Asian Bishops’ Conference leader Cardinal Bo tells a gathering of bishops from across the continent that Asian spirituality’s focus on actions rather than words is a gift to the modern Church
Cardinal Charles Bo delivered the homily at the opening Mass of a two-week meeting of bishops from the region, marking fifty years of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). The Burmese Cardinal, who leads the Conference, spoke of the contribution that the spirituality and diversity of Asia can make to the life of the Church.
A key theme of Cardinal Bo’s homily was the rich spiritual traditions of Asia. As many traditionally Christian regions become secular, he said, “the East exerts a great pull on the West.”
“The last fifty years have seen an explosion of interest in Eastern spiritual traditions,” he said. The interiority of Asian religions, the simple mysticism that has led millions to cultivate prayer, and the popularity of mindfulness and mediations, he said, all testify to a great thirst for experience. . “The East insisted on experience. Not many explanations!
Cardinal Bo linked this Eastern emphasis on experience, rather than words, to Pope Francis’ call for a more energetic Church: “This is our great challenge. From words to actions. Moving from simple structures to experience and interiority. Concepts and words do not impress people.
A Diverse Church
The FABC is responsible for Catholic communities from Mongolia to Indonesia, from Uzbekistan to Japan. The liturgical diversity is also considerable: the Catholics of the region are divided between the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites.
Sometimes, Cardinal Bo said, this can be a problem: “One of the great obstacles of Christianity in Asia is ‘Christ divided’ among so many others.”
That shouldn’t be the case, however, he suggested. “[The] The Catholic Church needs a universal approach despite our diversity. Our diversity is a great strength, the different rites are great gifts of faith. Unity is not uniformity.
Pope Francis echoed that sentiment in his message to conference participants. “Let the singularity of each be respected,” he said, “because the universal Church is not the uniform Church.
Look back, go forward
Cardinal Bo gave thanks for the many successes of the Church in Asia over the past fifty years, noting its contribution to nation-building in many countries, its survival in the midst of all challenges and its emergence in as a leading provider of global vocations.
He stressed, however, that the fiftieth anniversary of the FABC should be an occasion for renewal as well as gratitude, urging his fellow bishops to “accept the challenge of making this century, the century of Asia, the century of Christ”.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India, former president of the FABC, also expressed his hope that the conference could “renew and revitalize our pastoral momentum so that the Church can become what the Lord calls her to be…A Vibrant church working for a better Asia.”
With my thanks to Vatican News and Joseph Tulloch, where this article originally appeared.