Asia in the continental phase of Pope Francis' Synod

After the listening process involving the individual Churches, the General Secretariat will draw up a synthesis from Rome by the end of October on which a continental consultation will take place. A number of Asian theologians will also be on the commission charged with drafting it. By the end of March 2023 a synodal meeting of the Churches in Asia will be held in which not only bishops but also priests, laity and religious will take part.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops spent this past week in Rome taking stock of the progress made in the first year of the synodal listening process convened by Pope Francis on the theme "For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission".

These reflections of Catholic communities around the world will converge in the Assembly that the pontiff will preside over in Rome in October 2023.

The conclusion of the first phase, that of listening to the people of God in the particular Churches and community discernment at a national level, entrusted to the individual Bishops' Conferences, was set for 15 August.

According to the data made public, more than 100 of these syntheses have been produced and will be enriched bythose of the Vatican dicasteries, the Unions of Religious men and women, but also - recounted Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, consultant to the General Secretariat of the Synod - "about 800 observations that arrived directly to the Secretariat from individuals and groups from various parts of the world, and documents that collect the fruit of seminars and meetings".

Among this wealth of voices that are still arriving at the Vatican there are some from Asia: The Bishops' Conferences of Japan and of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei have even published the reports on their websites. The Latin Rite Churches of India, on the other hand, held a special national meeting in Bangalore in recent weeks.

In the press conference held on 26 August, Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod, explained how the work would now continue, which envisages a second phase at the continental level.

He explained, "the secretariat could have directly produced a synthesis that would have been the instrumentum laboris for the assembly phase to be celebrated in Rome, but it was preferred to include a new discussion at the local level on an intermediate document."

"The addition of a continental level," Grech commented, "was desired to further guarantee respect for the consultation of the people of God. A further level of discernment that must not be reduced to the celebration of an ecclesial assembly: the principle of circularity must be realised through an act of restitution to the particular Churches. There the consultation took place, there the document returns'.

Operationally, the 'Document for the Continental Stage' - which will be ready by the end of October - will be drafted by a group of 25 experts coordinated by Fr Costa.

This group includes a number of theologians from Asia and the Middle East: the Lebanese Souraya Bechealany, director of the Research Centre of the Faculty of Religious Sciences, Fr Gaby Alfred Hachem, lecturer at the University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik (Lebanon), the Korean dogmatic theologian Teresa Choi, of Sogang University, the Singaporean Christina Kheng, lecturer at the East Asian Pastoral Institute, the Syro-Malabar Indian theologian Fr. Thomas Kollamparampil, lecturer at the Pontifical Athenaeum Dharmaran Vidiya Ksheteram in Bangalore and the Sri Lankan Redemptorist theologian Fr Vimal Tirimanna, lecturer at the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.

Once prepared, therefore, the "Document for the Continental stage" will be entrusted to the Churches of each continent for examination, which will conclude with an assembly meeting at the local level that will have to elaborate a new contribution, to be sent to the general secretariat of the Synod by 31 March.

The Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East (CPCO), the body that brings together the Churches of the Middle East, has already decided that this meeting will be held from 12 to 18 February at a location yet to be defined.

For the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (Fabc), on the other hand, the date has not yet been decided on, but it will in any case be intertwined with the path that will emerge from the work of the General Conference for the 50th anniversary of this body, which after its solemn inauguration last Monday will see its celebratory phase in Bangkok from 12 to 30 October.

Just yesterday, in this regard, Pope Francis announced that he will be represented by Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as his papal legate.

"All continental Assemblies," specified the General Secretariat of the Synod, "should be ecclesial Assemblies (of all the people of God) and not just Episcopal Assemblies (of bishops only). Therefore, the participants should adequately represent the variety of the People of God: bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, laymen and women. This is a first fruit of the ongoing synodal process, as it corresponds to the desire of the majority of the Bishops' Conferences consulted on the subject'.