Cardinal Bo: FABC 50 years a 'journey of grace and gratefulness'

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Cardinal Bo: FABC 50 years a 'journey of grace and gratefulness'The President of Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) highlights the important achievements of the Churches in Asia over the past five decades, and calls for 'comprehensive change and robust renewal' to address the new pressing challenges of our times.

As the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) opens its golden Jubilee celebrations marking 50 years of foundation, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, the FABC President, has highlighted need for change and “robust renewal” in the Church in Asia to address the new challenges of the Third Millennium.

The celebrations were solemnly inaugurated on Monday, 22 August, at the Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Shrine at Kitamrung, Thailand. They will run through the end of October when the Asian Bishops will gather in Bangkok for the FABC 50 General Conference to be held in from 12-30 October.

A Church with a vibrant identity

In his inauguration address, Cardinal Bo praised the great achievements of the Federation and its member Churches, remarking that these five decades have been a “journey of grace and gratefulness” which has given the Asian Church “a vibrant identity”.

The Myanmar prelate highlighted the contributions of the Church in Asia to the universal Church, as it sought to be the face of Christ to the peoples of Asia. "With creativity, FABC fortified the threefold dialogue with cultures, religions and the poor in Asia,” he said.

Cardinal Bo also noted that with Christianity playing an important role in Asian nations, namely in 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.

New challenges

At the same time, Cardinal Bo noted that the Catholic Church in Asia is facing new challenging times marked by conflict, poverty, climate change, and economic collapse, and asked all gathered to reflect on “how the Asian Churches can become prophets of peace in an increasingly anxious world.”

“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. 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.”

Challenges are an oppotunity

In the face of these challenges, Cardinal Bo emphasized the importance of renewal, and of synodality, noting that “Pope Francis has always encouraged looking at every challenge as an opportunity.”

“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, recalling that "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."

Theme of the FABC 50 General Assembly

The FABC was established in 1970, when Asian bishops gathered for the first time in Manila on the occasion of Pope St. Paul VI's visit to the Philippines. Since then, the Federation has worked to develop an identity for the Catholic Church in Asia.

In 2020, the Asian Bishops were forced to postpone the golden Jubilee celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 140 bishops from across Asia are expected to attend the General Conference that will be hosted at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Bangkok in Baan Phu Waan, Thailand.

The event will carry the theme “FABC 50: Journeying together as peoples of Asia“…and they went a different way.” (Mt 2,12) and aims to reflect on the “re-emerging and emerging realities and challenges of the Church in Asia.”

Pope Francis' message

In a message addressed to Cardinal Bo for the occasion, Pope Francis notes that theme “is most fitting within the broader context of the synodal path of listening, dialogue and discernment undertaken by the universal Church in these years of preparation for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.”

He also expressed hope that the gathering “will renew the Churches in Asia in fraternal communion and in missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel.”

Lisa Zengarini