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Lay People in the Asian Church

A Critical Study of the Theology of the Laity in the Documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences with Special Reference to John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation «Ecclesia in Asia» and the Pastoral Letters of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conf

Peter Nguyen Van Hai

This book investigates the role of the laity in the Asian Church. Lay people have three responsibilities: proclaiming the Gospel, be a witness of life, and the triple dialogue with the cultures, the religions, and the poor. Focusing on the triple dialogue, the bishops of Asia have offered fresh ideas to address three global trends in society: the revolution in communications technologies which blurs the cultures; the conflicts between followers of different religions; and the advance of globalisation which leaves in its aftermath the poverty of the masses.
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Chapter 6 Models of the Asian Church

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Like Vatican II, which was largely a Council of the universal church, for the church, and about the church, the statements of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) are in the main documents of a local church for and about the Church in Asia. Indeed, since their first meeting in 1970, the Catholic bishops of Asia have issued numerous statements addressing various aspects of the Asian Church. In 1982 they devoted the entire Third Plenary Assembly to reflect on the theme of “The Church – A Community of Faith in Asia.”1 However, consistent with their predominantly missionary and pastoral orientation, they did not develop a systematic ecclesiology. Their ecclesiological interpretations were generally crafted to address the specific challenges facing the churches in Asia. In the first section of this chapter, which begins with an overview of the statement of the Third Plenary Assembly, we will trace the development of the FABC’s ecclesiology highlighting its basic continuity and gradual progression. We will then proceed with an investigation into the theological basis and features of this theology of the church, and conclude with a preliminary assessment of its strengths and limitations.

Development of the FABC’s Ecclesiology

The statement of the Third Plenary Assembly comprises the main text, which consists of five parts, the “Resolutions of the Assembly,” and the “Syllabus of Concerns.” It focuses on the church “as a community realizing its communion and mission in its own being and life, and in relation to...

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