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Myanmar Cardinal lauds women’s vibrant contributions to society

Cardinal Charles M. Bo, the president of the Federation of the Bishops’ Conferences of Asia (FABC) speaks on the important role of women in evangelization.

A prominent church leader from Asia praised women for their invaluable contribution to society.

“Women in Asia are the unacknowledged frontline evangelizers of service, love, and peace,” said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the president of the Federation of the Bishops’ Conferences of Asia (FABC).

He was speaking on “The Role of women in the Mission and the Evangelization of Asia” to the students of Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology in Manila, Philippines on March 31.

Women are carrying the Gospel to Christians and non-Christians in healthcare, education, human development, and pastoral service. They work as peacemakers in conflict-turn areas facing daunting challenges in Asia and beyond, he said.

According to Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, women are the “committed witnesses of the Gospel in the church and society.  

More than 700,000 nuns all over the world render service in various ministries. They are “the greatest witnesses” of God to others, he said.

Stressing the important role of women in evangelization or the church’s missionary work, the prelate mentioned the women as “Apostle of the Apostles” by quoting the biblical figures of women.

“Mary is the Star and our model of evangelization,” the Asian Church leader said.

“Mary came from a poor family and she lived in a culture that did not empower women. Yet, she proved the power of empty hands. It is the Word taking flesh in her life. Mary’s Magnificat gives a road map—comprehensive humanization” in society for all,” the cardinal said.

Bo explained about Mary Magdalene at the resurrection of Jesus and Samaritan women as fine examples of conversion and proclamation.

He said that women are the prominent persons in Jesus' mission.

“They [women] were also faithful companions and collaborators. Till to the way of the Cross, even when most of the male disciples ran away, women continued to journey with Jesus,” Bo said.

The eighth station of the Cross depicts the poignant scene of women crying and following Jesus. They consoled Jesus during his agony. In the most difficult moments of Jesus' life, they were present with Jesus, the prelate explained.

Quoting the words of Pope Francis, the cardinal said, “A church without women is a poor Church. Women are the backbone of the domestic church.”

Bo mentioned the core message of the bible as a proclamation of the Good News. He invited all to proclaim God’s goodness and love if one believes in a living God.

The cardinal defines “Evangelization as a four-letter word: LOVE.”

“Evangelization is not about gaining something beyond this world. It is about the “Here and now sense of Incarnate salvation. The Word Salvation appears more than 100 times in the Bible, always indicating a life lived here on earth in love,” he said.

Cardinal Bo explained further saying evangelization is not the work of conversion any more. But, the concept of evangelization becomes broader today as taught by the “Evangelii Nuntiandi” (‘in proclaiming the Gospel’ - an apostolic exhortation issued on December 8, 1975, by Pope Paul VI on the theme of Catholic evangelization) and “Redemptoris Missio” (‘mission of the redeemer’ - an encyclical by Pope John Paul II published on December 7, 1990).

Evangelization includes not only religious and spiritual upliftment but also the social and economic development of people. It becomes integral evangelization which is comprehensive salvation and liberation of human beings, he pointed out.

Cardinal Bo proposed to the women seven broader starting points for mission and evangelization in Asia today.

  1. The unity of humanity as the missionary horizon
  2. Proclaiming love as the Good News
  3. Pentecostal openness to all people
  4. Accepting the ‘other’
  5. Inculturation is the interconnectedness to one another
  6. Peacemaker and reconciler  
  7. The circular loving nature of the Trinity as the core message

With special attention to women’s role, the FABC president concluded his virtual talk by calling to action with the FABC’s road map for evangelization which is “a new way of being Church.’

He also reminded all of FABC’s core mission—the three-fold dialogue with religions, cultures, and with the poor.

Cardinal Bo delivered his speech in three parts.

The first part dealt with the significant role women played in the mission of Jesus and the first Christian community.

The second part was on the various definitions of evangelization and the third part was on a roadmap for Asian Christians, especially for women in the mission of evangelization.

 

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