The New Evangelization - Asia


 

REPORT - Synod of Asia
Jan Pieter Cardinal Schotte
Secretary general of the Synod


Most Holy Father,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Esteemed Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, I am pleased to make this report to all present on the preparation of this Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia.

Before directly treating the subject of the preparatory process, I would like to recall that this synodal assembly finds its origin in the series of continental and regional synods proposed by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente. In this document, His Holiness, focusing on the global preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, explicitly declared his intention to convoke a Special Assembly for the entire Asian continent and set forth the various aims of this synodal assembly.

He wrote: "Another plan for a continent-wide Synod will concern Asia, where the issue of the encounter of Christianity with ancient local cultures and religions is a pressing one. This is a great challenge for evangelization, since religious systems such as Buddhism or Hinduism which present themselves as having a clearly soteriological character. There is also an urgent need for a synod on the occasion of the Great Jubilee in order to illustrate and explain more fully the truth that Christ is the one Mediator between God and man and the sole Redeemer of the world, to be clearly distinguished from the founders of other great religions. With sincere esteem, the Church regards the elements of truth found in those religions as a reflection of the Truth which enlightens all men and women. "Ecce natus est nobis Salvator mundi": in the Year 2000 the proclamation of this truth should resound with renewed power." (n.38)

On 15 January 1995, in his address during the Sixth Plenary Session of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C.) held in Manila on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of its foundation, the Holy Father made reference to the Special Assembly for Asia as he recounted the past work of evangelization on the Asian continent and offered encouraging words in the important tasks facing the Church in continuing to proclaim Jesus Christ, as Saviour and Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5). In his extemporaneous remarks after his address, the Holy Father treated the subject of the Special Assembly in more detail, giving a brief reflection on the theology and benefits of synodal meetings in the first 1000 years of the Church's history and the "great synodal era" inspired by the Second Vatican Council. The Holy Father is so convinced of the advantages for the Church resulting from the "synodal spirit" and "synodal experience" where bishops interact in various ways within and outside the synod hall, that he concluded that it would be a good thing if he was known as "the Synodal Pope"!

Following this brief introduction, I intend, for clarity´s sake, to develop the process of preparation for the synodal assembly in the following order:

I - The Background to the Announcement of the Synod

II - The Pre-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat

III - The Convocation of the Synod

IV - The Members of the Synod

V - The Synod Process and the Particular Churches

VI - Acknowledgments

Conclusion


I - THE BACKGROUND TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE SYNOD


In a certain way, it can be said that the idea of a meeting of the bishops of all Asia to consider commonly shared pastoral problems was the fruit of a slow maturation process which began in the Second Vatican Council where collegiality was seen as not only an effective expression of the communion of the entire episcopate with the Successor of St. Peter but also a valuable tool in evangelization. This Ecumenical Council encouraged the bishops of the entire world to establish national and international bodies to consider the pastoral situation resulting from the new challenges posed at that time in contemporary civilization. In this post-conciliar spirit, fifteen (15) episcopal conferences were established, gathering bishops from the various regions and nations of the Asian continent. In some cases episcopal structures were formed to allow a greater cooperation between the Latin and Oriental Churches, for example, those in Lebanon, India and Iran, just to mention a few. The Federation of Asian Bishop's Conferences (F.A.B.C.), whose statutes were approved 6 December 1972, also came into being during this period as a regional tool of collegiality for South and South East Asia.

These beneficial experiences of ecclesial communion inspired the Holy Father to convoke this present meeting of the bishops of all Asia which takes the form of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Holy Father, all of us are deeply grateful for this opportunity to meet in communion and pastoral fellowship; at this time, we desire to renew once again our devotion to the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of St. Peter.



II - PRE-SYNODAL COUNCIL OF THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS


According to accepted procedure in the preparation of a synodal assembly, the Holy Father appointed the Pre-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat, whose membership was made public on 10 September 1995. At that time, the members of this Council were: His Eminent Beatitude, Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre SFEIR, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, President of the Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops of Lebanon (A.P.E.C.L.); His Eminence, Cardinal Michael Michai KITBUNCHU, Archbishop of Bangkok (Thailand), President of the Bishops' Conference of Thailand; His Eminence, Cardinal Julius Riyadi DARMAATMADJA, S.J., Archbishop of Jakarta (Indonesia) and President of the Episcopal Conference of Indonesia; His Eminence, Card. Jozef TOMKO, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; His Beatitude, Most Rev. Michel SABBAH, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, President of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land; His Excellency, Most Rev. Oscar V. CRUZ, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan (Philippines), Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (F.A.B.C.), durante munere; His Excellency, Most Rev. Peter CHUNG HOAN TING, Archbishop of Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia); His Excellency, Most Rev. Joseph POWATHIL, Archbishop of Changanacherry of the Syro-Malabars (India), President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (C.B.C.I.); His Excellency, Most Rev. Francis Xavier Kaname SHIMAMOTO, Archbishop of Nagasaki (Japan); His Excellency, Most Rev. Carmelo F. MORELOS, Archbishop of Zamboanga (Philippines), President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (C.B.C.P.), durante munere; His Excellency, Most Rev. Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL, S.D.B., Archbishop of Guwahati (India); His Excellency, Most Rev. Paul NGUYÊN VAN HÒA, Bishop of Nha Trang, (Vietnam); His Excellency, Most Rev. Paul SHAN KUO-HSI, S.I., Bishop of Kaohsiung (Taiwan), President of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference; His Excellency, Most Rev. Anthony Theodore LOBO, Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi (Pakistan); His Excellency, Most Rev. Joseph Vianney FERNANDO, Bishop of Kandy (Sri Lanka), President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, durante munere; His Excellency, Most Rev. John CHANG-YIK, Bishop of Chun Cheon (Korea).

Some members were appointed in their capacity as presidents of episcopal conferences, that is to say, durante munere. Therefore, such bishops exercised membership on the Council for the duration of their term of office and were later replaced by their elected successors.

The original Pre-Synodal Council held its First Meeting, 24-26 October 1995, during which the Council formulated a topic-later submitted to the Holy Father's approval-and provided observations in the preparation of the outline and text of the Lineamenta.

The Second Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 27-29 February 1996, studied and examined the draft text of the Lineamenta, which incorporated the diverse proposals and suggestions set forth in the preceding meeting. At this meeting one less member resulted because of the election of a new President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. His Excellency, Most Rev. Oscar V. CRUZ, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, the newly elected President, took the place of His Excellency, Most Rev. Carmelo F. MORELOS, Archbishop of Zamboanga, thus being a member of the Council under two titles ex officio, i.e., President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - F.A.B.C.

The Lineamenta, appearing in the two official languages of this Special Assembly (English and French), were made public in the Holy See Press Office, 3 September 1996. Subsequently, various episcopal conferences and other ecclesial bodies promoted a widespread distribution of the document in their respective areas through re-publishing the text as well as through utilizing the electronic media (Internet). The Lineamenta was a result of the collaborative efforts of the members of the Pre-Synodal Council, experts from various parts of the Asian continent and the staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

The document itself, after a brief introduction, is divided into six chapters corresponding to the various aspects of the general synod topic: Asian Realities, the context of evangelization (first chapter); Evangelization in Asia: a brief history (second chapter); God's Salvific Design in history, the work of the Holy Spirit (third chapter); Jesus Christ, God's Good News of Salvation to All (fourth chapter); the Church as Communion, continuing the mission of Christ (fifth chapter); the Church's mission of love and service in Asia (sixth chapter).

The Third Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 25- 27 February 1997 had a dual purpose: to examine initial reactions to the Lineamenta and to draft the criteria for participation for the synodal assembly.

In the course of the meeting, the Council members shared the positive reactions to the Lineamenta which took place in the various Church circles at both the local and international levels, and devoted themselves to drafting a series of suggestions for submission to the Holy Father on the criteria for participation for the Special Assembly. In this regard, the request was made to grant ex officio status to the following: 1) the active Asian Cardinals, 2) the Patriarchs of the Oriental Churches and Archbishops of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar Churches 3) the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, 4) the Secretary General of F.A.B.C. and the President of Catholic Bishops Conference of India - Inter-ritual, 5) the Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia; and 6) Heads of ecclesiastical territories with no episcopal conference.

Furthermore, a plan was devised for the election of members, determined by a ratio to the total number of members of each episcopal conference. These elections were then to receive the necessary ratification by the Holy Father. The Council Members attentively studied the proportionate formula with two aims in mind: on the one hand, to ensure that a substantial number of bishops from all Asia would participate at the synodal assembly and, on the other, to guarantee that all episcopal conferences, especially those having a very small membership, would have a suitable number of synodal members. At the same time, to ensure the presence of a representative number of members from the various Oriental Churches in Asia, elections were also to be held using the same ratio as for Episcopal Conferences, limiting eligibility, however, to those who actually work within the continent of Asia.

At the Fourth Meeting, 30 September - 2 October 1997, the membership of the Council received a new member as a result of elections by the Bishops' Conference of Thailand. His Excellency, George Yod PHIMPHISAN, C.Ss.R., Bishop of Udon Thani, the new President, replaced His Eminence, Michael Michai KITBUNCHU, Archbishop of Bangkok.

The principal goal of this meeting was to examine the responses to the questions in the Lineamenta with the intention of drafting the Instrumentum laboris. The Council's work was done in collaboration with experts who came from various parts of the Asian continent.

The Fifth and Final Meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council, 7-9 February 1998, focused attention on immediate preparations for the Special Assembly by studying the Vademecum and suggesting certain points for consideration in the formulation of the Relatio ante disceptationem, the presentation on the synodal topic made during the synodal assembly. The work of the meeting was facilitated by the fact that a majority of those who were to be appointed by the Holy Father to exercise special roles during the synodal assembly were also Council members. Shortly after the meeting the following appointments were officially made on 26 February 1998:

Presidents-Delegate
His Eminence, Cardinal Stephen KIM SOU-HWAN, Archbishop of Seoul (Korea)
His Eminence, Cardinal Jozef TOMKO, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
His Eminence, Cardinal Julius Riyadi DARMAATMADJA, S.J., Archbishop of Jakarta (Indonesia)

General Rapporteur
His Eminence, Cardinal Paul SHAN KUO-HSI, S.J., Bishop of Kaohsiung (Taiwan, R.O.C.)

Special Secretary
His Excellency, Most Rev. Thomas MENAMPARAMPIL, S.D.B., Archbishop of Guwahati (India)

Commission for the Message
President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Oscar V. CRUZ, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan (Philippines) and Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences - F.A.B.C.
Vice-President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Anthony Theodore LOBO, Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi (Pakistan)

Commission for Information
President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Joseph Vianney FERNANDO Bishop of Kandy (Sri Lanka)
Vice-President: His Excellency, Most Rev. Cyrille Salim BUSTROS, M.S.S.P., Archbishop of Baalbek of the Greek Melkites (Lebanon)



III - THE CONVOCATION OF THE SYNOD

After the Holy Father announced his intention to convoke the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, various stages of preparation followed, principally resulting in the two previously mentioned documents, i.e., the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris.

The next stage was the establishment of the actual dates for the assembly through the Holy Father's official act of convoking the Special Assembly, so that the synod of bishops could effectively take place. In a private audience on 25 October 1997, granted to the General Secretary, the Holy Father approved the actual dates of the Assembly: 19 April - 14 May. On 24 January 1998 the dates were communicated by fax to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and various Episcopal Bodies in Asia. Subsequently, these same dates were published in , 26 February 1998 with the names of those appointed by the Holy Father to exercise major roles at the synod.



IV - MEMBERS OF THE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY

At the end of April, 1997, the Holy Father approved the criteria for participation for the Special Assembly, which were immediately sent by the General Secretariat to those concerned on 15 May. These norms included the following categories of participants:

Members ex officio:
- active Asian cardinals;
- heads of the Oriental Churches in Asia: 5 patriarchs, the Apostolic Administrator of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Archbishop of the Syro-Malankar Church;
- Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins
- presidents of the national episcopal conferences;
- Secretary General of F.A.B.C. and the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India
- heads of Ecclesiastical Territories without an Episcopal Conference
- General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops;
- heads of the departments of the Roman Curia.

In this category particular attention was given to ensure the participation of those exercising jurisdiction in ecclesiastical territories which do not as yet have the benefit of the fraternal communion of an episcopal conference. These are: Diocese of Macao, Diocese of Dili (East Timor), Diocese of Baucau (East Timor), Apostolic Administration of Kazakhstan, Apostolic Administration of Siberia (Russia), Mission sui iuris of Nepal, Mission sui iuris of Urga (Mongolia), Mission sui iuris of Kyrgyzstan, Mission sui iuris of Tadjikistan, Mission sui iuris of Turkmenistan and Mission sui iuris of Uzbekistan.


Members ex electione:

Episcopal conferences:
· for episcopal conferences having less than 50 members, one for every 5 members or fraction thereof,
· for episcopal conferences having more than 50 members, one for every 7 members or fraction thereof,
· for episcopal conferences having more than 100 members, one for every 10 members or fraction thereof,

The afore-mentioned formula was also to be applied to the election of synod members from the Oriental Churches in Asia.

Union of Superiors General:
· ten members, all to be priests belonging to clerical congregations of pontifical right.

Furthermore, since Ordo Synodi (art. 5, § 4) establishes that up to 15% of the total number of Synod Fathers can be members ex nominatione pontificia, the Holy Father appointed for this Special Assembly 23 members.

Also figured in the count of participants are 40 auditors (auditores) appointed by the Holy Father, who come from all areas of Church life and share with the bishops their concern for the good of the New People of God in Asia. They bring to the discussion in the small groups their experiences of Church life, as well as the graces received from the Lord for the upbuilding of the Church. Participants in this category include: five (5) diocesan priests, five (5) priest religious, two (2) brothers, eight (8) sisters, twelve (12) laymen, eight (8) laywomen.

At the same time, the Holy Father appointed eighteen (18) experts to assist the Rapporteur and Special Secretary in their responsibilities.


"Fraternal Delegates" were also invited to represent the following Churches and ecclesial communities: 
1) the Armenian Orthodox Church - Catholicosate of Antelias 
2) the Malankar Orthodox Syrian Church in India 
3) Anglican Church of Sri Lanka 
4) Christian Conference of Asia 
5) Central Sulawesi Christian Church in Indonesia and 
6) Middle East Council of Churches.


The categories mentioned above can be numerically broken down in the following manner:

I - Members ex officio
1. Active Asian Cardinals 11
2. Patriarchs (Oriental Churches 5, Latin Church 1)  6
3. Oriental Archbishops sui iuris 2
4. Presidents of Episcopal Conferences 15
5. Heads of Cooperative Episcopal Bodies in Asia 2
6. Heads of Ecclesiastical Territories with no Episcopal Conference 11
7. General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops 1
8. Heads of the Departments of the Roman Curia 25

II - Members ex electione
1. Episcopal Conferences 65
2. Oriental Churches 23
3. Union of Superiors General 10

III - Members ex nominatione pontificia
1. Archbishops and Bishops 18
2. Diocesan Priests 1
3. Priests - Religious 4

IV - Experts 18

V - Auditores 40

VI - Fraternal Delegates 6

Elected Members
Members of the episcopal conferences and the Oriental Churches, listed alphabetically, are numerically distributed as follows:

Episcopal Conferences
1. Arab Regional (C.E.L.R.A.) 2
2. Bangladesh 2
3. Chinese Regional 1
4. India - Latin Rite 12
5. Indonesia 7
6. Japan 4
7. Korea 4
8. Laos and Cambodia 2
9. Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei 3
10. Myanmar 3
11. Pakistan 1
12. Philippines 13
13. Sri Lanka 2
14. Thailand 2
15. Vietnam 7

Oriental Churches
1. Antioch of the Syrians 2
2. Antioch of the Greek-Melkites 4
3. Antioch of the Maronites 4
4. Babylon of the Chaldeans 4
5. Cilicia of the Armenians 3
6. Ernakulam-Amgamaly of the Syro-Malabars 5
7. Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars 1

According to the above-mentioned numbers, the total number of participants in the Special Assembly for Asia is 252, which can be numerically broken down in still another manner:

Members
Members ex officio 67
Members ex electione 98
Members ex nominatione pontificia 23
Sub-total 188

Auditores and Experts
Auditores
40
Experts 18
Sub-total 58

Fraternal Delegates 6

TOTAL 255


V - THE SYNOD PROCESS AND THE PARTICULAR CHURCHES


According to synodal methodology, the good outcome of a synodal assembly depends in a great part on the active participation of the entire Church community at its various levels. It is for this reason that the General Secretariat, following the desire of the Holy Father, has continuously updated information on the progress of preparation for the synod, publishing Press Releases after each meeting of the Pre-Synodal Council as well as making public the Lineamenta (3 September 1997) and the Instrumentum laboris (13 February 1998) through the Holy See Press Office. Subsequently, the English text appeared in L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in English, 25 February 1998 and L'Osservatore Romano: Weekly Edition in French, 24 February 1998.

So as to ensure maximum diffusion of information, the synod documents have been made available at the Vatican web site on the Internet, and permission has been given to episcopal conferences to authorize the re-publishing of these documents with the one condition that two copies of the new edition be sent to the General Secretariat. As a result, various conferences have published the above-mentioned documents and also circulated them through various web sites on the Internet.

In various episcopal conferences and especially in dioceses, special activities have been organized (study seminars, conferences, workshops, etc.), with an aim of generating responses to the questions of the Lineamenta, so that the drafting of the Instrumentum laboris might faithfully reflect local ecclesial experiences. Where the participation of persons and groups varied in episcopal conferences and other episcopal structures in the preparation of responses, it is possible to say with certainty that the entire Church in Asia has been "in synod", i.e., praying in communion, reflecting and meditating in light of the Word of God on the priorities of the new evangelization at the approach of the Third Millennium. From the point of view of content, the responses indicate that they were carefully drafted, and, therefore, served as a rich contribution in the process of understanding the real situation of the Church in the Asian continent.

At the same time, bearing in mind that a special assembly-although primarily pertaining to Church concerns in a determined region-is an event with implications for the whole Church, the General Secretariat sent both the Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris to all Episcopal Conferences outside of the Asian continent. In this way, the entire Church is adequately informed in the matter and able to unite herself in prayer for the successful outcome of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia.

One of the most interesting aspects in this preparation process which concludes today to give way to the effective realization of the Special Assembly, is manifested in the Instrumentum laboris, that is, this document represents a truly realistic summary of the situation on the Asian continent. Emerging from the general treatment offered in this working document is a series of elements which confirm the providential intuition of the Holy Father in convoking this synod.


VI - ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


I wish to express my special gratitude to all the bishops who as members of the Pre-Synodal Council have collaborated with the General Secretariat in the various phases of preparation for this Special Assembly and who have generously offered their time, working with great competence in their service to the Church. I pray that the Lord might accept their efforts as an agreeable sacrifice for the successful outcome of this assembly.

I also extend my special thanks to the staff members of the General Secretariat, the assistants (priests, deacon and seminarians), those cooperating in the dissemination of information, the simultaneous translators, and all service personnel whose work ensures the needed technical support for this Special Assembly. I thank everyone for the generosity and willingness with which they perform the work entrusted to them.



CONCLUSION


To conclude this presentation, I wish to highlight once again the topic of the Synod: Jesus Christ the Saviour and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: "...that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). Many men and women in this continent are yearning for peace and harmony within themselves, among their relationships with others and with the world of creation. Our faith tells us that the elements which underlie a basic human search for meaning are only to be found in personally experiencing the risen Jesus Christ through the Church and her members. Our task as Synod Fathers is to do all in our power to lead others to the fulfilment of this longing which is in the depths of the human heart, so that walking together in this synod the Church might announce with increasing conviction her Lord as the One and Only Saviour through concrete acts of Love and Service in Asia so that each person and whole groups of people "might have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

In his address to the members of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, 15 January 1995, in Manila, the Holy Father used the following words to describe the challenge which awaits us in this synodal assembly. He said: "In these years of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, your particular Churches are fully committed to giving fresh impulse to the evangelization of Asia. Just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the third Christian millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent. If the Church in Asia is to fulfill its providential destiny, evangelization as the joyful, patient and progressive preaching of the saving Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ must be your absolute priority."

Therefore, with the spiritual enthusiasm generated by the celebration of the Lord's Paschal Mystery still ours and with the Easter hymn of "Alleluia" still echoing in our midst during this joyful season, we consider this great challenge for the Third Millennium set before us by the Holy Father.

Following the spiritual journey marked by the Vicars of Christ in this century, we invoke in this task the maternal protection of the Holy Virgin Mary, placing at her feet the work of the synod which, with God's help, will bear abundant fruit for Asia and the whole Church. Trusting in her efficacious intercession, we are now ready to commence this Special Assembly in the hope of being able to open new paths in the evangelizing mission of the Church in Asia.

In conclusion, we extend our gratitude to Your Holiness for convoking us here and on this occasion, as members of the episcopal college, we acknowledge the great affection we bear you as Peter in our midst.

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