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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

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.

Unlike previous plenary conferences, this one has purposely emphasized reflection and regional groupings.
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 family ministry?"

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.

Maryknoll Fr. Ron Saucci
Maryknoll Fr. Ron Saucci
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.

A children's choral group
A children's choral group showed up to sing to the bishops.
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 bishops.

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 tfox@ncronline.org.]


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