Here is the text of the greeting given today by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay & president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, when Pope Francis met with the bishops at the Haemi Shrine.
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Most Holy Father,
At this moment, our minds and hearts go back to that historic occasion forty four years ago when the Bishops of Asia met together in Manila on the occasion of Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to the Philippines in 1970. It was the first time that so many Bishops from Asia – around 180 were present – came together to exchange experiences and to deliberate jointly on pastoral issues facing this vast continent rich in its diversity. Thrilled by this experience, the Founding Fathers established the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) with the blessings of Pope Paul VI. FABC today has 19 member conferences comprising 27 countries, and 9 associate members besides: Churches which do not yet have Episcopal Conferences.
Asia is a continent experiencing the hopes and joys of a constant rebirth in the Spirit. Sixty percent of the world’s population lives in Asia. It is a young continent with a majority of the population young. Hence in many ways Asia is a very central for the future of the world and for the future of the Church. Globalization has impacted Asia and this has brought new challenges to the Church: Asian people are religious by nature, yet a spirit of secularism and materialism is creeping in. Family ties once considered so important and so deeply rooted in Asian society are slowly being eroded.
Again, while the Asian soul treats life as sacred, there are rising threats to life that are disturbing in many ways. The Asian seeks and enjoys community. Now this too is being impacted upon with a strong sense of individualism.
We are in this beautiful land of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions. During this week 124 more martyrs are being beatified. It is the blood of these holy martyrs that has been the seed for the growth of the Church here. The Asian Youth Day has shown how vibrant and enthusiastic the Korean youth are. Korea is a land where the laity has played a special role in Evangelization and this becomes a model for many of our Churches. We wish to be touched by the infectious passion of the Korean Church as we go back to our dioceses.
Most Holy Father we thank you for this visit to Korea, your first to Asia. You have brought the person of Jesus to us by your Message. You have inspired us by your example. We thank you for your leadership and we pray for the continuous assistance of the Spirit to you and God’s protection on your Petrine ministry. While we ask you to bless and pray for us, we commit ourselves to make the person of Jesus and His Message continuously more known, more understood, more loved and more followed. This we will do by our word, by our lives and by our work. Bless the Church in Asia, bless us the leaders of the Church. May Mary the Star of New Evangelization, our Mother and the Mother of Asia continue to guide, protect and intercede for us.