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MUMBAI, India – Bishops will seek to “dialogue” with the people of Asia during the second week of the 50th anniversary meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) taking place this week in Bangkok, Thailand.
Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo said it “was so exciting to meet more than 100 bishops of Asia gathered at Baan Phu Wann, pastoral center of Bangkok Archdiocese, for the commemorative General Conference of FABC to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its foundation.”
“However, as soon as the participants got into the real business on 13, we immediately realized that a huge task is waiting for us, namely to know the reality of Asia, reflect on the possibility of our possible responses and consider future paths for the church in Asia,” he told Crux.
The Oct. 12-30 event marks the anniversary of when Pope St. Paul VI started the federation during his 1970 trip to the Philippines. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the commemoration of the event, which was originally scheduled to take place in 2020.
“To know the reality of Asia, which is a vast continent starting from Kazakhstan in the far west end to Japan in the far east end, we have to immerse ourselves into the completely diverse stories of each of the 22 countries present,” Kikuchi said.
“We immediately realized that as Asia is a continent of complex realities with different cultures, it is not an easy task to make one unified policy for pastoral response. Because of this realization, we understood the meaning of the last phrase of the Theme of the General Conference which is: And they went a different way,” the archbishop said.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the former president of FABC, suggested that the organization follow the example of its Latin American counterpart, CELAM.
“I cannot stress how vital our role at this general conference is. We are undertaking to become and remain a prophetic, relevant, and responsive Asian church at the service of the people of Asia,” Gracias said, according to ucanews.com.
“All participants at recent global ecclesial events will have noticed how bishops in South America have invariably been referring to Puebla, Medellin, and now Aparecida in their reflections,” Gracias said, referring to CELAM decennial conferences.
When he was cardinal of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis was the main architect of the final document of Aparecida, which continues to influence him, Gracias said.
“The question, therefore, arises: Isn’t it time for the FABC to have something similar in Asia? What helped South America can surely help Asia,” the cardinal added.
He said a restructured conference would help churches in Asia “renew and revitalize our pastoral thrust” and make it “a vibrant church working for a better Asia.”
Kikuchi said the first few days of the conference was “contributing to a lot for us to deepen our sense of solidarity.”
“We spent time to listen to, dialogue with and pray together. Now next week, we will reflect on these realities, dialogue with local people of the Asian church online and try to reach the last stage in the third week to find our new paths to follow which might require FABC to go through a kind of structural change,” the Tokyo archbishop said.
“The Holy Spirit is at work with the bishops, supported by the prayers of local churches of Asia,” he said.