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FABC 50: Asian bishops stress need to reach out to youth on Facebook, TikTok

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School children welcome Catholic bishops from all over Asia who went on a pilgrimage in the Diocese of Ratchaburi, Ayuthaya, in Thailand, on October 27, 2022, as part of activities at the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Church leaders — priests and bishops — need to learn how to use the various social media platforms, including Facebook and TikTok, to be able to reach out to young people.

“We have to evangelize the youth in the place where the youth are,” said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

“Where are the youth? They are on the Internet, on Facebook,” said the cardinal in response to a question raised by LiCAS News on the sideline of the FABC meeting in Thailand this week.

He said that the region’s Church leaders “have been discussing that the leaders of the Church will have to learn, like Facebook, how to make use of the media.”

“Of course, the pandemic has taught us very well. We have to make use of online preaching,” said Cardinal Bo, adding that “we are learning much about that.”

“The leaders of the Church will have to take up the preaching online, especially, to reach the youth,” said the cardinal. “We have to be where the youth are,” he said.

Gregory Pravin, a youth pastoral worker from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, spoke about how the pandemic left people “living in a digital, individualistic world, self-sufficient, without a hunger for the Lord.”

He challenge Church leaders to change the narrative from “the young people are absent” to “I am absent from the young people” and to be “more than shepherds” and “to become seekers.

Pravin emphasized the need to create new structures and develop tools and methods that will guide the youth “back to the fullness of the Church experience.”

Catholic bishops from across Asia concelebrate Mass at the Ractchaburi cathedral in Ayuthaya, Thailand, on October 27, 2022, during a pilgrimage as part of activities at the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, co-convenor of the FABC general conference, said the region’s Church leaders “are aware of the young.”

He said that for the FABC the youth “is very important,” and their concerns are “very important component” of the conference’s “planning, action, and vision.”

“We want the youth to be with us in whatever project. They are our full partners and everything,” said Cardinal Gracias.

The Indian cardinal said that the youth will be a “very important component” in the final statement at the end of the 18-day conference this weekend.

“We are very conscious of the importance of the youth, the generosity, the authenticity, and their eagerness to do something to change Asia. They are our indispensable partners in all our works,” he said.

“We expect to issue a message to Asia … a certain commitment we hope to make, and certainly the FABC will … implement what we are discussing over here,” said the cardinal.

Father Akira Takayama, chaplain of the youth ministry in the Diocese of Takamatsu in Japan, said priests should listen to the youth, “and be re-evangelized.”

He said young people should not be considered as “just a task force,” and expressed hope that elders and Church leaders will provide spiritual guidance.

Josephine Tan, a youth representative from Singapore, speaks at the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Thailand on October 18, 2022. (FABC handout)

At the FABC plenary session titled “Youth: A Voice for the Church,” Josephine Tan, a youth representative from Singapore, expressed the hope of young people to be part of the gathering.

“We really want to be in the service of Christ and (I) hope that everyone (in the meeting) will give (us the) opportunity to share the Gospel to the entire world,” she said.

In his message at the start of the FABC conference, Pope Francis urged the federation to “renew the Churches in Asia in fraternal communion and in missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel among the richly diverse peoples, cultures, and social realities of the vast Asian continent.”

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