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Intervention of Rev. Raymond Leslie O'TOOLE, Assistant Secretary General, "Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences" (F.A.B.C.) (HONG KONG), auditor

The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences comprises regions that include East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. The Middle East is sometimes referred to as West Asia as it is in the Introduction of Pope John Paul II’s Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia. “Because Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again in the Holy Land that small portion of Western Asia became a land of promise and hope for all mankind”
I would like to address number 55-56 of the Intrumentum Laboris which refers to some responses from the Lineamenta. These responses suggest periodically calling (perhaps every five years) an assembly of the entire episcopate of the Middle East. In the Relatio ante Disceptationem this is worded “Hopefully a regional assembly can be established which gathers the episcopate of the Middle East at intervals determined by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East,”
I would like to underline the vital importance of such assemblies of the entire episcopate for purposes of unity and diversity and communio in general
Permit me to give a living example of communio in practice. In India we have three Rites. The Syro-Malankara, Syro-Malabar and Latin Rite. Every two years the three Rites meet in what is called the General Body assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. In the 1990s John Paul II of happy memory created the Episcopal Synods of Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar and the Latin Episcopal Conference. Before that there was only one Episcopal Conference, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. But the late Holy Father, in all wisdom, while creating the 2 new Oriental Synods and the Latin Rite Conference insisted on maintaining the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India as a structure whereby all three rites would meet regularly. An Episcopal Conference which is non-canonical in nature but provides a structure for the Unity of the Episcopate especially because of its diversity. And a forum for discussion of all the pastoral challenges that present themselves.
In Central Asia we have another example of Unity in Diversity and Communio - an assembly of the Episcopate and Ordinaries that includes a Holy See Delegate for the Oriental Catholics of Central Asia. He is a priest Fr. Vasyl Hovera who resides in Karaganda, Kazakhstan but is responsible for the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics in Central Asia. He is part of Conference of Bishops of Kazakhstan and attends all the assemblies of the Bishops and Ordinaries of Central Asia which meets every year. I have attended two of these meetings one in Bishkek I Kyrgyzstan and the other in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
I highlight these two examples of how important it is for the Bishops of all the Rites to meet regularly. I suggest for the Middle East that it become a permanent structure where by the entire episcopate meets every two years and that be a strong recommendation from this Special Synod to the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East.
Finally I would like to say that as a simple secretary for the Asian Bishops, I strongly recommend that our secretariats for the whole of Asia and the Middle East keep in close contact for the purpose of forging closer ties because many of our pastoral challenges as Churches in the Middle East and the whole of Asia are quite similar based on our being small flocks in the midst of countries where other religions are the vast majority. And quite often it is the secretariats that make things happen.

[00185-02.02] [UD026] [Original text: English]


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