September, 11th-15th, 2023

The Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) held the first Synodal Formation in Asia which took place at the Mahatai Convention Center (Redemptoris), Pattaya, Thailand, from 11 to 15 September 2023. The Synodal Formation in Asia involved the FABC Office for the Laity; Office for Consecutive Life; Office for Seminary Formation and Office for Theological Concern. Present at the meeting were representatives of lay people from a number of countries, representatives of priests, permanent deacons, formators in seminaries, formators in religious formation houses; experts in the field of theology. The participants came from various countries, namely Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Macau, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. This meeting took place in a family spirit and in a synodal atmosphere itself. Frei Joel Casimiro Pinto, OFM, as a non-bishop member of synod in 2023 and representative of Bishops of Conferencia Episcopal Timorense (CET) took part in this Synodal Formation.


Day 1: September 12th, 2023.

On the first day of the meeting, morning session, the participants were presented with a presentation about the survey regarding the implementation of the spirit of the Synodal Church in each Dioceses. The survey was conducted in 12 countries, specifically in 125 dioceses. From this survey, it was concluded that the spirit of the Synodal Church desired by Pope Francis, namely that the entire Church is invited to walk together, has not been realized in the dioceses.

The survey was intended to look at the concretization of the Church’s synodality. Prof. Pablito A. Baybado Jr (Philipine) presented on “The new way of being Church is synodality”. To discern the unique Asian understanding, nature, and approaches of synodal formation based on the Bangkok Document from the FABC 50 General Assemble Conference and the Final Document of the Asian Continental Assembly on Synodality (ACAS), and other relevant documents.  He said: “Best Practices on Synodal Formation is to learn from the Dioceses regarding their experiences and best practices on synodality through survey”. With this survey the Church of Asia will think about a new way of being church in its context; accentuate in three aspects such as dialogue, discernment and decision-making. To achieve this, the Church of Asia needs a Synodal Formation in Asia.

In the session after break time, Fr. Clarence Devadas (Malaysia) invited all participants to re-read the Asian Continental Assembly Document on the Synodal Church. He underlined again that synodality is the practice of “journeying together”, listening, praying, adapting to new situations, and moving forward as one. The Church in Asia can only bring the LIBERATING, EMPOWERING, and REVITALISING Good News of Jesus Christ if she learns to witness this love and to lay down her gifts as the Magi did before God, who became a child, one of us, in Jesus Christ (cf. BD &165).

The FABC 50 Assembly Document and Asian Continental Assembly (ACAS) gatherings envisaged the “type of Church” that Asians aspire, hope and pray for. There is a deep love for the church together with a sense of sadness, vulnerability, and woundedness (cf. ACAS &50).

The experience of “walking together” has brought about a greater awareness of the unique contexts and rich cultures across Asia (cf. ACAS &57). The experience also has brought about a greater realization of the vulnerabilities, wounds, and abuses that the churches in Asia need healing. (cf. ACAS # 63). Wounds, Vulnerabilities, and Abuses (cf. ACAS &63 – 72).

From the observation, appeared that still lack of sufficient involvement of women; lack of understanding and failure in providing pastoral care to some groups; absence of youth in decision making; and the last, the aspirations and voices of the indigenous peoples.

The document says something about Asian Tensions

  1. The challenge to become more synodal is often hindered by leadership styles (ACAS #86-88)
  2. Decision making often left to bishops and priests (cf. ACAS #90-92)
  3. Scandals caused by clergy has direct impact on the lack of vocations (cf. ACAS #93-94)
  4. Women in leadership roles are not welcome due to cultural mindset (cf. ACAS #95-97)
  5. Youth: Faith formation, accompaniment, leadership and decision-making roles (cf. ACAS #98-102)
  6. The many faces of the poor are often neglected and do not find a place in the church (cf. ACAS #103-108).
  7. Clericalism and the abuse of power (cf. ACAS #112-115).

The “Asian Tensions” remind us of what synodal formation should help overcome. The ACAS identifies 6 priorities that reflect the desires of Asian hearts.

  1. Families & Basic Eclesial Communities (BECs), Seminarians, priests, bishops, consecrated men & women, laity…culture of synodality (leadership styles, communal discernment, synodal spirituality).
  2. INCLUSIVITY & HOSPITALITY. To create a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging in the Church and each becomes an ambassador of Christ.
  3. MISSIONARY DISCIPLES. Learning to prophetically witness and “whisper” the Gospel to one e another (personal encounters, experiences, dialogue, etc.)
  4. ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY. Financial matters, decision-making, governance, collaboration & co-responsibility.
  5. PRAYER & WORSHIP. Touching the hearts of the Asian people (participatory, inculturated, relatable, and convivial).
  6. A Church that heals, respects, protects, defends, and nurtures God’s creation. The breadth and depth of the Asian realities present us with diverse realities that we have to take cognisance. (BD #30-65).

Fr. Enrico Aiyo (from Philipine) started his presentation on Synodal Formation in the Light of the Instrumentum Laboris. He put forward some fundamental questions:

  • How does this ‘journeying together’, which takes place today on different levels, allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to Her?
  • What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?

According to Instrumentum Laboris (IL), Becoming Synodal is becoming disciples on the way”. This walking together or on the way tells the Church of Asian should sincere and respectful encounter between brothers and sisters in the faith; that catholicity of the Church: wealth of charism and ecclesial vocations, diverse langugages, cultures, liturgical expressions and theological traditions.

Synodality also means share questions and synodality experienced and understood differently based on a common inheritance of the Apostolic Tradition.

Beside that, there are also some challenges:

  • discern the level at which it is most appropriate to address each question
  • shared tensions that require synodal discernment.


LOCAL CHURCH AS REFERENCE. Theological place where the Baptized experience “walking together” in practical terms – incarnational, contextual, missional

HOLY SPIRIT AS PROTAGONIS. Who blows where He wills (John 3:8), guides us into the whole Truth (Jn 16:12-15), who intercedes with inexpressible groanings (Rom 8:26), with whom there is freedom (2Cor 3:17).

SYNODALITY AS ESCHATOLOGICAL. The journey will be fulfilled on the last day: to participate in the liturgy of praise that rises from all creatures to the Father, through Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

After the presentation of Fr. Enrico, the synodal formation participants turned again to group sharing and hearing each experience from each member of the group.

Day 2, September 13, 2023,

The second day started with mass presided by Archbishop of Taiwan, Mgr. John Baptista…,The morning session was an introduction by Dr. Estela Padilla (Philipine) with it theme “Took off your shoes” as a sign of walking together as one Church, one people of Asia. Dr. Padilla’s presentation brought the participants to go beyond their daily life’s experiences.

After break time, Dr. Christina Kheng (member of Synodal process methodology team), presented the characteristics of Asian which is very rich with its diversities of cultures, religions and poverty aspects. Asia has its own epistemology that is different from western epistemology. The question that Dr. Kheng put into consideration is “Do Asians “know” something through a unique way?”

She brought the participants to analise that Asians are said to have: A holistic and “inner” way of knowing that senses the depth and breadth of something beyond the surface. Multi-sensory: Knowing and learning something through the body, heart, spirit; not just intellect.

Mrs. Christina Kheng underlined that The KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes): “formation for the spirituality of communion and the practices of listening, dialogue and communal discernment; its relevance for the ecumenical journey and for prophetic diakonia (service) in building a social ethos based on fraternity, solidarity and inclusion.” International Theological Comission on (Synodality):

  • Community life, solidarity, mutual respect, unity in diversity
  • Inclusiveness: attention to marginalized, poor, ethnic minorities, youth, women, LGBTQ+, differently-abled, etc
  • Working together: Collaboration, communication, networking
  • Peace-building and reconciliation
  • Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue

In the afternoon session, with “empty chair” method’s reflection, Mrs. Kheng still invited all the participant to reflect on those who are forgotten in the society and in the Church.

Day 3, September 14th, 2023.

In the morning session, Fr. Inna (India), Executive Secretary for Priest Formation, started the day with a very fundamental reflection on the mission of the Church that is inspired by the Universal Mission (cf. Mt 18,19-20) of the Lord.

After that reflection, the participants (all) are divided into groups to discuss about the possibility of living spirit of Synodality in the context of family, education/academy, youth, seminary, consecrated life, on-going formation, youth and others. This discussion was reported and collected to be prepared as a new document that will help us to live synodal formation in every conferences and in each Dioceses.

This event was closed with mass celebration presided by bishop Garcia from Philipine.

(Fr. Joel Casimiro Pinto, OFM. Red-)

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