08/23/2004, 00.00
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Bishops' Assembly on family nears end

Seoul (AsiaNews/UCAN) – The 8th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) ends today. Saturday and Sunday were days of pause and reflection, but today participants will review the final draft of the working document and vote on it.

The sessions of the Assembly and the working document took into account the recent "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the world" signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Over the past few days several working groups, organised according to the regional and linguistic break-down, studied this year's theme, namely "The Asian family: towards a culture of life".

Of particular interest was the group devoted to "interfaith dialogue and the family". For a married Indian couple, Kalpesh and Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, it was "a great chance to talk about the issues with the bishops and others." Astrid Lobo is in fact Catholic whilst her husband Kalpesh is Hindu. "We were asked to bear witness as a 'mixed' couple," she said. "We appreciated how attentive the bishops were to what we said."

Mixed marriages are increasingly a pastoral challenge to the Church in Asia. The working document speaks of interfaith marriage as an opportunity for "dialogue of words, love, and life". It considers mixed couples as "a chance sent by the Holy Ghost for a humble, respectful, silent, and yet eloquent statement of the Christian faith".

During the Assembly Asian bishops welcomed the Most Reverend Bishop Wilton Daniel Gregory, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. "In our country," Bishop Gregory said, "Asian families often face many difficulties and experience problems. But they also are a shining example of unity, harmony, love, and dedication."

Asia is the world's largest pool of cheap labour. Millions of Asians are on the move seeking employment both within and without the continent. In the US alone there are 6 million Chinese immigrants.

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