Special Report: The Church in Asia

The churches of Asia Gather
The Church in Asia Gathers
Theme: The Importance of Family in the Culture of Life
Coverage of the 8th plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, Aug. 17-22, 2004

About 250 Asian church leaders -- lay, clergy and religious -- met in South Korea in August 2004 to discuss issues around the official theme: "The Family Towards a Culture of Life," and NCRonline.org provided daily coverage. The meeting was the 8th plenary assembly for the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences. Read the bishops' message.  Read the plenary's final statement

The Epilogue: Features and Interviews
#5 How the Asian churches work: from the bottom up
Reflecting on the assembly now, I have no hesitation in asserting that it happened "the Asian way." The fluidity and easy-going approach was very Asian. It was in keeping with the contextual, bottom-up method, an approach that places greater emphasis on listening and allowing the Sprit the freedom to dictate.  Read the report.

#4 Technology joins East to West
Technology played a major role in bringing the FABC eighth plenary session to life worldwide on the Internet. This story, in microcosm, is the story of how technology can be used for the greater good of the human family. Read the report.

#3 Women confront patriarchy at bishops' meeting
About half way through the weeklong Asian bishops' meeting it became clear that the notion of patriarchy, bitter to some, sweet to others, was going to be a divisive issue. One bishop argued that patriarchy has been maligned in recent years. Read the report.

#2 Malone resigns FABC post
Maryknoll Fr. Edward F. Malone, whose tireless work over 30 years as assistant secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences helped bring vitality to the organization, has resigned from the post. Read the report.

#1 A lifelong missionary.
The year was 1959, and a young, adventurous and newly professed Ursuline sister, Mary Walter Santer, had her eyes set on Asia. One year after taking her final vows in the Ursulines of the Roman Union congregation, she left the United States and headed off to Thailand to become a missionary. Read the report.

Day Eight, Aug. 23
The Asian bishops aim to help families buffeted by rapidly changing value systems by building pastoral programs for the churches in Asia that form and empower families. The outline of their plan is in the statement the bishops issued at the end of their weeklong plenary assembly. Read today's report.

Day Seven, Aug. 22
Day seven was a time of rest in preparation for concluding activities. After six days of discussions, participants took a day off by visiting Korean parishes, shopping for some, and rest for others. Read today's report.      View more photos.      The FABC prayer

Day Six, Aug. 21
Bishop John S. Cummins has attended the past six FABC plenary gatherings. As this assembly was coming to a close, he was thinking out loud about how this meeting had been different from others. Read today's report.      View more photos.      The FABC prayer

Day Five, Aug. 20
Day five was structured to allow participants to continue reflections at their own paces. The conference is about sharing experiences and gaining insights from each other while developing bonds of friendship along the way. Read today's report.      View more photos.      The FABC prayer

Day Four, Aug. 19
An interesting thing happened on the way to Day 4 of the Asian bishops' gathering here. Much of the day's schedule got scrapped in a move intended to open the meeting to the Holy Spirit. Read today's report      View more photos.     The FABC prayer

  Day Three, Aug. 18
A day of discussion; Asian Catholics are optimistic people, despite trials and setbacks. Consider the words of Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Bishop of Butuan in the Philippines. He says without hesitation, “the level of globalization that exists as an empire is passing.”  Taking its place is a new kind of globalization, “globalization as humanity and collegiality and a sense of one world.” Read today's report      View more photos.     The FABC prayer

Day Two, Aug. 17
The FABC's 8th plenary assembly got down to work today. In his opening address Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Colombo, Sri Lanka, secretary general of the conference, reminded delegates of FABC's rich, 34-year history built on the "triple dialogue" with the poor and the religions and cultures of Asia. Read today's report     The FABC prayer

Day One, Aug. 16
Economic and cultural globalization weaken family bonds say the Asian bishops, religious and laity who are meeting in Daejeon, South Korea. With the focus on family life, organizers have taken extra steps to assure that lay voices are heard. Read today's report     The FABC prayer
Background Information
Asia's Vision of Church. Malaysian theologian Edmund Chia takes an in-depth look at the theological vision of Asia and what he calls "the coming age of the Asian church." The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) reports news about and of interest to the Church in Asia. Operations began in 1979. Today UCA News offers: A daily news and photo dispatches from editoral offices in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Manila, New Delhi and Seoul. Catholic lay leaders gathered in June. Leaders of Catholic lay organizations throughout East Asia met here for four days in June before issuing a paper urging their bishops to stay faithful to the forward-looking pastoral path they have outlined since the early 1970s.

Past NCR Coverage of the Asian Church

The Synod of Asian Bishops
    When Asia's bishops meet in Rome for a synod in April and May 1998, NCR provide extensive coverage. Read the on the spot reports from NCR publisher Thomas Fox.

Pentecost in Asia: A New Way of Being Church
    "Thomas C. Fox's Pentecost in Asia is an excellent introduction to the emerging Asian Church. American Christians are more familiar with Latin American than Asia. So I would consider this book essential reading. Fox introduces them to the vision of dialogue which helps Asia to experiment with 'a new way of being Church.' I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially to students and pastors." -- Michael Amaladoss, S.J., Director of Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions, Chennai, India

What is the FABC?
    The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) is a voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia, established with the approval of the Holy See. Its purpose is to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good.
    The FABC has met in plenary session only seven times. When it meets in eight weeks, bringing together some two hundred bishops, clergy religious and laity, it will take up the subject of the family.
    The Asian bishops have long prized the idea of inculturating their churches, working to build authentic local churches with local theologies. They surprised many when, in the spring of 1998, at a synod on evangelization at the Vatican they unveiled their vision of church to the wider world. They called it, “a new way of being church.”
    Essentially, the Asian bishops said to Rome that the only way to spread the faith in Asia is to decentralize Catholicism and build models that fit into Asian culture and are compatible with Asian histories.
    Meanwhile, the Asian bishops said that their churches must live in solidarity with the Asian poor because Asia is overwhelmingly poor. The means, they explained, to fighting poverty and other forms of oppression is to work with the other religions of Asia, which face the same plights.
    Visit the FABC Web site.

The Past Assemblies
    Read final statements and reports from Plenary Assemblies of the FABC.

The FABC Papers
    FABC Papers is a project of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), designed to bring the thinking of Asian experts to a wider audience and to develop critical analysis of the problems facing the Church in Asia from people on the scene.
    The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) alone and do not necessarily represent the official policies of the FABC or its member Episcopal Conferences.
    Visit the FABC Papers index.

Copyright © 2004 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111 
TEL:  1-816-531-0538   FAX:  1-816-968-2280