of the Synod, a culture of encounter for Asia

The Archbishop of Yangon – president of the FABC – officiated the closing mass of the continental assembly held in Bangkok in the way desired by Pope Francis throughout the world. In the reflections of the Asian delegates on synodality there was also an examination of the very ecclesial structures that must be changed in order to fully accept this path in their own context.

Bangkok () – With a Eucharistic celebration presided over by Card. Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, concluded yesterday at the Baan Phu Wan Center in Bangkok the Synodal Assembly of the delegates of the Asian Churches. The appointment was the continental stage of the path wanted by Pope Francis on the theme of synodality, which – after two years of listening and discussion in dioceses around the world – will arrive in Rome in October 2023 for the 16th General Assembly Ordinary of the Synod of Bishops.

In his homily, Cardinal Bo compared the synodal itinerary with the forty days that Jesus lived in the desert: a “difficult but necessary time because it allows the Church to give a better witness to the Gospel, through a process of listening, meeting and discernment.” In this attitude of purification, Cardinal Bo stressed how one of the necessary steps today is to “get rid of everything that prevents us from being a synodal Church”, cultivating a “culture of encounter” welcoming the “transforming power of the Holy Spirit”. An invitation to work in a simple way “as Jesus did”, not only seeing, but observing; not only hearing, but listening; not just walking past people, but stopping next to them; not only lamenting poverty, but allowing himself to be moved by compassion. “In Asia – he recalled – we are a minority and we live in the midst of social, political and religious tensions. But it is here that we are called to help our brothers and sisters in need”.

In the last working session, Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and General Rapporteur of the Synod, who addressed the delegates, emphasizing three points of synodality. Using the example of musical instruments, Card. Hollerich first explained how each delegate is a unique instrument that, however, must know how to sound in tune with the others, to produce a symphony and not a cacophony of sounds. Second, he stressed that synodality requires humility to work and walk together on this journey. Lastly, he recalled that a Church is only synodal if it embraces Christ’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel and being at the selfless service of all the people of God.

The final document -with the amendments suggested by the delegates during the three days of debate representing the 17 Episcopal Conferences and 2 Synods of Eastern Rite Churches that adhere to the Federation of Asian Episcopal Conferences- was then approved and entrusted to the General Secretariat of the Synod. Together with those of similar Assemblies that are being held in other continents in recent weeks, it will form the basis of the Synod’s Instrumentum laboris, which will be published before June.

However, the delegates present in Bangkok also reflected on how to continue this path in the specific context of Asia. Specifically, they reflected on two questions: what ecclesial structures need to be changed or created to improve the synodality of the Church in Asia, and what the delegates would like to see happen at the local level in the year that will elapse between the two sessions that the Pope Francisco has planned for the synod: the one in October 2023 and the closing one in October 2024.

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