10/29/2022, 14.50
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Fabc50: war, unheeded calls for dialogue and the churches

by Giorgio Bernardelli

At the General Conference of the Churches of Asia-which concludes tomorrow in Bangkok-the issue of growing conflicts challenges the continent's bishops' conferences. Mumbai Card. Gracias: "Let us not stop at words, let us animate civil society for reconciliation." Pope Francis' envoy Card. Tagle: "The Gospel tells us that God acts through the little ones. Even being a minority is a mission."

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - At a time when conflicts are growing dramatically, how can churches become a sign of peace? This is one of the most discussed issues at Fabc50, the General Conference of the Churches of Asia being held in Bangkok. Tomorrow this meeting that has seen 226 delegates from Catholic communities from as many as 29 countries in Asia come together will see its conclusion with a Eucharistic celebration presided over in the Cathedral of the Assumption by Card. Luis Antonio Tagle, special envoy of Pope Francis.

A message from the Churches to the peoples of Asia will also be released during the rite, while the final synthesis document on new ways forward together will see the light of day in a few months.

One of the challenges he will have to deal with is precisely that of the conflicts that are bloodstaining not only Europe. How to stand as Christians before the violence of war? This question also emerged during the press conference held today by Card. Tagle together with the three presidents of the General Conference: card. of Yangon Charles Bo, president of the Fabc, card. of Mumbai Oswald Gracias and card. of Bangkok Francis Xavier Kriengsak.

"Many voices in the Church today," commented Card. Tagle - call for dialogue, diplomacy to resolve conflicts. Every Sunday the pope at the Angelus reminds nations of the world where there is a thirst for peace, inviting the parties to come together and talk to each other. But the question becomes, what can we do when then it doesn't happen? We make appeals, either with the loudest voice or the humblest tone. But then it's up to the political leaders to listen or not."

"Even in Asia conflicts, violence, fundamentalism are growing," echoed Card. Gracias -And it is important that as a Church we do not stop at appeals, that we work for peace, reconciliation, harmony. To speak in the name of Christ, of truth, of justice, without inferiority complexes. We must reflect on this, take a stronger role, animating civil society and showing that peace works, is progress. While war only means steps backward."

"There are, however, moments when there is no dialogue," Card. Bo noted "as is happening with us today in Myanmar. The conflicting parties do not even talk about it anymore. In these contexts we men of faith, and Catholics in particular, are left with the task of continuing to pray for peace, so that when the time is ripe we can really build it."

"The gesture of Pope Francis kissing the feet of the leaders of South Sudan," added Card. Kriengsak - was an effective example in this sense. The whole world saw that gesture and wondered. Then, of course, the witness is left to those who are called to receive it. Knowing, however, that things change one step at a time, not in one day."

For his part, Card. Tagle also invited us to reflect with an evangelical gaze on the minority condition of the Churches of Asia. "On the continent where two-thirds of the world's population lives," he recalled, "numerically we are a minority. Even within our own institutions: in Thailand out of 300,000 students in Catholic schools only 2 percent are Christians. But the parables of the Kingdom reveal to us how God always acts through the little ones. Being on the margins, unheard, does not prevent the Church in Asia from living out its mission. And we need to remind ourselves of this even in the Philippines or East Timor, where we are a majority: the Kingdom is built in humility, in compassion, in solidarity with the little ones in society."

Finally, the pro-prefect of the dicastery of Evangelization raised the question of the challenge posed to the Church by the new digital avenues traveled during the time of the pandemic, which today must be traveled with increasing insistence but also without confusion. It also makes Asia think about the decline in attendance in the Churches after Covid19.

"Social media will remain in our society," Tagle commented, "as a Church we must fully become aware of it. Remembering, however, that sacramental reality passes through visible signs such as water in baptism, bread and wine in the Eucharist. Once the emergency is over, normal life must begin again for the Church as well. The challenge is to learn from the pandemic: in addition to online celebrations, there have been many catechesis, biblical paths, forms of accompaniment. We have to start from there and ask ourselves how really the digital world can become a tool to promote truth, care for others, and the transformation of society."

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