A file image of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo during a meeting of the advisory forum on national reconciliation and peace in Myanmar in capital Naypyidaw on Nov. 21, 2018. (Photo by Thet Aung/AFP)
Myanmar's Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, incoming president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), has prioritised peace, justice, reconciliation and indigenous rights in planning for the Asian church.
Cardinal Bo's roadmap for advancing the church in the region includes a focus on social development and pastoral care.
Not least is promotion of Pope St. John Paul's exhortation for the Asian church to reap a "great harvest of faith" in the vast and vital continent.
The 70-year-old cardinal referred to FABC having an opportunity to answer an historical call.
This should embrace Pope Francis' plea to overcome economic and environmental injustices.
Further, Cardinal Bo stressed the importance, as recognised by the pope, of re-engaging with the indigenous church and affirming the rights of indigenous people to resources and traditional ways of life.
At the same time, there was a need for the church in Asia to pursue peace through dialogue on tackling poverty, protecting cultures and promoting inter-religious harmony.
"Our work with the poor and their dignity needs to be the turf where we meet other religions," Cardinal Bo said in a Christmas message.
Reconciliation had to be prioritized as part of a 'new evangelization' in Asia, not least amid areas of chronic violent conflict.
The church should not repay hatred with hatred, but be a healer of wounds, the cardinal said.
He acknowledged that there remains many challenges for the church in Asia outside of the priorities he outlined.
Cardinal Bo was elected president of the regional grouping at the FABC's Central Committee meeting in Bangkok Nov.16 and assumed the office Jan. 1.
Cardinal Bo succeeds Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay who Dec. 11 completed two terms as FABC president.
Cardinal Bo is known as a staunch campaigner for reconciliation in Myanmar's ongoing ethnic conflicts.
FABC was established in 1972 with approval of the Holy See as a federation of 19 bishops' conferences and eight associate members from South, Southeast, East and Central Asia.
It aims to foster solidarity and co-responsibility among members for the welfare of the church and peoples of Asia.