The Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) inaugurated its fiftieth General Conference at the Shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 22.
After the inauguration, the FABC invites the faithful in Asia to enter into period of prayer for this upcoming General Conference from October 12-30, later this year.
The theme of FABC 50 is “Journeying together as peoples of Asia.” The leitmotif of the gathering is the biblical text “… and then they [the Magi] went a different way” (Mt 2:12), reflecting a rereading of the FABC journey.
The inaugural ceremony started with an opening bell followed by the Procession of the Bishops while singing Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit) at 12 noon Bangkok Time.
FABC President Cardinal Charles Bo spoke of the birth and the milestones of FABC in his inaugural address. Cardinal said that FABC was born in response to the creative apostolic impulses of the Second Vatican Council and its 50 years of existence have been a journey of grace and gratefulness, a theme taken from the Magnificat of Mary.
The word of God from the Gospel according to Matthew 2:1-12 was presented by four representatives from India, the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea to represent the four regions of Asia, namely, South Asia, South East Asia, East Asia, and Central Asia.
Sister Rekha Chennattu of the Assumption Congregation gave the reflection after the Gospel. She compared journey of FABC to the faith journey of the Magi, who “went a different way” (Mt 2:2) after recognizing and responding to the voice of God. Magi who discerned, decided and journeyed together is a model of synodality for the Church.
Cardinal Oswald Anthony Angelo Gracias, the Convenor of FABC 50 spoke about the forthcoming FABC general conference. Looking to future, the Bishops will gather in October to commemorate, celebrate, chart the course Church in Asia. It will be a monumental task of reaffirming, renewing and revitalizing the Church in Asia, inspired by the scripture text “then they went another way.”
The theme song, entitled “The Song of Asia, Bless Our God Who Walks with Us” was played. It was composed by Father Carlo Magno Marcelo of the Manila Archdiocese of the Philippines for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of FABC. The song narrates how the Asian people can be gifts to each other and invites all to be salt and light for Asia, to serve our brothers and sisters, and become one family.
After the song, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam of Thailand read the message of Pope Francis. The Holy Father appreciated the theme of FABC50 as the most fitting one for the broader context of synodal listening, dialogue and journeying in preparation for the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome next year.
Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanich of Bangkok led the litany of the Saints for Asia, recited together by all present.
FABC 50 celebration was then inaugurated by striking the gong by Cardinal Charles Bo, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, and Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanich. The Gong is commonly accepted as a symbol to announce good news for everyone to know.
The inaugural ceremony was concluded with the final blessing from the three Cardinals.
After the August 22 inauguration, the FABC invites the faithful in Asia to enter into a period of prayer for this upcoming first-ever General Conference.
Foundation of FABC
The association of episcopal conferences of Asia was founded in 1970, on the occasion of the visit of Pope Paul VI to Manila, when the Asian Bishops came together for the first time.
The meeting inspired a desire to strengthen the collegiality among the Bishops of Asia and to express what it means to be a “Church in Asia” in the light of the Second Vatican Council. This, then, gave birth to the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences.
The year 2020 marked the fiftieth year of FABC, but Covid-19 conditions led to the postponement of the celebrations to 2022.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.