“The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.” – Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ
continued from Part 1
Evangelization through “Triple Dialogue”
According to the statement issued by the first plenary assembly, “Evangelization is the carrying out of the Church’s duty of proclaiming by word and witness the Gospel of the Lord.” The assembly resolved to use dialogue as the approach to evangelization in Asia where Christians comprise only two to three percent of the population in most countries.
This thinking has persisted through the decades and infused programs and initiatives that have gained recognition from inside and outside the organization. Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, a Salesian who served for many years in India’s troubled northeast region and currently chairs the FABC’s Office of Evangelization, is widely quoted for advocating an approach that involves “whispering the Gospel to the soul of Asia.”In the same spirit of dialogue, FABC-sponsored Radio Veritas Asia today broadcasts programs with Gospel and moral values that attract non-Christian listeners. The station’s program director says its Myanmar service’s Burmese-language section listeners are predominantly Buddhists.
FABC documents have detailed an approach to evangelization through dialogue at three levels: with a people’s culture (inculturation), with a country’s religions (interreligious dialogue), and dialogue with the poor.
Fruits and challenges
The FABC has explored various visions of how to deliver the Gospel to Asia. Apart from its Central Secretariat, it addresses regional concerns in a more focused way largely through its nine offices. Each of them shines the spotlight on a particular concern: evangelization, human development, theological concerns, interreligious dialogue, social communication, education and faith formation, clergy, consecrated life, and laity and family.
Over the years, the FABC offices have organized activities addressing concerns related to the formation of basic communities, and the situation of youth and women. Last year, it conducted a seminar on climate change and produced FABC Climate Change Declaration.
“The most important fruit of the FABC so far is the gathering of all the bishops of Asia and providing them with a venue where they could share joys and problems,” Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the emeritus archbishop of Manila who worked with the former FABC commission on the missions, said in an Aug. 25 interview before the assembly.
FABC offices organize seminars and formation programs of various types and content, including some that are called Bishops’ Institutes. Many involve exposure trips to host countries. Cardinal Rosales quoted fellow bishops from India and Indonesia who expressed appreciation for such trips, especially those whose dioceses cover areas troubled by armed conflict. He also cited problems with clergy in areas where local Churches could use the FABC’s help. “Without the FABC, individual local Churches would find it hard to solve problems that are shared by other Churches,” he said.
The cardinal also acknowledged the help that the FABC offers in the formation of priests. “Instead of sending seminarians to Rome and other places in Europe, we were able to arrange through our contact in the FABC further studies of Asian priests and training of seminarians in the Philippines and other countries,” he pointed out.
Theologians have praised the scope and depth of theological reflection documented in FABC publications and FABC Papers. The challenge Father Felix Wilfred presented in volume 1 of the book “For All the Peoples of Asia,” remains “implementing the grand vision of the FABC.”
Change has already been “very large,” Father Arevalo observed. “I have seen the changes and I am happy with the changes. Now we have many bishops who are very much alive to the problems of the country. Before, it was always in the devotional area only. Not that that is bad. It is very good. But it is not enough anymore in the modern world,” he said.
The renowned theologian acknowledges it is a waste to keep valuable FABC theology in books. “The books have to be read. The books have to be studied. The books have to be lived. The FABC movement in this new world should go faster, especially in that the bishops and lay people begin to be really and truly Catholics who can dialogue.”