Asia’s Catholic bishops opened a two-week general conference in the Archdiocese of Bangkok on Wednesday, October 12, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).
“The Archdiocese of Bangkok, the Catholic community of Thailand and our friends, extend the warmest welcome to all the delegates of the FABC’s general conference,” read a statement from the organizing body in the Thai capital.
“We proudly and joyously join in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the FABC and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the success of this historic conference,” it added.
At least 270 Catholic Church leaders and guests will be welcomed by Thailand’s Minister of Culture Itthiphol Kunplome, Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitvanich, archbishop of Bangkok, and Bishop Joseph Chusak Sirisuth, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.
“We will start a monumental task of reaffirming, renewing, and revitalizing the Church in Asia,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, convenor of this year’s celebrations, in a statement during the opening ceremonies that were held in Bangkok on August 22.
“We will gather to commemorate, celebrate and chart the direction that we, as Church in Asia, will take on our journey together in the next decades,” said the prelate.
In his message for the occasion, Pope Francis expressed hope that FABC’s general conference will “renew the Churches in Asia in fraternal communion and in missionary zeal for the spread of the Gospel among the richly diverse peoples, cultures and social realities of the vast Asian continent.”
The gathering aims to “reaffirm, renew and revitalize” the Catholic Church in Asia under the theme: Journeying Together As Peoples of Asia, which is inspired by the scripture “then they went another way.”
Italian Catholic news agency Fides reported that some key questions will be asked during the conference, including how the Church in Asia continue to be “Good News” in under “emerging realities.”
“How can the FABC serve and support the bishops and their episcopal conferences in Asia? How can Catholic communities on the continent contribute to a better Asia?” said the report.
The gathering will witness a “multicultural picture” of prayers and hymns that will be sung in Asian languages.
With the usual reflections and group work for the bishops, special events have been planned, such as a “Talk Show with Asia” where believers from all over Asia participate in a videoconference.
The life and pastoral activity of 14 selected parishes in different Asian nations will also be shared with those present, with a “virtual visit” of the bishops, who will meet online with the faithful of the specific local community.
The FABC is a voluntary association of episcopal conferences in Asia that was established with the approval of the Holy See. Its aim is to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia.
FABC members include Church leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Thailand, China and its special administrative regions — Macao and Hong Kong.