod of Bishops in 1998 and became president of the bishops' conference in January 2001.


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