top of page

Renewing the Church in Asia, New Pathways for Mission

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Understanding Synodality in the Context of Asia

by His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle,

Pro-Prefect for the Section of Evangelization of the Dicastery for Evangelization

CELEBRATE ASIA IN MANILA [500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines and the 50th Anniversary of Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences - FABC]

Magandang hapon po, umaga, o gabi, kung nasaan man kayo! Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa Archdiocese of Manila, especially the Office for the Promotion of the New Evangelization (OPNE), pati po sa Pontifical Mission Societies, sa CBCP, and the Manila Cathedral for organizing this half day conference in preparation for the General Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). Magdiriwang po ng 50th Anniversary ang FABC.

The task given to me, as encapsulated in the title of the talk is “Renewing the Church in Asia, New Pathways for Mission.” Since the conference will happen in October, I think that will be more authoritative, and Bishop Ambo will participate there. So, we will invite him again after the conference to share on this topic. So, what I would like to share with you are not prescriptions, not solutions, but siguro po, mga stimuli for reflection; and please bear with us if there are some repetitions in some areas.

I have three points, and the last point, the third point, has some subpoints. Para lang po medyo masundan natin ano ho.

Renewing the Church

The first point concerns the first part of the title of the talk: Renewing the Church. Renewal. When we look at the Scriptures, we realize that renewal is the action of God, the action of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Revelations chapter 21 we hear these beautiful words, “The one seated at the throne says, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev. 21:5); and then there is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and the vision of the new city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (cf. Rev 21:10). It also contains the beautiful promise: God’s dwelling is now among the people. So, the renewal of all things is God’s initiative. It is God's action. The Creator sustains, renews, and fulfills all things including the Church. The renewal of humanity, of creation, of history, is in a way part of God’s mission. The mission of God as we see in the mission of Jesus Christ and the mission of the Holy Spirit to recreate the world, to recreate humanity, to recreate the human family, to recreate creation, and history. So, the mission of God is related to the renewal of all things, especially of the Church.

Kaya po ‘yung sinasabi nila na “Mission Dei”, the mission of God is already at work. The renewal of all things is already at work, and it is moving towards its fulfillment; and we, the Christian community we are privileged by our faith, and by our belonging to the Church, to already experience now the renewal of each one, of each human being, the renewal of humanity, the renewal of history, and of creation. Began in creation, sustained in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are already experiencing that renewal through the Word of God. If we listen attentively to the Word of God every day, we keep it to heart and put it into practice, we will experience renewal, and we will be agents of renewal. Eh sineseryoso ba ang Salita ng Diyos? O baka kapag first reading na, pumipikit na? Sana meditation ano ho?

We experience that renewal which is the action of God in the Sacraments, specially in the Eucharist where water, simple water communicates the grace, the cleansing of someone from the corruption of sin in Baptism. With the fruits of the earth, the work of human hands are renewed to become the Bread of Life, the Cup of Salvation, and people who are gathered for the Sacraments, specially the Eucharist, who are not related to one another by blood, become one Body in Christ. By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we are already renewed, we are experiencing it. The renewal of creation, the renewal of humanity. We are already being renewed by the service of charity. Tayo ang unang nabago sa paglilingkod ni Jesus. Tayo ang unang nabago sa paghuhugas ng paa na ginawa ni Jesus. Tayo ang unang nabago bawat oras na si Jesus ay kumakatok sa atin bilang nagugutom, nauuhaw, naghahanap ng matutuluyan, naghahanp ng katotohanan. We are renewed.

So, the renewal that God has began and continues to do towards its fulfillment in the new heavens, the new earth, the new Jerusalem, is happening and our role is to accept, to receive again and again God’s renewing action. To believe that that renewal is true and to give a testimony to the world, of a renewed human being, of a renewed human family, of a renewed society, of a renewed creation, and renewed history. So, the renewal of the Church in Asia cannot be outside of that action of God. That wonderful dynamic and us journeying as witnesses and living now, ipakita na ngayon, in our own limited ways and within the confines of history. Ipakita na ngayon that vision of a new society, a new earth, a new heaven, a new city, the dwelling place of God here on earth. The future we hope we will already embody now, so that people will say, “Tunay ang renewal!” At ‘pag tinanong natin, “Papaano mo nalaman na tunay ‘yung renewal? Na may bago?” Sasabihin nila, “Eh tignan mo si sister, tignan mo si father, tignan mo ‘yung lola namin, tignan mo ‘yung catechist, hindi ba larawan sila ng bagong pagkatao.”

So, it is not just the past, the action of Jesus and the Holy Spirit of God in the past that we make present now. We make present now that promise, that fulfillment, we make it happen now.

Okay po? ‘Yun po ‘yung first point. So, ‘yung “Renewing the Church”.

The Church in Asia

The second point po, I will now go to “In Asia”, Renewing the Church in Asia, “The Church in Asia”. Naku! Marami pong mapag-uusapan d’yan, lalo na sa tatlong linggo na pagtatalakayan, pagdarasal, at pagkilatis (discernment) ng atin pong mga representatives of the different Churches of Asia na gaganapin sa Thailand.

I just want to focus on a point. The FABC, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences is famous, is known worldwide for having proposed for the Church in Asia, a vision of Church, a Church in dialogue, and a Church that is dialogue, a Church that performs its mission of evangelization, a Church that participates in the renewing action of God in history, through dialogue. The mode of mission is dialogue, and the way of being Church is dialogical.

Specifically, through the history of the FABC, this dialogue has been spelled out as a triple dialogue. The dialogue with the cultures, the religions, and the poor of Asia. Dialogue. Now, there is a call to expand the dialogue partners of the Church in Asia. They are beginning to identify other partners in the dialogue; but at the same time, if you look closely, maybe it is not just identifying new partners in the dialogue, but also seeing how the different dialogue partners are interrelated. When you dialogue with cultures, you necessarily dialogue with religions in Asia. For many of the cultures of Asia had been shaped by the religions, and when you dialogue with cultures and religions of Asia, we cannot avoid dialoguing with the majority of peoples in Asia, namely the poor, namely the poor. So, as we identify specific dialogue partners mga bago na dialogue partners, baka hindi rin sila bago. Baka nakapaloob na rin dito sa iba at kailangan tingnan ang koneksyon. The FABC is known worldwide for its push for dialogue, and we have to affirm the validity, and then necessity of dialogue as a mode of existence and mission for the Church in Asia.

It is also contained in Vatican II, Pope Paul VI devoted his first encyclical as Pope during Vatican II to dialogue: Ecclesiam Suam, the Church in dialogue. Now, we see how in the history of mission in the Church, specially in Asia, the missionaries employed different methods or ways of dialoguing. Now this is not just a strategy. Hindi lamang po ito parang plan of action.

Our God is of God who speaks, and when God speaks, it is a creative word. A word that performs what it says. Our God is a God of dialogue, so to be people of God, means “to be like God” who speaks, who hears, who listens, specially to the cry of those who are not listened to. Our God’s identity as love chose that dialogue is really at the heart of God. For how could there be love without exchange? Taking its peak when the logos, the word of God became flesh. When the speaker as it were and the dialogue partner became one in Jesus. ‘Yung Diyos na nagsasalita, ‘yung tao na kinakausap at sumasagot sa Diyos, nagkaisa kay Jesus. The Eternal Word who became human in history, and in Him, all the Churches, especially the Church in Asia must learn how to dialogue. In a dialogue of life, in a dialogue of listening, and in a dialogue of entering the world of my dialogue partner.

Kaya po sabi ko kanina, hindi lang nga ito strategy. This is deeply, deeply incarnational. Ngayon nga po nauuso na, sinasabi, hindi lang dialogue, kung ’di multilogue. Kasi nga marami kang ka-dialogue partner. Kapag kausap mo ang mga bata, parang ibang logos, ibang word. Kapag kausap mo ‘yung mga ka-generation ko na hindi na masyadong bata, adjust ka rin ng iyong logos, ng word. But we are all rooted in the God who speaks, and who speaks in Jesus; and Jesus who continues to speak to us.

Bago ko po iwanan itong second point, mahalaga naman to identify new spaces of dialogue for mission, and to identify emerging dialogue partners. But my question is this, especially as an Asian: Is being a Church of dialogue only a label, a label for us? Parang etiketa, naging trade mark. “Ah, you are from Asia.” So, Church of dialogue. Bakit ko tinatanong ‘yan? Kasi, we find in Asia also a breakdown in dialogue. The continent, especially the Church that says, “We are a people of dialogue. Promoting dialogue”, and the Church saying, “We are a Church of dialogue rooted in the very identity of the loving God”, we see in Asia a breakdown in dialogue, leading to violence, forced migration, poverty, and perpetrated injustice. So, I address myself to us in the Church:

  • Do we take dialogue seriously?

  • Is there a formation program to prepare people to be people of dialogue?

  • In our Catholic schools, is there a specific program training formation for dialogue, acquiring the spirituality, the attitudes, and of course the art, the skills of dialoguing?