FABC general conference opens in Bangkok

Some 200 delegates from 29 countries will meet until 30 October for a synodal event marking 50 years since the FABC’s foundation. The Churches in Asia are called to a “new epiphany” in “Asia’s century”, said Card Bo in the opening Mass. In a video message Pope Francis said: “let the laity assume their baptism” and show “respect for the particularity of every Church.”

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The Federation of Asian Catholic Churches is holding its general conference at the Baan Phu Waan Pastoral Training Center, in Sam Phran district, Bangkok, marking the 50th anniversary of its creation. The event was originally scheduled for 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Some 200 delegates, including cardinals, bishops and lay people from 29 member countries, will meet until 30 October to discuss the challenges facing the Church in Asia, starting with the Gospel verse: “and they went a different way” (Mt 2:12) which describes the experience of the Magi after their encounter with Jesus on Epiphany.

Archbishop Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon referred to the image of a "new Epiphany” in his homily in the Mass that opened the meeting this evening.

"Like the men who came from the East 2,000 years ago,” said Card Bo, “today we too have a new star on the horizon, a new call, a new challenge; to live in Asia’s century, in Christ’s century”, pursuing “evangelisation on this continent”.

This task may seem unequal given the extremely small numbers of Churches in Asia, not to mention the gravity of the problems that touch the continent today, such as exploitation, democratic deficit, superpower rivalries, and mass migration.

For Card Bo, all of these issues must be looked at as the “burning bush” that Moses saw, welcoming the answer God gave to his fears: “Do not fear, [. . .] I will be with you.”

Only this way will it be possible to truly accept the task of this appointment “in synodal style", which is precisely that of "reaffirming, renewing and revitalising the Church in Asia".

Pope Francis sent a video message to the delegates, noting that at the time of the FABC's foundation in 1970, “masses were awakening from fatalism to a life worthy of man; the young people were also awakening, they were idealistic, aware, concerned, impatient and restless; culturally diverse societies were awakening to become a true community of peoples.

“This meant that the Church in Asia was being called to be more authentically the Church of the poor, the Church of the young, and a Church in dialogue with fellow Asians of other denominations.”

“Go forward, let the laity assume their baptism, their function as laypersons, and let the singularity of each one be respected, because the universal Church is not the uniform Church, no: she is universal, with respect for the particularity of every Church.”

The actual work of the general conference will start tomorrow centred initially on understanding the emerging realities in the different countries.

A presentation of the current situation will be made for each of the 29 countries, focused on the political, social, economic, and religious challenges the Catholic Church faces in each.

From 17 to 22 October, the general conference will reflect on these realities, in conjunction with recent documents by the magisterium.

The guiding paper drafted by the FABC and subsequent consultations have already highlighted some issues, namely the pandemic, globalisation, socio-economic and political challenges, as well as gender issues, indigenous peoples, young people’s yearnings, and the changing Church.

On 23 October, World Mission Sunday, pastors will make a "virtual visit" to some parishes in different parts of the continent. On 26 October, they will make a pilgrimage to Ayutthaya and engage in dialogue with other religious traditions.

The conference will end on 30 October with the release of a final document and a message to the Catholic communities of Asia. The pope’s representative, Card Luis Antonio Tagle will lead the concluding celebrations.