Encounter Jesus in today's Asia: the invitation of the Churches gathered in Bangkok
General Conference opens with a celebration of 50 of the Fabc. Card. Bo: "Called to be prophets of peace and evangelizers amidst suffocating clouds of conflict, hunger, authoritarian leadership that become the norm". Pope Francis' message: "In the diversity of the continent, develop different ways of proclaiming the joy of the Gospel". Sr. Rekha Chennattu, an Indian nun, entrusted wuth the task of commenting on the Gospel passage of the Magi, chosen as a theme.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - A meeting to "reaffirm, renew and revitalize" the journey of the Catholic Churches of Asia opened with a celebration at the church dedicated to Blessed Nichola Kitbamrung in Bangkok today.
The solemn one day opening of the General Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (Fabc) marked 50 years since its founding with a liturgy of the Word around the Gospel passage of the Magi (Mt 2:1-12),. This was chosen as the guide for this appointment that aims to "walk together with the peoples of Asia" and - after the opening ceremony -will meet in assembly proper in Bangkok from October 12-30, in the presence of 250 delegates from all over the continent.
The intent is not so much to reminisce about the past but to look forward by being provoked by the context of Asia today. "We gather amid suffocating clouds of conflict and exoduses of peoples," recalled Card. Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and president of the Fabc - economic collapses, frightening climate change, pandemics and the starvation of millions. Secularization is on the rise in the traditional Christian world. Authoritarian leadership is becoming the norm in many countries. Democracy faces difficult challenges. Fundamentalism and religious violence threaten global peace. We are called to question what the role of the Asian Churches can be in these challenges," and how to be "prophets of peace in a way that is increasingly dominated by anxiety."
Aware that every challenge is also an opportunity, "we are called to be a synodal Church, one that puts evangelization first," Card. Bo. -On the justice front, the pope calls for our commitment in the struggle for environmental and economic justice." Recalling the contribution that Asia's Catholic communities are already making to the health, education, and development of their countries, along with the vitality in vocations to consecrated life, the Archbishop of Yangon called them "a great opportunity and a great challenge" to ensure that this really becomes "the century of Christian Asia."
In a message sent to the Fabc and read by the apostolic nuncio himself, Pope Francis expressed the hope that this General Conference would "renew the Churches in Asia in fraternal communion and missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel among the vast continent's so diverse peoples, cultures and social realities." "I pray that the deliberations you will make," the pontiff wrote further, "will enable your local Churches to develop, within the multifaceted unity of God's people, different ways of proclaiming the joy of the Gospel, of forming new generations of missionary disciples and of working for the extension of Christ's kingdom, universal holiness, justice and peace.
From the Gospel icon of the Magi comes the invitation to know how to set out even on "other paths" after meeting Jesus. And significantly called to comment on this word in the celebration was an Indian nun, Sister Rekha Chennattu, who expressed the hope of an Asian Church that can reflect more and more the richness of its interior life and its fraternity "by going out to meet those who are poor, lonely, marginalized, building together a community where the multi-religious and multi-cultural world of Asia can recognize that we are Christians because we care for one another. On the soil of Asia," he added, "may the Church become a sign of God's presence that spreads joy and hope even amidst persecution.
For his part, Mumbai Card. Oswald Gracias, who coordinated the preparation of this conference, recalled how the Fabc itself was born 50 years ago precisely from the desire "for a Church of the poor, of young people and of dialogue. And these are challenges that remain decisive even today." Explaining then how the General Conference of the Fabc fits into the synodal path that the whole Church is taking, Card. Gracias invited everyone to "turn to God to seek together the face of Jesus in Asia. That Jesus," he commented, "who is already in our midst, despite our differences.