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Emerging Realities | FABC Day 6

On 18th October 2022, the second segment on ‘Emerging Realities’ of the FABC General Conference began with a celebration of the Eucharist by H.E. Jose Fuerte Cardinal Advincula Jr.

At St Michael’s Hall, H.E. Oswald Cardinal Gracias, President for the day’s sessions, led the representatives in the Adsumus prayer. Hosted virtually by the country of Sri Lanka, the morning prayer was conducted by Sr Nilanthi Ranasinghe FMM.

The first session for the day, ‘Youth: A Voice for the Church’ began with group discussions on the concerns for, and role of, the youth in the Church. The first speaker, Fr Akira Takayama, Chaplain to the youth ministry in the Diocese of Takamatsu, stressed the importance of priests needing to listen to the youth, and be re-evangelised. He shared common points from the youth and priest councils in Japan - the importance of cooperating with the youth, the position of the Church as different from home, work and school, the importance of the youth being considered as more than just a taskforce, and the hope that elders and Church leaders will provide spiritual guidance and be kind to the growth of the youth.

H.E. Cardinal Gracias invited two of the youth representatives present to speak; Mr Anthony Judy and Ms Ashita Jimmy. Their messages were an imploration to listen; how five years on from the Youth Synod, it was time to take stock and consider if the Church had progressed. They stressed the need to show the youth trust and genuine interest, and to converse and journey along with them.

Mr Gregory Pravin, a Youth pastoral worker in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, spoke about how the pandemic had left people living in a digital, individualistic world, self-sufficient, without a hunger for the Lord. Challenging his audience to change the narrative from ‘the young people are absent’ to ‘I am absent from the young people’ and to be more than shepherds, to become seekers; Mr Pravin emphasized the need to create new structures, and develop tools and methods that would guide the youth back to the fullness of the Church experience.

The next speakers, members of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia, were Dr Stephanie Puen, theology professor at Ateneo de Manila University, Dr Mary Yuen, theology professor at the Holy Spirit Seminary of Theology and Philosophy Hongkong, and Sr Rasika Pieris, a human rights activist from the Colombo Province of the Sisters of the Holy Family. Speaking about ‘New Pathways for the Role of Women for the Church in Asia’, they began by providing context and background to the many issues Asian women face, including discrimination, misogyny, dual roles, disparity of income, and domestic violence.

Dr Stephanie Puen introduced the concept of caring justice, highlighting how for many women, care was deeply undervalued. She stressed that care should be the responsibility of all, that it should be responsive, and go along with solidarity, communication, trust and respect, asking her listeners to create a culture of care.

Sharing her personal experiences, Dr Mary Yuen underlined the socio-economic problems faced by Asian women, especially post the pandemic. She put forward pastoral responses that the Church could undertake, including pastoral care, support centres, family crisis centres, and assurances of rights and dignity. Adding that while there were many active women faithful, Dr Yuen called for the Church to notice where hierarchies were gender-biased, to enhance participation and introduce theology for women.

Sr Pieris, noting that ‘men of quality are not threatened by women’s call for equality’, put forward several points that would lead to women of Asia becoming agents of social transformation. Advocating for alternative social structures that dispel with gender hierarchy, a theology that reflects the struggles of women and minorities, and a more inclusive image of God, Sr Pieris highlighted the need for women to be full-fledged decision making citizens, and a discipleship of equals in the Church.

Ms Christine Nathan, President of the International Catholic Migrant Commission (ICMC), explaining how migration is a big business touching over a million lives, spoke about the many socio-economic struggles, attached problems of human trafficking, unsafe jobs, slave labour and discrimination migrants face. Ms Nathan also provided avenues through which the Church could help; by campaigning for better contracts, human rights, safer working conditions, more clarity about jobs and countries, creating decent work opportunities, and making migration a choice, and not a necessity.

Sr Abby Avelino MM, regional coordinator of Talitha Kum Asia, described the breadth and expansive work that Talitha Kum, an international network against human trafficking composed of religious women congregations, does. Sr Avelino demonstrated how, working at grassroot levels, Talitha Kum collaborates to take action, raising awareness, standing with the socially vulnerable, with programs that work both towards prevention of trafficking and care for victims, seeking to heal and empower survivors.

A virtual message was played from H.E. Vincent Cardinal Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, speaking on human trafficking as a losing battle, despite the many efforts of the people working against it, and exhorting the gathered representatives to dedicate as much time and effort towards stopping human trafficking as they could.

Fr Fabio Bagio CS, from the Dicastery of Promoting Integral Human Development, explained the scope and purpose of the Dicastery, its involvement in social missions, and offered assistance when needed for the duration of the Conference.

Archbishop Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi SVD, former President of Caritas Asia, led a reflection on ‘Fratelli Tutti: A Call to Human Fraternity’. Explaining the context of the pandemic under which the Holy Father published Fratelli Tutti, Archbishop Kikuchi reflected on the aspects of the encyclical, stressing the importance of interdependence, harmony in diversity and solidarity. Demonstrating how all Christians are called to bear witness, he asked his audience to consider how they could spread hope in the current world.

The evening concluded with the body prayer, inspired by St Julian of Norwich, and H.E. Cardinal Gracias led the congregation in the vespers.

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