Rorate Caeli

More inculturation and liturgical "updating", courtesy of the Asian bishops

The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences is presently holding its 9th Plenary Meeting in Manila (August 11-16, 2009), with seven cardinals (including the representative of the Holy See, Francis Arinze) and around 80 bishops from 22 nations in attendance. The theme of the meeting is "Living the Eucharist in Asia."

In his homily in Manila cathedral during the opening Mass, Cardinal Arinze conveyed the Holy Father's wishes, stating that the Holy Father "rejoices at your choice of theme, and he prays that this Assembly be celebrated with great solemnity and that it brings abundant fruit for the peoples and cultures of the Asian continent. He requests the Bishops in particular to teach Christ’s faithful the importance of participation at the Eucharistic Celebration especially on Sundays and of receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Priests, being ministers of the Eucharist, are to be greatly esteemed and supported and vocations to the priesthood to be promoted especially in the year for Priests."

The Cardinal also outlined the sub-themes of the Plenary Conference, summarizing these as follows:

The transforming power of the Holy Eucharist;
The Eucharist Meal in the Service of Communion;
Rooted in the Eucharist, we meet other believers;
Eucharist and Solidarity;
Eucharist and Evangelization.

The final document should be.... interesting, to say the least.

UCAN has an article on the second day of discussions:

ASIA - Bishops discuss Eucharist's relevance amid war, poverty

MANILA (UCAN) - Asian bishops discussed the prospects and challenges of living the Eucharist in their countries on the second day of meetings at the 9th FABC Plenary Assembly in Manila.

Seventeen bishops' conference heads and two associate members of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) on Aug. 12 discussed the working paper of the Aug. 11-16 assembly, presently taking place at Pius XII Catholic Center.

Titled after the assembly's theme, "Living the Eucharist in Asia," the paper was presented to them the previous afternoon by its author, theologian Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, the Philippines.

A committee has been tasked to draft a final document, incorporating the inputs of participants.

During the discussion session, the Church leaders spoke about the situations in their countries and how the Eucharist was considered the "source and summit" of the life of their Churches.

For Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka, the Eucharist in Bangladesh is a reflection of his people's need for "daily bread" and the Christian belief in sharing wealth with the poor. The average daily wage in Bangladesh is only about US$0.50.

Several bishops stressed the value of inculturated Eucharistic celebrations.

"Attempts must be made to use Asian culture and symbols related to the Eucharist," said Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India. He thinks there are times when too much talking and singing goes on in the liturgy with not enough time for silent reflection.

"The Eucharist is meant to transform Catholics," the Indian bishop said. For healing and reconciliation to take place during Mass, there need to be moments for silent prayer and reflection on the Scriptures, he said. (Amen. There happens to be a certain form of the Mass that promotes silent reflection... -- CAP)

He, also acknowledged the need to address, through the Eucharist, the call for a Church response to poverty and other issues, such as equal rights for women. (??? -- CAP)

He added that the Church "should promote the sanctity of the body, since we are temples of the Holy Spirit, especially the sanctity of the woman's body" which in many cases has been "sold into prostitution and slavery."

Korean Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju suggested providing concrete examples of "living the Eucharist in Asia." If not, the bishop warned, the meeting's final statement could end up as just another Church document read by a few and then forgotten.

He believes Sunday Mass can be more meaningful if small "communities of believers" gather ahead of Mass to read and meditate on Scripture.

He cited the practice of Jewish families who gather on the eve of the Sabbath to prepare for religious ceremonies the next day.

He also suggested the Eucharist could be used for people to reflect on the continuing "arms buildup" in Asia. (??? -- CAP) The Eucharist, he said, is about unity and peace, and noted that nations are increasingly preparing for war.

Sri Lankan Bishop Vianney Fernando of Kandy said people in his country are tired after decades of civil war. They need the Eucharist to help bring about reconciliation, trust and forgiveness, he said. While Catholics remain loyal to the Church, he added, there is a need for them to reach out to other faiths.

He stressed that there is a need to emphasize the "Word of God" because people are hungry for Christ's message.

Bishops from Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar said their people's "hunger" for the Eucharist is difficult to satisfy because of a lack of priests and catechesis. In many places in these countries, where Masses are held irregularly, Catholics celebrate a Liturgy of the Word conducted by catechists or lay ministers.

In Laos and Cambodia there are only about 60 priests to cover vast areas, said Church leaders from these countries.

Catechetical work is also sporadic in Laos because of the Communist regime, they added.

Thai Bishop George Yod Phimphisan of Udon Thani said that participation in Basic Ecclesial Communities has changed Thai Catholics. They now come together to meditate on the Word of God, and then go out and live the Eucharist in their small communities.

He said the use of some Thai and Buddhist symbols also makes the Eucharist more understandable to Thai people, who are mostly Buddhist.

The FABC is a voluntary association of episcopal conferences in Asia, established in the 1970s to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia.

From Uzbekistan, though, comes a small sign of genuine liturgical renewal. In an interview with UCAN, the Apostolic Administrator of that country, Msgr. Jerzy Maculewicz, said that he has started " invite people to pray with the breviary in front of the Blessed Sacrament on weekday evenings. About 10-30 people attend each time."