21st October 2022, the fifth day of the segment ‘Emerging Realities’ at the FABC General Conference began with the Holy Eucharist, celebrated by H.E. Louis-Marie Cardinal Ling Mangkhanekhoun IVD, Vicar Apostolic of Vientiane, Laos. President of the day’s sessions, H.E. Charles Cardinal Muang Bo, opened the morning session by leading the Adsumus. The morning prayer, played over video, was prepared by Sr. Catherine P.K. of Cambodia-Laos.
H.E. Cardinal Bo introduced the topics for the day - Synodality, reflections on Prædicate Evangelium, leadership, governance, and considerations on FABC 50 years on.
The first speaker, H.E. Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich SJ, Relator General of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, speaking on the Synod on synodality, explained the process of how the document was developed, and spoke of his experience working on it. Stressing the Holy Father’s emphasis on everyone walking together with no exclusions, H.E. Cardinal Hollerich described the Synod as a Synod of the Church, where the consultation of peoples became the heart of the Synod, and where Christ and His mission remains the centre of the Church.
Fr Clarence Devadass, providing a summary of the small group discussions, recapped the theme of the week as ‘reading the signs of the times’. Using the framework of consultation, conversation, conversion and communion, Fr Devadass summarised the discussions with three key points: celebrating successes, recognising the gaps, and identifying the opportunities ahead by looking for new pathways.
Professor Doctor Josef Sayer, Director of Misereor from 1997 to 2012 and member of the FABC 50 Organising Committee, reflecting on Prædicate Evangelium and the opportunities for new forms of leadership and governance for the Church in Asia, provided a comprehensive explanation of the Prædicate Evangelium, using four central points: the preamble, principles, general norms and dicasteries. With emphasis on the Holy Father’s reformations, the paradigm shifts, the importance of participation of all, and the application of the dicasteries, Monsignor Sayer outlined the points of the document that were especially relevant to the Asian Church, and concluded with questions on the application of the document for reflection. The session was followed by a plenary conversation with Monsignor Sayer and H.E. Cardinal Gracias.
Prof. Christina Kheng, professor of pastoral leadership and management at the East Asia Pastoral Institute (Philippines), and member of the Commission on Methodology of the General Secretariat for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, spoke on the topic ‘new forms of leadership and governance in the Church in a synodal way’. Going back to the roots of synodality, Prof. Kheng asked her listeners, ‘what current forms of leadership in your Diocese promote synodality and what forms are contrary to it?’. Along with key principles of synodal leadership and governance, Prof. Kheng also provided concrete suggestions to put the principles into practice.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio Siongco David, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, reflecting on how new forms of leadership could be promoted, added context through the history behind the first council of Jerusalem, and St Peter’s role in it. Underlining the Church as one rooted in scripture that also responds to the signs of the times, Bishop David provided insights on the Holy Father’s reformations, and highlighted methods toward taking a better path forward.
Prof. Jonathan Tan, professor of Catholic Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, spoke on the next topic, “FABC 50 Years On: Negotiating Challenges and Seizing Opportunities”. Introducing his background of work and analysing the demographics of migration and the changing population, and the rich documentation of the FABC, Prof. Tan described how Christianity has moved on from grounded geography to virtual and online communities of faith, and trends that would arise in the next fifty years.
H.E. Cardinal Bo led the gathered representatives in the angelus, concluding the day.