Posted Friday, August 20, 2004
at 12:14 p.m. CDT
Reflections and discussions continue
Sharing experiences, gaining insights
bonds of friendship develop along the way
By THOMAS C. FOX
Daejeon, South Korea
Day five of the eighth plenary
gathering of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences was structured
to allow participants to continue reflections at their own paces. Unlike
previous plenary conferences, this one has purposely emphasized reflection
and regional groupings. While the common language of the conference is English,
the bishops and other participants met most of the day in three groups: East
Asia, Southeast Asian and South Asia.
During the morning hours, the groups aimed to answer two questions: "What
insights did you gain in these past few day that are striking or helpful
for you personally?" "What insights that you have gained are helpful for
The final document is still being written, but at this point
in the conference's thrust is well established.
The questions that the bishops focused on today were asked
with the acknowledgement that the conference is about more than producing
a document. It is about sharing experiences and gaining insights from each
other while developing bonds of friendship along the way.
After lunch and again after dinner, Maryknoll Fr. Ron Saucci spoke to groups
of bishops about some of the work he has been involved in for more than two
decades, the continued development of a Catholic news service, one that reports
the life of the various churches of Asia.
The agency is called the Union of Catholic Asian News, or
UCAN. (A link to UCAN
can be found at the bottom of the National Catholic Reporter's "Churches
in Asia" special reports page.) Saucci's message to the bishops was that
UCAN is the best source of information about the Asian churches that can
be found anywhere in the world. "Reading UCAN," he said, "will not only keep
one informed, but it is the means of building better understanding among
the churches of Asia, while forging bonds throughout the region."
UCAN is provided to the Asian churches without charge. It
is supported by outside donors and has its editorial home office in Bangkok.
Saucci's draw today was an offer to the bishops of a one-year free subscription
to Asia Focus, a weekly summary of the UCAN reports mailed or sent
out over the Internet. UCAN celebrates its 25th anniversary in September.
Saucci contends that UCAN is underutilized. Underutilized
or not, it is a professionally run news organization and has become the principal
archive of the history of Asian Catholicism for the past quarter century.
At the end of the day, while tea was being served in the lobby of the St.
J. Hasang Education Center, a children's choral group showed up to sing to
The conference is slowly coming to an end. Saturday will review
results from the Friday workshops. Sunday, the bishops will being taken to
local parishes to meet Catholics and become exposed to Korean pastoral programs.
The final assembly will take place Monday morning, although some delegates
were departing during the weekend.
[Fox is publisher
of the National Catholic Reporter and author of Pentecost in Asia, a book
about the Asian churches. His e-mail address is