Asian Catholic bishops postpone major gathering due to pandemic
9th FABC Plenary Assembly in Manila in 2009. FILE PHOTO
By Joe Torres, Jr. | LICAS.news
May 1, 2020
The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has announced that it will postpone its general conference set in November this year at Baan Phu Waan, Thailand, to a later date due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
The association of episcopal conferences of the Catholic Church in the region noted that because of the “fluid situation” no future date has been fixed for the meeting.
A central committee meeting that has been scheduled for June this year “also stands postponed,” read a letter addressed to members of the federation.
The FABC, which aims to foster solidarity and responsibility for the welfare of the Church and of society in the region, includes bishops’ conferences from across Asia.
“Most of our countries in Asia are under lockdown,” noted the federation’s letter dated April 2.
“But we feel a greater sense of bonding during this dark moment in the history of the modern world,” added the federation’s message to its members across the region.
The communique was signed by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, president of FABC, and Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, convenor of the federation’s meeting this year.
The church leaders said that “it is in moments like these that we experience a greater dependence of God and our faith is strengthened.”
“We are confident that all of us will rise out of this crisis with a deeper sense of religiosity,” read the letter.
Despite the constraints brought about by the health emergency across the Asian region, some FABC planning and regional meetings for the general assembly were already held.
“Much reflection and discussions have taken place,” said the church leaders. “Although recently we have been unable to travel, we have been in contact through video conferencing,” they added.
The church leaders noted that the “situation is volatile, and we do not know what the morrow will bring.”
They expressed optimism, however, that “we may be able to project” future activities “when things could limp back to normal.”
The federation marks the 50th anniversary of its foundation this year.
During his visit to Thailand in November, Pope Francis noted that the anniversary “is a fitting occasion” to revisit “shrines where the missionary roots that left their mark on these lands are preserved.”
The pontiff called on Asian church leaders “to welcome with parrhesia a future that you yourselves must help develop and create.”
“Both the Church and society in Asia will benefit from a renewed and shared evangelical outreach,” added Pope Francis.
The foundation of the FABC was held during a historic gathering of 180 Asian Catholic bishops during a meeting in Manila in time for the visit of Pope Paul VI to the region in November 1970.
The governing body of the federation is the plenary or general assembly, which convenes once in four years with the presidents and official delegates from each member conference.
Official delegates to the assembly take up pastorally relevant questions for study and deliberations. It is customary that two Asian theologians each present a major paper addressing the theme of the assembly.
The FABC has played a significant role among churches in Asia.
It strengthened the bonds of communion among the bishops in the region and contributed to the development of a shared vision about the Church and its mission in the region.