The Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) is holding its first general conference at the Baan Phu Waan Pastoral Training Center, Bangkok, marking the 50th anniversary of its creation.
Some 200 delegates, including cardinals, bishops and lay people from 29 member countries, have gathered to commemorate the event when 180 bishops met in Manila, Philippines, in 1970, on the occasion of St. Pope Paul VI’s visit to Manila, when FABC was born.
The event was originally scheduled for 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic.
In his video message to the General Conference, Pope Francis said the Church in Asia is “called to be more authentically the Church of the poor, the Church of the young, and a Church in dialogue with fellow Asians of other denominations.”
As the Asian Bishops are gathering, “the fundamental question is: What is the Spirit saying to the Churches in Asia? And that is what you must answer,” the Pope said
In his inaugural welcome address, Cardinal Charles Bo, President of FABC, described the General Conference as “the moment of grace! This Pentecostal moment!”
Welcoming all participants he said, the FABC crossing the Golden jubilee is “the moment for Asia,” “history beckons and the Spirit moves: together we say: Onward Asian Church!”
“Let us join together to make this moment, Asia’s moment in the Church’s history.”
Earlier, Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanit, Archbishop of Bangkok, welcomed the delegates.
Thailand’s Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome attended the inaugural function as a government representative and welcomed all delegates to the Kingdom of smiles.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay (India) and Convenor of FABC 50, said the General Conference would serve in "reaffirming, renewing, and revitalizing the Church in Asia.”
“May we have the courage to let go when things need to be changed, the wisdom to discover new paths to fulfil our mission and the strength to walk along these new pathways,” he said.
This is the first general conference of the FABC, though in the past it had 11 plenary assemblies and will go on from October 12-30.
The first few days of the FABC General Conference will be spent inunderstanding and deliberating on the emerging realities in different countries as the FABC ‘visits Asia’. Each of the 29 member countries has been invited to present an exposition on the present situation in their countries.
On Mission Sunday, October 16, participants will interact with several people in the field and those directly affected by new realities in Asia. Besides, the shepherds of Asia will be making virtual visits to parishes in different Asian countries.
From October 17–22, the FABC delegates will have an in-depth study of the special challenges in Asia. They will reflect on and deepen an understanding of the emerging realities impacting the Churches in Asia in the light of the latest documents of Pope Francis, especially Evangelii Gaudium, Fratelli Tutti, Laudato Si’, Amoris Laetitia, and Predicate Evangelium.
During the deliberations, the participants will discuss the pandemic, globalization, digitalization, urbanization, climate change, the migrant crises, political governance, a transformation of cultures, and religions in society, changing family values, and the issues of gender, indigenous peoples, yearnings of the youth, how our human dignity is being impacted, and how the Church is also being transformed.
The church leaders will also talk about new pathways for the pastoral care of families, for worship, formation, and digital ministry; for dialogue, peace-building, and reconciliation, for giving urgency to the voice of youth; for the role of women in the Church; for proclaiming the Gospel through inter-religious dialogue; for leading and governing the Church in a synodal way.
"We are undertaking to become and remain a prophetic, relevant, and responsive Asian Church at the service of the people of Asia," Cardinal Gracias said.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, will address the church leaders as the envoy of Pope Francis at the conference.
On October 30, at the end of FABC 50, a new vision of the Church’s way in Asia through a final statement will be issued.
Next year, the FABC members will reflect on the new pathways and directions that will emerge at this General Conference, both during the annual FABC Central Committee Meeting and at the Asian Continental Synod, which will take place in March 2023.
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.