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River Above Asia and Oceania Ecclesial Network

To be synodal: Ecclesial networking for integral ecology is a space for listening, discerning, and acting

Pedro Walpole SJ, Network Coordinator

Representatives of the River above Asia and Oceania Ecclesial Network (RAOEN) joined the meeting of the Ecclesial Networks Alliance (ENA) for Integral Ecology from 2 to 4 July, part of the over 40 representatives from different territories around the world who gathered at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD) in Rome, Italy.

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong, Archdiocese of Suva

The RAOEN delegation consisted of Anthony Cardinal Poola of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad in India, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong of the Archdiocese of Suva in Fiji, Dr Leonaitasi Hoponoa from the Kingdom of Tonga, and Pedro Walpole SJ from the Philippines and RAOEN Coordinator. Alwin Macalalad, the Regional Coordinator for Oceania and Central Asia of the Dicastery accompanied the delegation.

The group sought to reflect on ENA’s identity, mission, and vocation, and brought together the diverse voices from the different territories. The gathering also gave witness to the shared realities across the territories, listening to the cry of the land and cry of the oceans. These voices enliven the local and universal Church and draw from the immense diversity of cultures and long histories of the people. The effort is to seek action for greater justice as urgent environmental challenges impact the lives and livelihoods of marginal peoples.

1. Listening to voices of pain and vulnerability in local reality – The ecclesial networks from the different territories draw from deep within the local churches their experiences and seek to accompany people and their faith in daily life. They listen and carry the cries and concerns of local voices and hold their integrity, culture, identity, and ways, as crucial to change and genuine human development.

2. Reflection – The network is faith-based and journeys to share in the light of God in the various realities as it engages with the margins of a given area. It engages in theological and pastoral reflection, particularly the silent presence of Christ amongst vulnerable people.

3. Action – The alliance is a basis for common action of the different networks. It reaches out and finds practical response to different contexts and shared realities of the different territories, such as social justice issues, clericalism, climate change, among others.

Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the DPIHD, listened to the testimonies and joined the discernment on how voices from the territory can be better given a space in the life of the Universal Church such as in the forthcoming Synod of Bishops in October.

There was also a panel discussion on the recent statement by the Holy See repudiating the ‘doctrine of discovery’ and colonization, with many responses from a diversity of indigenous voices.

Having shared community voices from the Oceania and Asia biome, the RAOEN delegates also reflected on the ENA as a space for moving forward. RAOEN hopes to continue listening and learning from community contexts in Oceania and Asia, strengthening its linkages with the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, and better communicate territorial voices through the ENA Communication Commission.

Sometimes my fear is we may remain in theory level. What I look (for) is some practical suggestions, especially of working together: Working together, listening to one another, and having a heart of compassion. So, we want and we dream that our parish houses, presbytery, and community places be the house of compassion for the needy and vulnerable sections of society.” Anthony Cardinal Poola, Archdiocese of Hyderabad

A brief video of the ENA meeting, produced by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, can be accessed here.

Related story: Ecclesial Networks for integral ecology meet in Rome

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