Moderators for the final day of the Asian Continental Assembly

By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp – Bangkok

Feb 26 2023

The final day of the Asian Continental Assembly on Synodality began with a moment of sharing among the participants. Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, Philippines; Teresa Wu, Member of the Synodal Team of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference of Taiwan; and Prof. Estela Padilla, from the Philippines and a member of the Theological Commission of the Synod, moderated the day’s proceedings.

Synod as Symphony

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, General Relator of the Synod on Synodality, provided three points to orient the day’s proceedings. He picked up on an observation made by one of the working groups. “One small group spoke about synergy, solidarity, symphony,” the Cardinal said. “Let me pick up the word ‘symphony.’” A symphony includes repetition and discipline, and requires that every musician take care of their instrument. “If the piano is not tuned, it will be an awful symphony, be a cacophony.”

“Synodal conversion is the way we have to tune our instruments. Conversion is always conversion to Christ.”

Ecumenism based on baptism

This conversion requires the humility of letting go of our own ego, he continued, so as to “look at each other and see the dignity of baptism in each of us.” Beginning with baptism, rather than communion, will open a “new spring of ecumenism based on baptism,” he said, noting that the creed bases the identity of Christian faith in baptism.

Synodal interpretation of creation

In his third and final point, Cardinal Hollerich offered a synodal interpretation of the creation text. Rather than looking at the text as the creation of “man,” or “man and woman,” or the institution of marriage and the family, a “synodal interpretation of the text” is that “humanity” was created, he said. “We as Church are part of that humanity, and we are called to serve humanity. So, a synodal Church is a Church that is missioned by Christ, proclaiming the Gospel. And if we do not serve the world, nobody will believe in [our] proclamation of the Gospel.”

Fruit of synod in the digital era

The fruit a synodal Church can give the world will be demonstrated in dialogue with other religions and bringing community into the individualization promoted by the digital culture. This requires a further “conversion to our time”, the Cardinal noted, since “we are in the year 0 of the digital era. And young people [are] already in the year 0.1…. And sometimes we as bishops are in minus 0.1” – before the digital era.

“Synodality, bringing community back to the heart of living together, is a service to this new era.”

In his final remarks, the Cardinal reminded the participants, “We all are on our way with Christ,” and invoked the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He concluded saying:

“The Church of Asia has a lot to give to the world.”

Draft response moves forward

After a period of silent prayer, Father Clarence Devadass, member of the Discernment and Drafting Team, presented the updated draft response to the Continental Document under discernment and review. This new draft was compiled with the use of both AI and HI (Human Intelligence), Fr Devadass noted. In fact, the Asia Continental Assembly is the first of the Continental Assemblies to incorporate the use of digital technologies to gather the amendments and input from the participants. He then introduced all of the places in the first draft where amendments had been made.

Amended draft approved

Prof. Padilla then invited participants to spend time in silent reflection on the amended text. Lively discussions ensued, after which each group presented their feedback to the amended draft. Consensus was then reached that the delegates were favourable that the amended draft reflected their input, and a vote of confidence taken regarding the further modifications that would be made by the Writing Team. It was also explained that once the Writing Team incorporated the final observations obtained from the Assembly, the text will be presented to the member Episcopal Conferences of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) for their approval. The final document will then be sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod by the FABC.

Synodal structures

During the afternoon session, participants reflected, discussed, and reported on how ecclesiastical structures can be changed or created to enhance synodality in the Church, and what they would like to see happen at the October 2023 and October 2024 sessions of the synod.

Asian Continental Assembly concludes

Cardinal Mario Grech addressed the Assembly one final time, expressing his gratitude for a “wonderful experience.” “After this experience,” he continued, “I will not be able to forget this Church,” which was followed by a round of applause. The Synod on Synodality is about the People of God, he continued. The question is not “What is the Church?” but “Who is the Church?” He reiterated that everyone is invited to walk together so “Christ will be able to encounter humanity today.” Thus, a synodal Church naturally moves toward the goal of mission, evangelization.

Synodality is the dimension of the Church from the first-century Christian experience that needs to be retrieved, he said. The beauty of the journey is that we are trying to find “the right balance between the sensus fidelium and the ministry of the hierarchy…. In these last few days,” he said, “you managed to strike the right balance,” he told Asian Assembly participants. He then affirmed that the Asian characteristics of the Church will benefit the entire Church. “Let us hope that with this exercise…your document,” will contribute in the work the Bishops have before them in the synod sessions, and that “synodality will bring a change.” He also invited them to return to their local communities and extend his gratitude and that of the Holy Father, and to continue to sow the seeds of synodality which can provide a new “impetus for evangelization.”

Archbishop Kikuchi also provided some final remarks and formally closed the Assembly. He expressed gratitude for everyone’s active participation, which made the Assembly successful. Assembly participants then participated in the celebration of the Sunday liturgy presided over by Cardinal Charles Bo, President of the FABC. In his homily, he challenged the tendency of many Catholics to give up certain vices only to return to them once we have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection. Instead, he suggested that Lent contains an acronym that can lead toward synodal conversion: L for letting go; E for encounter; N for neighborliness; and T for transformation. – Vatican News