10/24/2022, 19.32
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Bangkok conference: Asian Churches can contribute to the whole world

by Giorgio Bernardelli

The Federation of Asian Bishops is marking its 50th anniversary at a general conference in Bangkok. The meeting will conclude at the end of this week when a final statement will be issued to the people of God. No prelate from mainland China was able to come. “On this occasion we felt their absence,” Card Gracias of Bombay said. “Yet we still feel they are part of our journey.”

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) has been holding its general conference in Bangkok (Thailand) since 12 October with bishops, priests and lay delegates from 29 countries.

The meeting is set to conclude its last week next Sunday, 30 October; however, today, the conference’s three presidents – FABC President Card Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, chief organiser  Archbishop Card Oswald Gracias of Bombay, and Archbishop Card Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanit of Bangkok – spoke at a press conference.

Their remarks were not only for the Churches of Asia but also for Churches around the world. In fact, “The time has come for our Churches in Asia to make their contribution to the universal Church, especially on issues such as interreligious dialogue, which for us is daily life”.

Reflections began on some new ways for the Church to address the great emerging realities in Asia today. Lines of action will be summarised in a final statement to the people of God – which will be released over the weekend – and in a pastoral plan drawn up in the following months.

“Many of our Churches are young, but still have significant experiences to offer,” said Card Gracias. “For us, for example, dialogue with other religions is a challenge that we have always faced and so we can also help the Churches in Europe or the United States that today are wondering about its forms. But I also think about the reflections that the Churches in Korea and Japan have carried forward on a theme as important today as peace and reconciliation.”

Youth is also a central topic at the general conference in Bangkok. “They are part and players of our evangelising mission,” said Card Bo. “If we want to change today's Asia, we can only start with young people, going where they are. In this sense we feel the challenge of the new languages and digital communication.”

In this sense, a new, significant tool to bring young people closer to the Bible was presented on the sidelines of the conference. The book contains QR codes that will allow readers to open video clips with people talking about passages from the Bible in relation to their lives.

This is the result of the collaboration between Card John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand, John Bergin, consultant with the United Bible Societies, and the FABC Office of Evangelisation.

“We had another experience of this kind, yesterday, on World Mission Sunday,” said Card Kovitvanit. “Thanks to digital tools, the delegates in Bangkok were able to 'virtually meet' 20 different parishes scattered throughout Asia.”

As small groups they visited various parishes in Mumbai, Dhaka, Seoul, Lahore, Yogyakarta, Pathein, Sabah, but also Darkhan in Mongolia, as well as parishes Taiwan, Brunei, Laos, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan and the Philippines.

The visit began with an introduction and a video by the parish, followed by a conversation with the assembled delegates. While this embraced the whole of Asia, the People's Republic of China was the great absent.

Answering a question from AsiaNews about how to bring bishops from mainland China, Card Gracias explained that it was not possible this time.

"We sent an invitation but the difficulties related to the pandemic prevented participation,” he said. "If not for the pandemic, I’m sure they would have been here with us. The two bishops from China came for the synod in Rome, they were there. Subsequently, we had a meeting on theology here in this very place of Asia. China sent two bishops and did full participation. I did mention to them that we would like their presence over here for this general conference, and said ‘it’s incomplete without you, you are an important component,’ and they were interested in coming. However, the conference itself was postponed twice because of the pandemic and there were restrictions of movement there, so it is all because of logistics. We made efforts and we hoped that they would come. I want to say publicly that we miss their presence over here". 

[*] Originally, the conference was scheduled for 2020, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”