Cardinal Charles Bo took us through the birth of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and its milestones. May I now look to the future. Half a century has passed. We at the FABC together with all of you – the peoples of Asia – are embarking on a new journey with the FABC 50 General Conference.
Inspired by the Scripture reading that was just proclaimed at FABC 50, we will start a monumental task of reaffirming, renewing, and revitalizing the Church in Asia. We will gather to commemorate, celebrate and chart the direction that we, as Church in Asia, will take on our journey together in the next decades. Open to the Spirit we go by another way as He leads us.
To begin with, FABC will affirm and celebrate our journey thus far. The FABC was founded in response to the particular needs and challenges of the Asian Church of fifty years ago. We wanted a Church of the poor, of the young, and of dialogue: a Church for the poor, for the young and for dialogue. This goal remains relevant even today. But there have been so many big changes, so many new challenges.
Hopefully, we have just exited the COVID 19 pandemic; we have new socio-political and economic tensions; a deepening migrant and climate crisis, and so on. The first few days of FABC 50 will be spent in getting to know about the situation in different countries and deliberating on the emerging realities. These challenges and realities may well disturb us. But they will not surprise us. We live with them!
Then we turn once again to God and search for the face of Jesus in Asia. We will seek out the Jesus that is among each of us, despite our diversity. Strengthened by our encounter with Jesus, FABC 50 will try to trace a new vision for the Church in Asia. As Church, we do not exist for ourselves, but are at the service of all the peoples of Asia as we continue to build up the Kingdom of God.
Our responses to the challenges today must be well-discerned, grounded in Scripture, tradition, magisterial teaching, and pastoral practice that promotes unity and sustainability in order to transform our realities in the power of the Holy Spirit (Lumen Gentium, 5). We have, therefore, dedicated the next few days of FABC 50 to workshops and plenary sessions on Church documents and characteristics of the Church in Asia so that we become and remain a prophetic, relevant and responsive Church. We discern the role of the Church for a better Asia.
With this we come to the theme of FABC 50: journeying together as peoples of Asia, through the Synodal path, we seek out new pathways of service and more appropriate and effective structures. At FABC 50, we will do this in Synodality – in communion with the people of Asia, with the participation of 250 bishops, priests, religious and lay persons, and with the mission of a renewed and shared evangelical outreach.
Thanks to your participation at the several consultations in preparation for the General Conference these past couple of years, we already have some initial salient points for consideration such as expansion of the triple dialogue of the FABC, better support for the bishops and indeed all Church leaders to be — as Pope Francis stated — “Apostles of listening,” partnerships, better communication and organizational structure, and so on. This we will discuss the last week of the Conference.
My dear people, it is our desire that through FABC 50 we will revitalize ourselves in service to the people of Asia, both at the General Conference and beyond. We will seek a renewed FABC for a more vibrant Church at the service of the people of Asia. FABC 50 will be a stepping stone to help us as the Church in Asia rethink our commitment in relation to mission, worship and pastoral strategies.
As we move towards a new phase and prepare a future full of hope, joy amid chaos and uncertainty, we give thanks our Triune God for having guided our steps and we pray for the Holy Spirit’s continued unerring guidance.
My dear people, I humbly ask you to keep praying for us and for the success of FABC 50 – Do recite the special prayer at all Sunday Masses till the 30th of October 2022. And do also celebrate with us by joyfully joining us in singing the Song of Asia. May Mary, the Queen of Heaven, intercede for Asia and protect Asia. God bless each and every one of us!
This is the message of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and Convenor of FABC 50.