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FABC 50: Cardinal Tagle urges Asia’s Church leaders to journey with ‘mercy, compassion’

Asia’s Catholic Church leaders should follow the example of Jesus whose journey with the people was of “mercy and compassion, not of condemnation; of patience, not of destruction”

Asia’s Catholic Church leaders should follow the example of Jesus whose journey with the people was of “mercy and compassion, not of condemnation; of patience, not of destruction.”

Speaking at the end of the 18-day gathering of the region’s Church leaders in Thailand on Sunday, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, papal legate, cited lessons from Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus in the day’s Gospel.

He said that when considered in light of the theme of the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), the Gospel story suggests “three lessons” for the Church in Asia.



This year’s general conference, the first since the pandemic in 2020, marked the 50th anniversary of FABC and carried the theme “Journeying together as Peoples of Asia.”

Cardinal Tagle represented Pope Francis in the concluding Mass of the conference at the Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok, Thailand, on October 31.

Citing the Gospel reading, the cardinal said Jesus initially intended to pass through Zacchaeus’ town during his journey, but after the encounter with the tax collector, Jesus decided to stay.

Cardinal Tagle said the story suggests that “journeying together” needs to be “intended, chosen and willed” and cannot just be left to “chance.”

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He said Jesus also chose as his travel companion “not the purest, not the most upright, not the blameless, not the one who will make him more acceptable to people, not the one who belonged to his circle,” but a tax collector, a sinner in the eyes of society.

“God wants us to journey with those who might differ from us,” said the cardinal in his homily.

“What type of journeying together will it be? Where is its destination?” he continued. “With Jesus, it will be a journey of mercy and compassion, not of condemnation; of patience, not of destruction,” he said.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle with the delegates of the FABC general conference at the Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok, Thailand, during the concluding Mass of the meeting on Oct. 30, 2022. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

‘New pathways’ for renewal

Asia’s Catholic Church leaders ended their historic meeting by laying down in a statement what they described as “new pathways” for renewing the Church in the region.

In its final document, which aims to be a pastoral guideline for “a better Asia,” the FABC noted several “challenges,” to the region, including poverty, refugee crisis, climate change, and violence.

“In prayer and in a spirit of collaboration, we desire to respond to these challenges by relying on the power of love, compassion, justice, and forgiveness,” the bishops said in their message.

“We believe that peace and reconciliation is the only way forward. We have envisaged new pathways for our ministry based on mutual listening and genuine discernment,” they said.

Among these new “pathways,” the bishops vowed to pursue genuine dialogue aimed at finding fresh concrete and more creative ways to address the problems besetting the Church and society.

“We commit ourselves to bridge-building not just among religions and traditions but also by principled engagement with governments, NGOs, and civic organizations on issues of human rights, eradication of poverty, human trafficking, care of the earth, and other common concerns,” they said.

Bishops from across Asia prepare for the celebration of the closing Mass at the end of the general conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 30, 2022. (Photo by Joe Torres)

“By journeying together along these pathways, we will serve the world with greater commitment,” added the Church leaders.

“We assure our people of this continent that the Catholic Church in Asia will always work for a better Asia and the good of all our people,” read the statement.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, FABC president, said that “only when we walk together as one that we can serve more effectively.”

“What has been clear in this conference is the need to work together, to collaborate as one Church of Asia,” said the cardinal from Myanmar.

“We commit ourselves to work for a better Asia because the joys of others must be our joys; the pains of others must be our pains too,” he said.

“There can be no room for apathy and indifference. What we need is empathy and compassion,” added Cardinal Bo.

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