Cardinal Gracias: FABC will make a difference on pastoral work

As the Bishops of Asia wrap up their General Conference in Bangkok, Indian-born Cardinal Oswald Gracias says FABC delegates have been “eagerly trying to listen to every whisper of the Holy Spirit”.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp - Bangkok

The Cardinal Archbishop of Bombay, Oswald Gracias, spoke with Vatican News on the sidelines of the General Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), taking place in Bangkok. He reflected on Pope Francis’s question to the conference delegates, “What is the Holy Spirit saying to the churches in Asia”, and spoke about his hopes for the Church in Asia going forward.

Dreaming and listening

“We’re still dreaming; we’re still listening to the Holy Spirit,” the Cardinal began. “We’re still listening to each other. And God speaks to us through the events of history, through our neighbours, through our friends, through the people we serve, and through our fellow bishops.”

What surprised Cardinal Gracias is that “no one spoke about the pandemic... That means we are back to normal,” he noted. “We are a resilient community.”

“Climate change struck us a lot,” the Cardinal continued. “The migrant crisis came strongly. I thought the youth, the voice of youth, asking for responsibility and significant roles in the Church came out a lot. We also heard cries to revitalize Catholic life.”

Hearing the Holy Spirit whispering

“Being here on a continent where we are not a majority, where we have lots of people to serve, I saw again the call to go out and serve everybody, to try dialogue, try reconciliation, peace building efforts, to be bridges between communities and conflicting peoples.”

Cardinal Gracias noted that he perceived that the FABC delegates are “eagerly trying to listen to every whisper of the Holy Spirit.”

When asked about the hope the Cardinal has going forward from the first-ever FABC General Conference, he contextualized the conference saying, “this conference was specifically called to see what should be the pastoral priorities, to rethink, to examine the way we have gone so far – pastoral priorities, missions in different fields – and to see what we should do differently…better…or with renewed enthusiasm. And I do hope that having listened to the voices of so many, the experts… the voice of those…in the interventions, I think that the Holy Spirit is speaking through them and telling us how we should go. We heard so many voices, so many concerns.”

What difference the conference can make

Regarding all of Asia, Cardinal Gracias hopes that “all of us, all the Conferences of Asia, all the Churches of Asia will be renewed in enthusiasm…courage…determination…generosity…vision to go out and work and go out into the world. It’s given us solidarity, a certain of…joy, the joy of working in the missions.”

On a personal note, the Cardinal shared how he “enjoyed the first three days that we visited the different countries in Asia. For me, the most moving moment of the whole conference was when the smaller countries explained their difficulties and their anxieties the first three days. And then we said, let’s have silence, imitating Pope Francis. And I saw on the faces of all the Bishops with closed eyes praying for that Church. So you could see the intensity of emotion that we felt.”

In conclusion, the Cardinal stated:

“I think it’s going to make a difference. This conference should make a difference to our pastoral work.”

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30 October 2022, 09:30