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Asian bishops postpone general conference due to Covid-19

No new date fixed for annual gathering as the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences marks 50th anniversary

Asian bishops postpone general conference due to Covid-19

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Assumption Cathedral in Bangkok on Nov. 22, 2019. (Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has postponed its general conference slated for November due to uncertainty over the Covid-19 situation.

The conference was due to be held in Baan Phu Waan, Thailand, from Nov. 3-20. No new date has yet been decided.

The federation’s central committee and offices meetings scheduled for June have also been postponed.

“Despite the fact that most of the countries of the member conferences are under lockdown, they feel a great sense of bonding during this dark moment in the history of the modern world,” FABC leaders said in a letter.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, president of the FABC, and Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, the convenor of the general conference this year, signed the letter.

“It is in moments like these that we experience a greater dependence of God and our faith is strengthened. All of us will rise out of this crisis with a deeper sense of religiosity,” the prelates said.

Cardinals Bo and Gracias said they held FABC planning and regional meetings via video conferencing due to the constraints on travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the moment the situation is volatile, and we do not know what the morrow will bring,” they said.

But the leaders expressed hope that “they may be able to project when things could limp back to normal and then be able to take a definite decision.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the FABC, which was established in 1970 with the approval of the Holy See as a federation of 19 bishops’ conferences and eight associate members from South, Southeast, East and Central Asia.

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It aims to foster solidarity and co-responsibility among members for the welfare of the Church and the peoples of Asia.

During Pope Francis’ meeting with Asian bishops on his visit to Thailand last November, the pontiff said marking the 50th anniversary of the FABC in 2020 would be “a fitting occasion to revisit those shrines where the missionary roots that left their mark on these lands are preserved.”

The pope said the bishops should be ready to welcome “a future that you yourselves must help develop and create."

“In this way, both the Church and society in Asia will benefit from a renewed and shared evangelical outreach,” he told the gathering.

Cardinal Bo, who became FABC president on Jan. 1, 2019, has prioritized peace, justice, reconciliation and indigenous rights in planning for the Asian Church.

The 72-year-old cardinal said there was a need for the Church in Asia “to pursue peace through dialogue on tackling poverty, protecting cultures and promoting inter-religious harmony.”

In early April, Cardinl Bo strongly condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s negligence and repression as poor countries were suffering from the coronavirus.

“The Chinese regime led by the all-powerful Xi Jinping and the CCP — not its people — owes us all an apology and compensation for the destruction it has caused,” he said.

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