By Robin Gomes
Myanmar’s first cardinal who takes over at the helm of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) on January 1, envisioned a 5-point roadmap for Catholic Church in Asia.
“May the dawn of New Year 2019 be a year of incarnational Love of our living, loving and liberating God,” wrote Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, in a message ahead of Christmas. “The message of Christmas replenishes our resolve to continue our journey of justice and prosperity to all persons of Asia. The light that shone above the humble hut in Bethlehem becomes the light of hope to all of us,” he wrote.
The Salesian cardinal was elected the new FABC president at the group’s Central Committee meeting on November 16. He takes over from Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, whose second term ends on December 31.
“I wish to see five milestones we need to reach in our socio-pastoral adventure in Asia,” Card. Bo wrote, adding these are just suggestions and there could be "much worthier suggestions.”
Evangelization in Third Millennium belongs to Asian Church
Card. Bo sees the mandate of St. John Paul II for the Asian Church as the first milestone for the world’s most populous continent. That goal was spelt out in “Ecclesia in Asia”, the late Pope’s conclusive exhortation at the end of the Synod on Asia, that was released in the Indian capital, New Delhi, 1999. In it St John Paul noted that in the first millennium Christianity was established in Europe, in the second millennium it was in the Americas and Africa, and in the third millennium it would be Asia’s turn, where he said “a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent.”
Economic and environmental justice
As the second milestone, the incoming FABC president urged the Asian Church to respond to the call of Pope Francis for economic and environmental justice, saying many in Asia are denied this right. These, he said, are spelt out in the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” and his encyclical, “Laudato Si”.
The third target is the urgent need for recognizing the presence and rights of indigenous people who, the cardinal said, form the bulk of Catholics in vast areas of many countries of the continent. The market economy has created turbulence in their
Dialogue with poverty, culture and religions
The 70-year old cardinal proposed the pursuit of peace through the continuing three-fold dialogue with poverty, culture and religions, as the Asian Church’s fourth commitment. “Our work with the poor and their dignity,” he said, “needs to be the turf where we meet other religions.” He regards Asia's cultural mosaic as an invitation to the Church’s presence to
Finally, noting that conflicts and chronic wars are continuing to wound and bleed certain parts of Asia, the new FABC president urged the Asian Church to mainstream reconciliation as its New Evangelization.
In this regard, Card. Bo recalled the exhortation of Pope Francis in Myanmar in November 2017. He urged the Church to be an “antidote to the emerging culture of hatred.” “The Church should not repay hatred with hatred, but be a healer of known and hidden wounds,” the Pope said.
However, FABC’s new president admits there are many other challenges than the five he suggests and urges the Asian Church to regard them as opportunities to help guide Asia’s faithful through all times.
The FABC is a federation of 19 bishops’ conferences and 8 associate members from South, Southeast, East and Central Asia that aims to foster solidarity and co-responsibility among its members for the welfare of the Church and society in Asia and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good.