The FABC-Office of Theological Concerns is a bit different from the other offices and was originally simply a Theological Advisory Commission (TAC).
The FABC-Office of Theological Concerns is a bit different from the other offices and was originally simply a Theological Advisory Commission (TAC). The office has a team of theologians – one from each of the member bishops’ conferences of the FABC, but two from India and the Philippines. These theologians are nominated by the respective bishops’ conferences for a five-year term, once renewable.
The team meets once a year for a full week, usually to work on a document, a topic requested by the FABC Central Committee, or one chosen with the latter’s approval. The results of the deliberations are published as FABC Papers which, it is hoped, will stimulate further discussion and reflection on the local level.
In addition to the annual meetings, the Office conducted one wider Theological Colloquium in 1994, and has run a “Bishops’ Institute for Theological Animation” (BITA) in 1997 and another in 1999. A second theological colloquium is currently being planned.
- The objectives of the office are:
- In line with what is laid down in Ad Gentes # 22, to undertake and foster Asian theological reflection on issues and questions which are of special relevance to the Church and the local Churches in the FABC.
- To assist the FABC, its administrative boards, assemblies, institutes and colloquies, for the thinking, policy-making, missionary and pastoral action of the episcopal conferences and bishops in Asia.
- To bring relevant contemporary work to the theological reflection of FABC and its agencies, and to help mediate theological thought in Asia to the “wider Church.”
- The objectives of the office are:
BITA – III [BISHOPS’ INSTITUTE OF THEOLOGICAL ANIMATION]
The Office of Theological Concerns [OTC] of the FABC recently conducted its third Bishops’ Institute of Theological Animation [BITA]. It was entitled “Inter-Faith Marriages in the Pluralistic Contexts of Asia”. It was held at Bishop Lei International House in Hong Kong from 9th to 11th May 2006, and 23 Asian bishops from the different member Episcopal Conferences of the FABC participated.
The fact that BITA-III was held in Hong Kong, was in a sense symbolic, because as His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong, mentioned in his inaugural address, in Hong Kong, there is a peaceful co-existence of most of the principal religions of Asia.
The participants evinced a lively interest on the various aspects of inter-faith marriages. It was pointed out that not only in Asia, but elsewhere too, today, inter-faith marriages are fast becoming a fairly common phenomenon, and as such, the Church needs to gear herself up for a proper and adequate response, especially, a pastoral response to the needs of the persons concerned.Each day of this animation had a special focus:
May 9, 2006: Creating an awareness of the issue in question. May 10, 2006: Confronting the self-understanding of the different faith traditions regarding marriage in general, and inter-faith marriages in particular. May 11, 2006: The Pastoral Response of the Catholic Church in this regardEach day, the dynamics of the program involved the interplay of three moments:
- In-puts by resource persons
- A general interaction by the assembly
- Group Discussions
– “Inter-faith Marriages in Pluralistic Societies” [Bishop Francisco Claver, SJ]
– “The Challenges of Inter-Faith Marriages” [Fr.Soosai Arokiasamy, SJ]
– “The Self-Understandings of some Asian Religions regarding Marriage in general, and specifically, Inter-faith Marriages” [A group of Panelists]
The panelists consisted of:
– Professor C.B.Luen, Vice President of the Confucian Academy of Hong Kong
– Venerable Jing Yin, from the Centre of Buddhist Studies, Hong Kong
– Mr.Abdul Muhaemin Karim of the Islamic Union of Hong Kong
– “Inter-faith Marriages in the Catholic Tradition” [Fr.VimalTirimanna, CSsR]
– “The Pastoral Response to the Challenges of Inter-faith Marriages”
[ Fr.Clarence Devadass]The following were the more poignant general orientations that emerged from this BITA-III:
- Admittedly, the Inter-faith Marriage is not the optimum situation, but it is a reality in a pluralistic context of Asia, and as such, needs to be responded with love and compassion.
- What is called for is an attitude of loyalty to one’s own faith and respect for the faith of the other; hence, neither syncretism nor fundamentalism.
- While respecting the dictates of canon law, we need to articulate a pastoral praxis which responds to the concrete challenges posed by Inter-faith Marriages.
- We should not miss the cultural locus of faith and Inter-faith Marriages. This should enter into the pastoral approaches to such marriages. In this sense, it is important not to forget the human wholeness, as such.
- Freedom to practice one’s own religion:
– the ways of practice of each one’s religion can come into conflict or can be overcome in some cases.
– The most difficult element becomes the faith of the children; this needs serious reflection before marriage.
[In the area of freedom to practice one’s religion, Marriages between Catholics and Muslims becomes quite problematic, and hence needs more consideration]
- There is the need to accompany the couple with compassion and realism, before, during and after Inter-faith Marriages, mobilizing different ministries of the local Church in this regard.
- The importance of keeping in mind that for the most part, an Inter-faith Marriage in Asia, concerns not merely two individuals, but two families, villages, clans, tribes,…etc. Hence, the local Church should extend support to all those affected by this event. To meet this need, formation of all the different sectors of the local Church towards this ministry of accompanying those involved in Inter-faith Marriages, is vitally important.
Fr. Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR Hong Kong,
15th May 2006