||Final Draft -- A RENEWED CHURCH IN ASIA: A
MISSION OF LOVE AND SERVICE
(Final Statement of the 7th FABC Plenary
I shall pour out my spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old people shall dream dreams, and your young people shall see visions (Joel 3:1).
Prophesying, dreaming dreams, seeing visions - at this moment of the Great Jubilee, the words of the prophet Joel animate our hearts. We, the bishops of the FABC General Assembly, stand at the threshold of a new century and a new millennium, the third since the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ born of Mary, an Asian Woman. The marvels that we see impel us to give thanks to our loving God, Father, Son and Spirit.
We give thanks because Gods own Son has realized for us the dream and vision of full life (see Jn. 10:10). We give thanks because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom 5:5). We give thanks for that great pentecostal event of our century, the Second Vatican Council, and for the fellowship and pastoral creativity that the regular gathering of the Churches in Asia has engendered.
We look back on a century that has seen the most phenomenal scientific and technological progress in the story of humankind. In this century Asian peoples have thrown off the yoke of colonialism and taken their place in dignity and freedom, center stage, in the human drama. We look back on a decade of development that promises a new and wonderful world of human solidarity and progress. Women are emerging from their traditional roles and now claim their rightful place in society and in the Church.
Yet daily, for the poor----especially for women----freedom, progress, globalization, and other realities that now affect Asian peoples are not unmixed blessings. They are ambiguous. For as we look back on the century that has passed, we remember it as one of the bloodiest in history with its two World Wars and countless lesser wars. Globalization, unregulated by juridical and ethical norms, increases the millions who live below the poverty line. It accelerates the process of secularization. It brings consumerism in its wake and threatens the deeper values of Asian cultures. Within Asian societies themselves one finds other oppressive structures such as the caste system, dictatorships, exploitation of indigenous peoples and internal strife. Widespread corruption at various levels of both government and society are facts of daily life.
Thus we gather here in the Year of the Jubilee at Samphran in Thailand to pause and discern. Like Mary, we keep all these things in our hearts. Again, from the depths of Asias hopes and anxieties, we hear the call of the Spirit to the local Churches in Asia. It is a call to renewal, to a renewed mission of love and service. It is a call to the local churches to be faithful to Asian cultural, spiritual and social values and thus to be truly inculturated local churches. The call of the Spirit is daunting. But what better time to recall the sacrifices of our Asian martyrs who heeded Christs mandate to his Apostles to go and not to be afraid, I am with you always (Mt 28:20)? What better time to recall His words, Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Lk 12:32)?
We heed the call of the Spirit coming to us through the Special Assembly of the Bishops for Asia in Rome in 1998 and the Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia. We dream of empowering our communities to be men and women who, indeed, give life by sharing with their sisters and brothers in Asia the abundant life given by Jesus, whom we believe is the Life. We dream of reconciliation between Asian brothers and sisters divided by wars and ethnic conflicts. We express our solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in China and other countries where they do not experience the freedom necessary for living the faith and fulfilling their mission. With joy we welcome the representatives from the countries of Central Asia which have recently gained their independence.
Part I. Renewal of the Church in Asia - Vision, Meaning
A. A Vision of Renewal.
The dawn of the new millennium is a time of crisis. Yet a time of crisis, as Scripture and the whole history of the Church show us, is a time of new beginnings, of new movements. The thirty year history of the FABC has been one concerted series of movements toward a renewed Church. We observe seven movements that as a whole constitute an Asian vision of a renewed Church:
1. A movement towards a Church of the Poor and a Church of the Young. If we are to place ourselves at the side of the multitudes in our continent, we must in our way of life share something of their poverty, speak out for the rights of the disadvantaged and powerless, against all forms of injustice. In this continent of the young, we must become in them and for them, the Church of the young. [Meeting of Asian Bishops, Manila, Philippines, 1970; FAPA I, pp. 5--6].
2. A movement toward a truly local Church, toward a Church incarnate in a people, a Church indigenous and inculturated, a Church in dialogue with the great religious traditions of our peoples, in dialogue with all people, especially the poor. [II FABC Plenary Assembly, Calcutta, 1978; FAPA I, pp. 14--16].
3. A movement toward deep interiority so that the Church becomes a deeply praying community whose contemplation is inserted in the context of our time and the cultures of our peoples today. Integrated into everyday life, authentic prayer has to engender in Christians a clear witness of service and love [II FABC Plenary Assembly, Calcutta, India, 1978; FAPA, pp.31--34].
4. A movement toward an authentic community of faith. Fully rooted in the life of the Trinity, the Church in Asia has to be a communion of communities of authentic participation and co--responsibility, one with its pastors, and linked to other communities of faith and to the one and universal communion of the holy Church of the Lord. The movement in Asia toward Basic Ecclesial Communities expresses the deep desire to be such a community of faith, love and service and to be truly a community of communities open to build up Basic Human Communities. [III FABC Plenary Assembly, Bangkok, 1982; FAPA I, p. 56].
5. A movement toward active integral evangelization, toward a new sense of mission [V FABC Plenary Assembly, Bandung, Indonesia, 1990]. We evangelize because we believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior, the goal of human history,. . . the joy of all hearts, and the fulfillment of all aspirations (GS, 45; see Rosales and Arevalo, eds., For All the Peoples of Asia, vol. 1 [FAPA I], 1992, pp. 279--81]. In this mission, the Church has to be a compassionate companion and partner of all Asians, a servant of the Lord and of all Asian peoples in the journey toward full life in Gods Kingdom..
6. A movement toward empowerment of men and women. Empowered by the Spirit and through the Sacraments with their personal talents and skills, and by means of participatory church structures, lay men and women be involved in the life and mission of the Church by bringing the Good News of Jesus to bear upon the fields of business and politics, of education and health, of mass media and the world of work. This requires a spirituality of discipleship enabling both the clergy and the laity to work together in their own specific roles in the common mission of the Church. [IV FABC Plenary Assembly, Tokyo, Japan, 1986; FAPA I, pp.???]. The Church cannot be a sign of the Kingdom and of the eschatological community if the fruits of the spirit to women are not given due recognition, and if women do not share in the freedom of the children of God. [IV plenary Assembly of FABC in Tokyo 1986.]
7. A movement toward active involvement in generating and serving life. The Church has to respond to the death--dealing forces in Asia. By authentic discipleship, it has to share its vision of full life as promised by Jesus. It is a vision of life with integrity and dignity, with compassion and sensitive care of the earth; a vision of participation and mutuality, with a reverential sense of the sacred, of peace, harmony, and solidarity. [VI FABC Plenary Assembly, Manila, Philippines, 1995; FAPA I, pp. ???].
This is the vision of a renewed Church that FABC has developed over the past thirty years. It is still valid today. Yet we keep searching for the deeper challenges of renewal - its meaning and scope in our life and mission in Asia.
The Meaning of Renewal
Behold I make all things new (Rev 21:5). In Asia we discover again and again that renewal is the work of Gods Spirit. It is the Spirit of the Lord that has filled the world (Wis 1:7) and renews the face of the earth. We need to be attentive and open to the mysterious stirrings of the Spirit in the realities of Asia and of the Church. In the Scriptures, renewal is the shaping of what is qualitatively new, totally new. Renewal refers principally to the salvation wrought through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. It extends to everything and to all times---until the Spirit has refashioned a new heaven and a new earth. (Rev 21:1; Is 65:17).
We are caught up in the dynamism and tension of what is already here and still awaits its full realization. Renewal is both Gods gift as well as our own task. God has already accomplished it as the fruit of the mission of Jesus and the Spirit. It is now impacting on our world. Yet, renewal is a gift waiting to be made our own, to be incarnated in the life of the world, in the life of the men and women of Asia, in the life of the Church. The Church is always in need of an intense renewal of her life and mission. We are a holy Church in need of purification. We do acknowledge that we have, in many ways, fallen short of our vocation to the mission of love and service.
As Church in Asia we choose:
-- A renewal of which the author is God, who recreates us anew in the Spirit of his Son. For God in Christ has made us a sacrament of a new humanity, a sign and servant of newness. Heeding the words of St. Paul, we embrace the ethical demand of renewal to discard the old self and move forward to witness to new life in Jesus by selfless love;
-- A renewal which is missionary engagement, taking up with renewed vigor and spirit the missio Dei, in creative interaction with the realities of Asia;
-- A renewal that respects tradition but is courageous enough to embrace a future that grows in creative fidelity to that tradition;
-- A renewal that enables us to dare tell the story of Jesus and announce his gift of new life to our Asian world of lights and shadows;
-- A renewal that must include, given our human condition, not only conversion of minds and hearts but also a conversion of structures in which those marganilized by society are given a wider participatory role.;
-- A renewal that is the project of two poles, of the clergy plus lay men and lay women creatively working together - from above and from below -- so that newness is a sign of authentic communion;
-- A renewal that celebrates communion--in--diversity, giving witness to the wonder of the Churchs catholicity;
-- A renewal that does not count on numbers and crowded churches nor on the numerous services we render. What counts inestimably more is our ecclesial identity and the quality of our witness as servants and disciples of Jesus and the Kingdom of God for the peoples of Asia;
-- A renewal then toward a profound and holistic spirituality and an interiority that mirrors our newness of life in the Spirit of Jesus, our new way of being Church.
For us in Asia, to renew the Church is to be open to the mystery of the Spirit, to welcome the arriving presence of the God of surprises who will capture our hearts in wonder. We need, therefore, to be more than mere workers of renewal. We need to have the creative imagination of poets and artists, of wonderers and dreamers as befit those who are gifted by the Spirit of God. It is in the doing of renewal that the Church experiences the surprises of God. Discerning and knowing God, communing with God through contemplative experience, the Church experiences the mandate of missio Dei as on--going, as dynamically interacting with the complex realities of Asia.
Part II. Issues and Challenges in the Mission of Love and Service
We view the Asian economic scenario with great pastoral concern. A critical awareness on our part of the diverse and complex socio--economic realities of Asia is essential [Ecclesia in Asia (hereafter EA) #5]. While the process of economic globalization has brought certain positive effects, we are aware that it has also worked to the detriment of the poor, tending to push poorer countries to the margin of economic and political relations. Many Asian nations are unable to hold their own in a global market economy [EA #39] The phenomenon of marginalization and exclusion are its direct consequences. It has produced greater inequalities among people. It has enabled only a small portion of the population to improve their standards of living, leaving many to remain in poverty. Another consequence is excessive urbanization, causing the emergence of huge urban conglomerations and the resultant migration, crime and exploitation of the weaker sections.
We are aware that cultural globalization through the over--saturation of the mass media is quickly drawing Asian societies into a global consumer culture that is both secularist and materialistic, undermining or causing the erosion of traditional social, cultural and religious values that have sustained Asia. Such a process is a great threat to Asias cultures and religions resulting in incalculable damage. [See EA #7]
Therefore, globalization is an ethical and moral issue which we, as Church, can ill afford to ignore.
We are painfully aware of the rise of religious fundamentalism, or better, extremism, which continues to bring division to Asian societies and suffering to their people. A renewed Church will encourage Christian men and women to participate fully in social and cultural activities at the local as well as the national level to bridge the gaps between communities and build harmony. In Asia Christians live in multi--religious societies; and in all countries of Asia, except the Philippines and East Timor, they are a small minority. The Church should share with other religious leaders the Vatican II vision of a return to roots, and help them to draw nourishment from their own roots in this time of globalization which is causing wide--spread chaos and confusion among people. We must endeavor to promote the human rights of all people, regardless of caste, color, creed or religion by raising our voices against all such violations.
C. Political Situation
Though Asia is free from external colonization, and most Asian countries have some sort of democratic government, they do not follow the same model of democracy. Elections are held at times with questionable practices. Frequently, after elections, the governed have very little say in governance. Some would even characterize the situation as a hijacking of democracy. A common feature is that those who are elected pursue their own interests. Most of the governments come to power through the alliance of various parties, often without a clear mandate from the people. Further, there is a tendency towards centralization of power and decision making. Here is the reality of pervasive corruption at various levels of government. In certain countries, the whole life is politicized, affecting every sector, making implementation impossible. Governments are forced to adopt policies and practices such as the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP) dictated by the IMF, WB and the WTO. These policies are devoid of a human face and social concern. The model of economic development promoted by the trans--national corporations in Asia is not acceptable.
As we look at the development being promoted in Asia and its impact on our environment, we see a steady, ongoing deterioration of our environment as a result of uncontrolled pollution, degrading poverty, deforestation, etc. The effect worsens when some Asian countries become dumping grounds for toxic wastes, production platforms for hazardous industries and industrialization proceeds without any environmental standards. Even if there are standards, government agencies of environmental control are often slack in enforcing accepted norms of the right to a clean environment.
The increasing militarization of societies, fostered by governments and the death merchants, is another challenge. Peace building, including disarmament, becomes imperative, calling for urgent responses to such issues as the banning of landmines, trade of small arms and nuclear proliferation. Given the nature of armed conflicts in may Asian countries, conflict prevention as well as conflict resolution constitute a critical challenge. Asian religions, including Christianity are called to contribute to the building up of peace. This is a central area for dialogue with religions and culture leading to reconciliation.
Part III : The Challenge of Discerning The Asian Way
Asia is a cultural mosaic shining with its rich diversity. This is also true of the Catholic Church. The local Churches in Asia present a splendid variety in their origin, historical, social--political and cultural situations, ecclesial identity and growth. Obviously, the pastoral challenges facing the Church in Asia are equally diverse. Yet, one common mission unites all: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ through Christian witness, works of charity and human solidarity. . . The many positive elements found in the local churches. . .strengthen our expectation of a new springtime of Christian life. [EA #9]
In the face of such a challenge, we recognize with hope a growing awareness throughout Asia of peoples capacity to change unjust structures, with an ever--growing awareness and demand for social justice, for more political and economic participation, for equal opportunities, and the determination to safeguard human dignity and rights. Long dormant minority groups are seeking ways to become agents of their own social advancement. In this we see the Spirit of God at work in peoples struggles and efforts to transform society so that the human yearning for a more abundant life may be satisfied as God wills. [see EA #8]
Renewal for a mission of love and service requires fresh understanding and emphases. As we have been listening to each other we have realized that something new is happening. For thirty years, as we have tried to re--formulate our Christian identity in Asia we have addressed different issues, one after another: evangelization, inculturation, dialogue, the Asian--ness of the Church, justice, the option for the poor, etc. Today, after three decades, we no longer speak of such distinct issues. We are addressing present needs that are massive and increasingly complex. These issues are not separate topics to be discussed, but aspects of an integrated approach to our Mission of Love and Service. We need to feel and act integrally. As we face the needs of the 21st century we do so with Asian hearts, in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, in union with all our Christian brothers and sisters and by joining hands with all men and women of Asia of many different faiths. Evangelization, inculturation, dialogue, justice and the option for the poor are aspects of whatever
We are committed to the emergence of the Asianness of the Church in Asia. This means that the Church has to be an embodiment of the Asian vision and values of life, especially: interiority, harmony, a holistic and inclusive approach to every area of life. We are also convinced that only by the inner authority of authentic lives founded on a deep spirituality will we become credible instruments of transformation. This is important, because our contacts with those of other religious traditions have to be at the level of depth rather than just the level of ideas or action. We are aware that this Asianness, founded on solid values, is a special gift the world is awaiting. For the whole world is in need of a holistic paradigm for meeting the challenges of life. In this task, together with all Asians, the Church, a tiny minority in this vast continent, has a singular contribution to make, and this contribution is the task of the whole Church in Asia. We believe in the innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul; and its is the core around which a growing sense of being Asian is built. This Being Asian is best discovered and affirmed, not in confrontation and opposition, but in the spirit of complemetarity and harmony. In this framework of complementarity and harmony, the Church can communicate the Gospel in a way which is faithful both to her own Tradition and to the Asian Soul. [EA #6]
Since the contexts of peoples life are so diverse in the Asian continent it is each ecclesial community under the leadership of its episcopal conference who discerns the pastoral priorities for its area. However, in this Plenary Assembly we identified certain sectors of people to whom we need to specially direct our mission of love and service and who are equally partners in the same mission, Such are the youth, women, family, indigenous peoples and migrants --- sea-- and land--based ---- and refugees.
Asia is generally described as the continent of the youth, as youth constitute the majority of Asias population. The youth are the reality of today, not only the hope of tomorrow. They are a source of energy and vitality in society and in the Church. At the same time, they are the most vulnerable and are victimized by structures of exploitation in our world. The situation of the youth should be understood against the background of the complex realities in which they live and which surround them. The swift and drastic changes taking place in our world, globalization, political changes and media explosion radically affect the life of the youth in every part of Asia. Youth of all backgrounds, urban and rural, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, employed and unemployed, the organized and unorganized are all being tossed by the waves of contemporary culture. The problems faced by youth need to be tackled collectively, along with the youth leaders. The new millennium awaits us with hope, openness and optimism because of the very resources of our youth which enable them to deal with the concerns of evangelization, leadership, unemployment, womens empowerment and communal harmony in order to establish the Reign of God based on justice and peace. If the Church journeys with youth, many new horizons of love and service will evolve and the objectives of the Youth Ministry itself (i.e. fellowship, formation and service) will be realized. The new way of journeying with the youth are : to see the youth as resources and not as problems; to facilitate their learning from their experiences and not from ready--made answers; to involve the youth more in decision making process, not only to implement the decisions taken by others Only when the youth are recognized as agents and co--workers of the evangelizing mission of the Church will their full potential blossom forth
We acknowledge that the cultures of Asia value the family and family relationships. Yet there is a widespread discrimination against the girl child, destruction of the unborn girl child, violence against and abuse of women and the girl child in the family and a general lack of respect for life. Certain cultural prejudices and traditions have had a strong influence on the way society and communities treat women. The Church can address herself to these issues by creating effective structures for awareness building, advocacy, empowerment and for dealing with issues of violence to women. We take Jesus to be our exemplar for a new way of mission for and with women Against the prevailing culture of his times, Jesus courageously accepted and recognized womens equality and dignity and giftedness. His great sensitivity and respect for women are an invitation for a deep conversion for our the church and society.
The family embodies for its members the mystery of Trinitarian love in the heart of our world. It can be called a sacrament of Gods love and is the the domestic church It is the school and sanctuary of love where human beings first experience love and learn the art of loving and praying. Asia has a millennial tradition of great respect for the gift of the family. The family is the bearer of the heritage of humanity, and the future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is also the cradle of faith formation and the school for imparting Gospel values, the first arena for socialization and development of the child. The family is not simply the object of the Churchs pastoral care; it is also one of the Churchs most effective agents of evangelization (E.A 46) Renewal in the Church, therefore should begin with the family. At this juncture of history we painfully witness the breakdown of the family in many places in our continent, especially in the urban centers. Many are the forces arrayed against the sanctity and the endurance of the values of family life. Individualism, hedonism, materialism, consumerism, interference from the state, a contraceptive mentality and a technological life style all adversely affect the stability of marriage and family life and endanger the stability of our society and its values.
Indigenous peoples form a significant section of Asian society and of the Church in Asia. These communities are ancient and well--knit communities, and have preserved many important human and social values. Today, in many countries of Asia, their right to land is threatened and their fields are laid bare, they themselves are subjected to economic exploitation, excluded from political participation and reduced to the status of second class citizens. De--tribalization, a process of imposed alienation from their social and cultural roots, is even a hidden policy in several places. Their cultures are under pressure by dominant cultures and Great Traditions. Mighty projects for the exploitation of mineral, forest and water resources, often in areas which have been the home of the tribal population have generally worked out to the disadvantage of the tribals.
In our contemporary society, where there is steady erosion of traditional Asian values, indigenous Asian communities can play an important role. Close to nature, they retain the values of a cosmic view of life, a casteless, sharing, and democratic society. They have preserved their simplicity and hospitality. Their values and cultures can offer a corrective to the culture of the dominant communities, to the emerging materialistic and consumeristic ethos of our modern societies.
Sea--based and land--based Migrants and Refugees
Among the rapid changes that are taking place within Asian societies we view with great concern the phenomenon of unprecedented migration and refugee movements. It is a major social phenomenon, exposing millions of people to situations which are difficult economically, culturally and morally. People migrate within Asia and from Asia to other continents for many reasons, among them poverty, war and ethnic conflicts, the denial of their human rights and fundamental freedoms [EA# 7]. Other reasons are the establishment of giant industrial complexes with an eye to cost--efficiency and profit, solely for the economic interests of national and transnational corporations. Migrants experience the destructive effects of migration in their personal and family life, social and cultural values. The alarming number of migrants, refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons and the emerging economic, cultural, religious and moral issues are certainly a pastoral challenge for the Church demanding an adequate and urgent pastoral response. In the light of the teaching of the Church, we affirm that migration and refugee movements, which result in depersonalization, loss of human dignity and the breakup of families, are moral issues confronting the conscience of the Church and that of our Asian nations.As for the Church in Asia, these pose urgent pastoral challenges to evolve a life--giving, service--oriented role and responsibility within the pastoral mission of the Church. The Church should join hands with all concerned with the situation and rights of the migrants. The migrants themselves are to be primary agents of evangelization.
The Thrust of our Response
When we turn now to a consideration of the response of the Church in love and service, an integrated approach emerges as imperative. If we would dare add anything to the words of Saint Paul about the beginnings of Faith, we would add, from the perspective of Asia: faith comes from the hearing and the seeing. We could easily trace the source of many conversions to the living witness of genuine Christians, be they clerical or lay. The Asian search for Ultimate has been felt and voiced frequently in our meditations and discussions. In other words, our Churches are coming to the renewed conviction that the agents of service and ministry cannot be isolated any more in specialized groups.
The whole community, every group, every person, with whom we relate in service, is an agent of Evangelization. We realize that, precisely because it is the Spirit that ultimately invites, directs and energizes us for mission, this mission cannot take place except in mutuality and exchange. Moreover, the issues and needs, that we are facing have reached a volume and complexity that go well beyond the skills, capabilities and resources of individuals, communities and Churches. Ecumenism and Interreligious dialogue have become essential to any ministry we undertake
We have heard over and over about the need for our ministry to be inclusive, dialogical, empowering. Thus we recognize with gratitude and admiration the ever present and generous contribution of women, the young, consecrated persons in all states of life. In this continent of Asia where we cherish and reverence elders, we also recognize the elderly as energetic, experienced and mature persons of faith and humanity. We invite them to put their capabilities at the service of the mission of Christ in the Church and society
This shared understanding has equally underlined the participatory and mutual character of our ministry and service. No real service takes place that is not collaborative, that is not actively involving the other person or community, that does not become a real exchange of gifts - the true meaning of the charismatic theology of St. Paul. One of the best ways to help and to empower the other, whoever he or she is, will always be our ability to recognize their gifts and wisdom and the deep and hidden capabilities of humanity they carry with themselves in the midst of their search, suffering, poverty or segregation.
A few Practical Directions
1. The most effective means of Evangelization and service in the name of Christ has always been and continues to be the witness of Life. The embodiment of our faith in sharing and compassion (sacrament) supports the credibility of our obedience to the Word (proclamation). This witnessing has to become the way of the Gospel for persons, iInstitutions and the whole Church community. Asian people will recognize the Gospel that we announce, when they see in our life the transparency of the message of Jesus and the inspiring and healing figure of an existence immersed in God.
2. We consider the formation of all evangelizers -- laity, priests and religious -- as pivotal and crucial in the process of our becoming Asian and in fulfilling our mission in an Asian way. In the past, formation often followed the style, methods and programs imported from the West (E.A. 22). What is being done and still needs to be urgently pursued is to adapt formation to the cultural contexts of Asia and to the social, economic and religious milieu, where ministry has to be exercised. Any formation that will facilitate the emergence of ministers and evangelizers capable of promoting a new way of being Church in Asia should take place in the local church, contextually and within the wider community. It should be undertaken with active involvement and participation of the different sections of the Church. In the formation programs for the laity there should be lay women and men along with priests and religious.
Similarly in the formation of future priests and religious and in their on--going formation the partnership of competent lay persons needs to be ensured in order that such formation is geared towards the realization of a participative Church. Unless the entire community is creatively involved in the formation process, we can not achieve the goal we have set for ourselves -- An Asian image of the Church. Such an Asian image of the evangelizer is spelt out by John Paul II in Ecclesia in Asia. Further, people in Asia want to see their pastors, not as administrators of institutions and providers of services but as persons whose minds and hearts are set on deep things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5) The reverence which Asian people have for to those in authority needs to be matched by a clear moral uprightness on the part of those with ministerial responsibilities in the Church. [EA #43] Formation geared towards this goal is critically important.
What is said specifically about the formation of future priests is applicable also to the formation of women and men, religious and the BCCs. The formators should seek a profound understanding of the elements of spirituality and prayer akin to the Asian soul, and to involve themselves more deeply in the Asian peoples search for fuller life. .(E.A. 22). The primacy of the Spirit which characterizes Asia needs to find concrete expression in all formation programs. In Asia, home to great religions where individuals and entire peoples are thirsting for the divine, the Church is called to be a praying Church, deeply spiritual even as she engages in immediate human and social concerns. All Christians need a true missionary spirituality of prayer and contemplation. [EA 23]
3. The Churchs evangelizing mission is deeply affected by the impact of the mass media and new information technologies, nevertheless, the media can assist greatly in the proclamation of the Gospel to every corner of the continent., as it is done by the FABC initiative, Radio Veritas. However, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Churchs authentic teaching. It is necessary to integrate that message into the new culture created by modern communications. [EA #48]
4. Serious and faith inspired involvement of Professionals in public lifeis crucial for the building of society. Thus, the professionsls become witnesses among their own ranks and counterparts, their clients, customers and beneficiaries. The Churchs task of promoting justice, peace and human development as well as safeguarding human rights will be more effective when policy makers, planners and executives are properly informed about the human and moral side of their professional career or service. It is here that Catholic professionals, politicians, business persons, technocrats, executives and others have their mission. Let the Catholic professionals open the doors of their board rooms or Chambers of Commerce to Christ to renew and sanctify the temporal order. The Pastors must also allow them to enrich the Church by their expertise, guidance and experience.
Specialization in various fields has left most of the Catholic professionals with a knowledge of the faith clearly inadequate and hardly conversant with the Social Teaching of the Church. Therefore there is a need especially for lay men and women with responsibilities in public life, to be well informed in these teachings so that they can inspire and vivify civil life and its structures with the leaven of the gospel (EA 32).
5. Advocacy has emerged as a powerful method and means to respond to the issues and challenges that have surfaced at this 7th Plenary Assembly. The civil society in Asia is already doing it. Bishops have an important role in advocacy and should take it up as a pastoral priority. Based on the ethical and moral imperatives that are found in the Social Teaching of the Church the process of advocacy could be articulated effectively. Particularly, the emphasis on the common good could form the basis for advocacy. The Bishops Conferences that constitute the FABC should take up advocacy for the common good, depending upon the prevailing circumstances.
6. Education in its different forms, formal, informal, parochial, public and private has been excellent for a for human growth and personality formation. In every problem and challenge we face there are dimensions of Christian humanism, of mental and spiritual growth and liberation that a Christian perspective can help develop. Catholic educators, in professional and creative dialogue with members of other Religions or Christian Communities are called to be companions and guides in the ongoing process of becoming persons. This extends to every stage in human growth. It is also a dimension in the pastoral service of the Church, which should be ever committed to relevant programs of ongoing formation for its members in every state and age.
7. Other effective means for our mssion of love and service will continue to be the BECs, Small Gospel--based Communities and Ecclesial Movements. The Vision of a New Way of Being Church (AsiPA), promoted by the FABC is proving to be a very good help in the growth and development of the BECs and deserves our attention and support. Ecclesial Movements, duly discerned by the local church with its hierarchy can also offer specific and creative contributions to the being and ministry of the Church.
8. In this varied, demanding and global ministry of love and service the presence and promotion of specific groups who dedicate themselves to the service of God, His Kingdom and the Church, will continue to be an important task of the Hierarchy. Here we can consider the different groups of Consecrated persons, Asian--born Missionary Societies, and the many Lay persons who offer important years of their life to missionary or other volunteer work.
9. Lastly, exchange of personnel and other resources in its different cooperative forms, such as Fidei Donum priests, twinningof dioceses, sponsoring formation--education opportunities, and the like, will become forms of support for the overall mission of the Church.
As we enter into the Great Jubilee of the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Doors of the churches are being opened, we look at the image of the door and are gladdened to discover our calling to enter into the community of Christs disciples and to share in his life and mission. It is there beyond the doors that we hear His reassuring and empowering word. During these days it was so for us: we heard His whisper in all that we have shared. It is through the door that we now go out into the world of the peoples of Asia and into their struggles and joys which are also ours.
Here in Samphran, we have shared our lives, hopes and difficulties and have been strengthened by the mutual love and friendship in our gathering. In the Scriptures and the Eucharist we put all our memories together as we open our hearts to Christ and to each other:
Trusting in the Lord who will not fail those whom he has called, the Church in Asia joyfully makes her pilgrim way into the Third Millennium. Her only joy is that which comes from sharing with the multitude of Asias peoples the immense gift which she herself has received--the love of Jesus the Savior. Her one ambition is to continue his mission of service and love, so that all Asians may have life and have it more abundantly. [EA 50]
In this mission, we gain inspiration and strength from Mary, the Mother of the Church, who with haste went to the house of Elizabeth to proclaim the Good News - Jesus Christ the Savior.
National Catholic Reporter, Posted January 27, 2000