Monday of the second week of the FABC General Conference, 17th October 2022, began with a celebration of the Eucharist by H.E. Patrick Cardinal D’Rozario, CSC.
At St Michael’s Hall, H.E. Charles Cardinal Bo, President for the day’s sessions, led the representatives in the prayer for the FABC, and the morning prayer was hosted virtually by the country of Bangladesh. An orientation was conducted by H.E. Oswald Cardinal Gracias, who explained how the sessions of the week would follow the themes of Papal documents and would be a reflection of the emerging realities of Asia.
Members of the Office of Theological Concerns of the FABC, Bishop Gerald Matthias, a moral theologian, and Fr Nguyen Hai Tinh SJ, teacher of dogmatic theology at the Catholic Institute of Vietnam, presented ‘A post-pandemic Church and the Body of Christ’. Speaking about the setbacks the pandemic caused, and more importantly, the opportunities it provided, Bishop Matthias elucidated how the body of Christ - the Church - has suffered, but healing could emerge. Fr Tinh explained how the pandemic revealed that the Church is vulnerable to pain, suffering and change, but is a Church of Paschal mystery and Synodality; moving towards healing and togetherness. Bishop Matthias also presented new pastoral pathways revealed by the pandemic - programs of dialogue, formation, digital evangelisation, ecological conservation, and reviving the liturgy to be personal to each person.
Next, Att. Antonio La Vina, lawyer, educator and environmental policy expert, and Ms Ridhima Pandey, an environmental activist from India, spoke on ‘The Climate Crisis and its Impact in Asia’. Updating his audience about the current status of the climate crisis, Att. La Vina stressed the utmost importance of turning back the worst effects of the climate crisis while still possible. Calling the representatives to play a role of stewardship and leadership, he put forward a set of action points for the Church, ranging from global to local plans, suggesting Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti as frameworks to build on.
Outlining the story of ecological devastation in her home state, Ms Ridhima Pandey described her efforts campaigning for all the children impacted by the climate crisis. Underlining the need for widespread change, how the children of today were out on the streets taking action because the older generation hadn’t, she exhorted, ‘every single degree (of global warming) matters... we need your help’. Ms Pandey also introduced the film ‘The Letter’, a message from Pope Francis to the world, addressing youth action and the climate crisis, which was screened for the representatives later in the evening.
Bishop Allwyn D’Silva, former head of the Climate Change Desk of FABC, followed, presenting on the topic ‘Laudato Si’: A Call for Responsible Stewardship’. Requesting everyone to join in the canticle of creation, Bishop D’Silva led his listeners on a reflection of the encyclical. Emphasizing how the earth is a common home to all, and that the readings of Genesis impart that we are stewards of the earth, meant to safeguard it, Bishop D’Silva repeated Ms Pandey’s statement, asking, ‘what kind of world are we leaving for the next generation?’. He also demonstrated how Laudato Si’ was deeply connected with the social teachings of the Church, concluding by asking the representatives to dream of an Asia that has involved Christian communities, that upholds rights of the poor and preserves local culture and natural beauty.
H.E. Lazzaro Cardinal You Heung-sik, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, put forward his “Reflections on Priestly Formation in an Epochal Change’. Asking ‘which Church, what kind of Priest, what kind of formation?’ is needed, Cardinal You expressed that everything goes back to one book - the Bible, one law - that of mutual love, and one master - God. In a time of change, Cardinal You added that the Church needs to become Synodal, a home and school of communion, that the priests needed are those who are true disciples, called to service, who work as a family, and that formation needs to happen at both home and seminary.
He concluded by emphasizing the importance of the Word of God as part of everyday life.
The sessions were followed with representatives forming new workshop groups for discussion and reflection on how the values and teachings presented could be incorporated going forward. The evening prayer, which included a hindi bhajan, was led by H.E. Cardinal Bo.