The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) held a 50th anniversary General Conference from 12-30 October 2022. On Wednesday, the document Conference delegates drafted was launched during an online event.
By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp
Bishop Allwyn D’Silva, Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay and FABC 50 General Conference Adjunct Secretary, hosted an online event on Wednesday, launching the document drafted last October during that assembly. “This document is going to make a difference to the Church of Asia,” he began, “and the Church of Asia can offer this document to the universal Church.” It reflects the voices of all 140 Cardinals and Bishops, 60 priests, religious and lay faithful who attended the 12-30 October 2022 General Conference.
FABC President Cardinal Charles Bo welcomed those participating online. “Today, my heart is filled with joy,” the Cardinal said. “The FABC 50 General conference held in October 2022 was a historic event and a watershed moment for the Church in Asia.” Speaking of the first-ever General Conference of Bishops in Asia, he characterized it as a “kairos moment…as we dialogued in a spirit of solidarity and collegiality.” He recalled that all facets of the Church participated in it. The final “visionary” document, he says, “responding to the call of synodality,” and “envisioning new pathways for the future,” contains the fruit of that fraternal and mutual dialogue and discernment.
Bombay Archbishop, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who proposed and later convened the FABC General Conference, then ceremoniously unwrapped the gift-wrapped document and officially released it. “I am happy”, he said, “on behalf of our president, Cardinal Charles, the committee who prepared it, the Bishops and all those who worked to release this FABC Bangkok document.”
Document drafting process
Picking up the word, Bishop Allwyn said that the document reflects the input of all the General Conference participants documented by a committee headed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan. The Bishop explained that the document’s title comes from the “Biblical narrative of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2 verses 1-12…. Journeying Together as Peoples of Asia, ‘…and they went a different way.’ “ He then explained that once the revised draft of an initial one proposed to the General Conference was given “initial approval by the plenary”, an editorial team finalized the draft after the General Conference concluded. On 3 March, Bishop David said, the FABC central committee gave its final approval to the document.
Emerging realities in Asia
The sustained reflection on Matthew’s account of the Magi is a unique feature of the document which also provides “thematic unity” and the framework for its arrangement according to its 5 narrative aspects: Journeying together, looking, discerning, offering our gifts, taking new pathways. The second and longest chapter “takes a serious phenomenological look at the emerging realities confronting the Churches in Asia,” the Bishop said. It focuses particularly on 9 aspects which include the emigration and refugee phenomenon, family, the role of women, youth, new technologies, the environment and interreligious dialogue. These realities are then developed in the third chapter which expresses how the Church can pastorally address the emerging realities. Among the latter is the call “to be bridge-builders and brides, instruments of dialogue and reconciliation in Asia,” and “to adapt the formation of our clergy to the Asian context and culture.”
Gifts to offer and new pathways
The fourth section, Bishop David explained, is “a reflection on what Asia can contribute to the Universal Church…focusing on Asian culture and spirituality.” The Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia provided inspiration for this section, he said. Finally, “Following New Pathways aims to articulate the new directions the FABC feels called to undertake.” The five pathways identified are: “From dominative to inculturated evangelization; From basic Christian communities to ecclesial communities that promote basic human communities; From dialogue to synodality; From proclamation to storytelling; From beaten tracks to new pastoral priorities.” All this in order to reach the goal “To be all things to Asian peoples,” echoing 1 Cor 9:22-23.
Cardinal Gracias concluded the event. He said he believes the document will be important for “the pastoral work in Asia,” and called the FABC 50 General Conference an “unforgettable experience.” Rather than the document being a “finished product,” he explained, “it’s the beginning of the journey.” He sees it as a spiritual document meant to be prayed over and reflected on, to provide food for spiritual conversation. His hope is that it will have an impact on pastoral ministry throughout all the countries of Asia. Drawing inspiration from it, he sees the Church work working “in Asia for a better Asia, a Church in Asia for a better people, a Church in Asia that works in Asia for a better world. This is the mission the Lord has given us.”