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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 7 Church as Context for Lay Mission in Asia


In the years since the Second Vatican Council, especially after the promulgation in 1972 of Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam,1 inviting episcopal conferences to request the establishment of new ministries from the Holy See, lay apostolic activity has flourished in the Church.2 National conferences of bishops have also issued numerous statements in support of lay ministries.3 In Asia, at the “Asian Colloquium on Ministries in the Church” in 1977 the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences listed more than forty types of lay ministries and predicted that more ministries would emerge in response to the needs of particular communities. Nine years later, in 1986, the Catholic bishops of Asia devoted an entire Fourth Plenary Assembly to examine the question of the vocation and mission of lay people in the Church and in the world of Asia.4 For the Asian bishops, lay people qua Asian Christians are as integral to the Church as the clergy. Hence, the source of their vision for lay responsibility can be found in their understanding of the life, nature, and purpose of the Church.5 Indeed, their theology of the laity ← 155 | 156 → reflected a particular ecclesiology that had been discussed in detail at the Third Plenary Assembly in 1982, under the theme of “The Church – A Community of Faith in Asia.”6 This chapter will first review the development of the FABC’s ecclesiology and its theology of the laity. It will then conclude with a comparative summary of these two theologies under the...

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