BANGKOK — The Catholic Church in Asia stands at the crossroads of history amid poverty, climate change, political conflicts, disagreements and economic collapse, said a leading Asian church leader.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, made the comments during his address at the opening of the federation’s golden jubilee celebrations Aug. 22, reported ucanews.com. The jubilee programs will conclude Oct. 30, with a two-week FABC gathering in Bangkok.
“We gather amidst suffocating clouds of conflict and displacements, the collapse of the economy, frightening climate change, pandemic and starvation of millions. Secularism is on the ascendency in the traditionally Christian world,” said Bo.
Authoritarian leadership is also becoming the norm in too many countries, he added.
“Democracy faces stiff challenges. Fundamentalism and religious violence threaten global peace. We are called upon to examine ourselves as to what could be the role of Asian churches in these challenging moments,” the cardinal said.
“Asia is a virtual mosaic of cultures; the church reflected that diversity,” Bo said.
He said Asian Christianity is in the process of shedding its alien baggage and becoming truly indigenous to the region.
“The incorporation of the cultural and the religious is what theologians refer to as inculturation,” he said.
Ucanews.com reported the cardinal said much had been achieved in the past 50 years, and he thanked the theologians and others who provided the intellectual identity to the FABC.
The federation was established in 1970, when Asian bishops came together for the first time in Manila for Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Philippines. Since then, bishops say, the FABC has cherished and worked with the church to develop an identity for the Catholic Church in Asia.
The federation was forced to postpone its golden jubilee in 2020 because of pandemic restrictions.
Bo said that with Christianity playing an important role in Asian nations, education, health and human development, countries are becoming economically and politically more confident.
“The church is vibrant in Asia and Africa with increasing vocations. This is a great opportunity and challenge,” he said adding that this century can become the “Asian Christian century” by “proclaiming the Good News and fostering peace with justice in the world.”
The cardinal said the question before the church is to see how it can “become prophets of peace in an increasingly anxious world.”
The third millennium brings great challenges. Pope Francis has always encouraged looking at every challenge as an opportunity, he said.
“As we inaugurate the 50-year celebrations, we are reminded that the biblical perspective of a jubilee mandates a comprehensive change and robust renewal.
“The church under the present pope has proactively initiated changes,” he said. “Pope Francis’ three documents have given to the Asian church and the world a road map in right relationships: ‘Evanglium Gaudium’ guided us in our relationship with God; ‘Laudato Si” charted a course in our relationship with God’s creation; and ‘Fratelli Tutti’ enlightens us on the relationship with one another.”
He said the challenge was to be a synodal church, with evangelization gaining the prime place in Vatican structures and missions. On the justice front, the pope has called for dedication to the struggle for environmental and economic justice, he added.
He commended all the dioceses in Asia for preparing for the FABC 50 General Conference in October.