ASIA - Delegates gathered for the Synodal Assembly: "There is always room under the tent"

Friday, 24 February 2023 synod of bishops  

Bangkok (Agenzia Fides) - The image of the "tent" that runs through the Continental Synodal Assembly underway in Bangkok from today, February 24, until February 26, is particularly suitable for Asian peoples and cultures. The "gher" or "yurt" is a tent used as a home by the nomadic peoples of Central Asia and in Mongolia it also serves as a place of worship and a church. The image of the Church as a "tent" makes it "a place of refuge" and expresses the fact that "God can pitch his tent wherever the Spirit of God blows, including places of violence, disorder and suffering", said the delegates present in Bangkok, who came from 17 Episcopal Conferences and 2 Episcopal Synods, representing the 29 countries that make up the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC). During this three-day synodal discussion - in which 6 Cardinals, 5 Archbishops, 18 Bishops, 28 priests, 4 nuns and 19 lay people took part, expressing the pluralism of the Asian continent - the objective is to underline that "in the tent , there is room for everyone; no one is excluded, because it is a home for everyone, a sacred and safe space". "The image of the tent", say the Asian delegates, "also reminds us that Jesus pitched his tent among us through the Incarnation, and therefore the tent is also a place of encounter with God and with others". The tent, as a "common home", nourishes "believers' sense of belonging and sharing, given by their common baptism" and deepens the awareness of walking together as a "communion of community".
This was the starting point of the Continental Synodal Assembly, whose opening Eucharist was presided over by Msgr. Tarcisio Isao Kikuchi SVD, Archbishop of Tokyo and Secretary General of the FABC. Recalling his pastoral experience as a missionary in Africa, Bishop Kikuchi spoke of situations of extreme poverty and despair, wishing that "no one remains indifferent", because "indifference destroys the soul of humanity", and reaffirming the vocation of the ecclesial community to be, in all corners of the Asian continent, a source of hope and love springing from the heart of Christ.
The opening speech was given by Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod Secretariat, who reminded the delegates: "We are all learners of synodality", encouraging them to be attentive to all the voices within the Church and focusing on the fact that "a synodal Church is a Church of listening". The success of the synodal process depends on the active participation of the People of God and of the pastors who are "in a constant relationship, enabling each other to fulfill their roles and responsibilities". The Cardinal wished to underline that "the Church of listening" should not be reduced to a rhetorical phrase, but should represent the practice of a community that listens to the Holy Spirit.
Christina Kheng, from the Synod's Methodology Commission, went on to illustrate the synodal process carried out so far by the Asian churches at the national level, stating that "the purpose of this consultation is not to produce documents, but to have dreams, to bring forth prophecies and visions, to ignite hope, to inspire confidence, to mend wounds, to build relationships, to awaken a dawn of hope, to learn from each other and create a radiant ingenuity that will enlighten minds, warm hearts and give strength to our hands". Participants, he said, are called to “meet, dialogue, build relationships, grow as a community of discernment and experience walking together in the Spirit as the people of God in Asia".
Father Anthony James Corcoran SJ, Apostolic Administrator in Kyrgyzstan, spoke about the "spirituality of discernment", recalling that "discernment is a journey led by the Holy Spirit, a death followed by a resurrection", which consists of "letting go of one's plans , one's certainties and one's own agenda, in order to be guided towards a new life by the unpredictable directions of the Holy Spirit".
Father Clarence Devadass, from Malaysia, finally recalled the journey taken by the FABC "Task Force Synod" to produce and publish the draft working document, written to help the delegates to "walk together in prayer for discern, discuss and deliberate". Delegates were asked to reflect on three questions: what has been their experience of the synodal process? What is their task in this Assembly? What do they think of the "spiritual conversation" method? This method comprises three stages: "to speak out", "to make room for the other", "to build together", in order to discover what is really enlightening for the whole of the Church. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 24/2/2023)