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Vatican consistory scuppers Asian bishops' meeting

"The thoughtlessness of the decision ... is a blatant example of the carelessness of Vatican officials toward Asian religious leaders," said a source close to the FABC. Note: this is an edited extract from a longer article.

  • Thomas C. Fox
  • International
  • November 1, 2012
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A gathering of about 100 Asian bishops originally scheduled for November had to be rescheduled after the Vatican announced Oct. 24 it would hold a consistory to create six new cardinals.

After two years of planning, the 10th plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences was set to be held in Vietnam Nov. 16-25 to celebrate 40 years of Asian episcopal pastoral work. However, it came into conflict with the announced Nov. 24 consistory at the Vatican.

Protocol requires the Asian cardinals and other prominent Asian bishops attend the consistory. One of the newly named cardinals, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, heads the archdiocese of Manila, the Philippines.

The unexpected Vatican announcement forced Vietnamese bishops and FABC officials to find alternative dates, causing the bishops to rearrange their calendars and reschedule flights in and out of Vietnam. After days of uncertainty, including the possibility of canceling the Vietnam gathering altogether, a new set of dates for the assembly was agreed upon: Dec. 10-16 in its original location, the grounds of a seminary 50 miles west of Ho Chi Minh City.

"I have no idea as to whether the Holy See was aware of our plenary," Scarboro Foreign Mission Society Fr. Raymond L. O'Toole, FABC assistant secretary general, wrote in an email. "A few weeks before the announcement of the consistory the Holy See did appoint a papal envoy for the Nov. 16-25, 2012, FABC plenary."

"We had to make sudden adjustments because all the Asian cardinals will have to attend the consistory," he wrote. Those include the FABC secretary general, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Gaudencio Borbon Rosales, papal envoy and archbishop emeritus of Manila; and Cardinal Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City….

....The announcement of the consistory caused considerable consternation in Vietnam and elsewhere, according to the source familiar with FABC operations in Hong Kong, where the administrative offices of the organization are based. The source asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of his position….

…."Many FABC bishops and cardinals were shocked and dismayed at the timing by the Vatican," the source said. "The thoughtlessness of the decision ... is a blatant example of the carelessness of Vatican officials toward Asian religious leaders."

Once the initial gathering was scratched, it took "days of scrambling" to find a new date acceptable to the wide cast of Asian bishops. The Vietnamese bishops, the source said, quickly needed a new date to offer the Hanoi government. The FABC staff, meanwhile, felt it necessary to survey the Asian bishops before fixing a new date.

"Finally, the Vietnamese demanded a decision be made or the conference be terminated in Vietnam," the source said. "The Dec. 10-16 dates were settled despite the fact that not all FABC episcopal members will now be able to attend since it is so close to Christmas."

Full Story: Vatican consistory upends meeting of Asian bishops

Source: National Catholic Reporter
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