Inaugural Speech by H.E. Charles Cardinal Maung Bo
A Journey of Grace and Gratefulness
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Greetings in the Name of the Lord.
Today the history beckons us. After half a century of an Asian Journey of Grace and Gratefulness, the Asian Church gather great joy today to inaugurate the 50th Year celebrations of FABC. The Conference will be held from 12th to 30th of October.
I wish all of you the great feast of the feast of Mary our mother and Queen. It is apt that my words of upholding Grace and gratefulness comes with the Magnificat of Mary, with whom the Asian church can sing, “The Lord has done marvels for me.”
Fifty years ago, the Asian Bishops came together with a great Pentecostal moment provided by the Second Vatican Council, to establish the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC). It set upon to respond to the creative apostolic impulses provoked by the council set the world on fire for renewal.
The Asian Church celebrates this juncture of Grace and Gratefulness. All praises to God the Almighty God who has guided this church through all these years. Asia is the cradle of many religions. In his great journey to the Asian Church Saint Pope John Paul II extolled the vital role of Asia in the Salvation History. In his Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia the Pope said:
“The Church in Asia sings the praises of the “God of salvation” (Ps 68:20) for choosing to initiate his saving plan on Asian soil, through men and women of that continent. It was in fact in Asia that God revealed and fulfilled his saving purpose from the beginning. He guided the patriarchs (cf. Gen 12) and called Moses to lead his people to freedom (cf. Ex 3:10). He spoke to his chosen people through many prophets, judges, kings and valiant women of faith. In “the 2 fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), he sent his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ the Saviour, who took flesh as an Asian! Exulting in the goodness of the continent’s peoples, cultures, and religious vitality, and conscious at the same time of the unique gift of faith which she has received for the good of all, the Church in Asia cannot cease to proclaim: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love endures forever” (Ps 118:1). (No.1. EA)”
Yes. All Glory to God who chose this continent for that sanctified Salvation History.
The Saintly Pope left a mandate to the Asian Church to continue that live up vibrantly that reality.
Inspired by the Saintly Pope’s wisdom, the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference coordinated the missionary endeavours of the Asian Church. It has been a long and challenging journey.
This long journey has given the Asian Church a vibrant identity, constantly challenging us to be a missionary church. It continues.
Now the Asian Church and the FABC stands at the cross roads of a very challenging epoch. Much has been achieved. We are grateful to all those who shepherded that process. We are grateful to the theologians and others who provided the intellectual identity to FABC. Asia is a virtual mosaic of cultures; the church reflected that diversity. The incorporation of the cultural and the religious is what theologians refer to as inculturation. Asian Christianity is in the midst of this process in shedding its alien baggage and becoming truly indigenous to the region.
With creativity, FABC fortified the Asian threefold dialogue with cultures, religions and the poor of Asia. FABC envisaged a co ordinating structure, with empowering commissions. Grace has led us so far.
Today, the Church and the world stand at the crossroads of history.
We gather amidst suffocating clouds of conflict and displacements, collapse of the economy, frightening climate change, pandemic and starvation of millions. Secularism is on the ascendency in the traditional Christian world. Authoritarian leadership is becoming norm in 3 many countries. Democracy faces stiff challenges. Fundamentalism and religious violence threaten global peace. We are called upon to examine ourselves what could be the role of Asian Churches in these challenging moments.
How can Asian churches become prophets of peace in an increasingly anxious world?
The third millennium brings great challenges. Pope Francis has always encouraged to look at every challenge as an opportunity. As we inaugurate the 50-year celebrations, we are reminded that the Biblical perspective of Jubilee mandates a comprehensive change and robust renewal. The Church under the present Pope has proactively initiating changes.
We are challenged to be Synodal Church, with Evangelization gaining the prime place in Vatican structures and mission. On the justice front the Pope has called for our dedication to struggle for Environmental and Economic Justice.
Pope has called for a life built on right relationships. His three documents have given to Asian church and the world a road map in right relationships: Evanglium Gaudium guided us in our relationship with God, Laudato Si charted a course in our relationship with the God’s creation and Fratelli Tutti enlighten us on the relationship with one another.
The FABC conference has reflected on these and other needs and challenges and themes will be discussed. As we enter into these deliberations, we are becoming aware of the call of the Gospel to become active missionaries. The mission of the Asian Church is already charted out in the Book of Revelation. Asia was the soil on which the great mission of Evangelization started.
What is the Lord’s Call to the Asian Church?
With Christianity playing important role in Asian nations, education, health and human development, countries are becoming economically and politically more confident. Church is 4 vibrant in Asia and Africa with increasing vocations. This is a great opportunity and challenge. With prayer and planning and commitment, this century can become the Asian Christian Century, proclaiming the Good news and fostering peace with justice in the world. The FABC conference will address many of these concerns.
We can look to our preparation for the FABC 50 General Conference as the work of the Holy Spirit. I commend the all the dioceses for their preparations. The diocesan and conference phase of the synodal process ended last August 15.
The October FABC 50 General Conference will collate all the deliberations and chart a new course of journey for Asia and the World.
The theme chosen for the conference is:
FABC 50: Journeying together as peoples of Asia –
“…and they went a different way.” (Mt. 2:12)
It might look slightly contradictory. The Early church journey together in Christ’s mission but the diverse gifts of the early church helped them to reach various cultures and nations. Asia is the biggest continent with 60 percent of the population, comprising 48 countries need both unity and diversity.
I wish the people of Asia a great blessing as we undertake this journey. Let the Lord who promised prophets faithful accompaniment, walk with his. With His Providence, Asian church will see great wonders.
God bless all our efforts