Archives July 2022

Which Family is ‘Holy’?

By Dr. Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

Following changing the times so many different types of family are changing also. Among them is ‘one family household’ which has become predominant in the urbanized cities in many parts of the world including Asia. For a long time the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has dealt with family as an important pastoral concern clearly seen in the final documents of 6th and 7th plenary assemblies of it along with other issues such as indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees, ecology, youth and women and girl children. I will talk about how the Catholic church in Asia put more emphasis on the ‘Holy Family’ myth in it which needs to be interpreted differently.

The ideology of ‘normal family’ or ‘healthy family’ was projected into the church without much resistance. That seems to have been revealed in the church in the form of changing only clothes under the term ‘Holy Family.’ It can be said that this historically represents the interests of the white middle class in the West. However, what is more problematic is that a family is divided based on ‘the Sacred
and the Profane (Secular)’ above all else. Such dualistic distinction can be said to be a religious feature with deep roots seen in many religions, including Christianity. But the understanding of the Bible, especially the superficial understanding of Jesus’ family, seems to have played a part. In other words, it seems that it has been divided into a ‘normal vs abnormal’ family by focusing on the family of ‘children with parents’ like Jesus with Joseph and Maria as parents.

Illustration of Jesus Family

That has been accepted and used without any problem in the church. In order to be free from criticism of the church and theological realization of the ‘normal family myth’ that the church sees children with parents as normal families, it should be followed based on how Jesus views the family in the Gospel. In fact, the view of Jesus’ family in the Bible is very revolutionary. “Who is my mother and my brothers?” “These are my mother and my brothers. It is my brother, sister and mother who do God’s will.” (Mark, 3:33-35) Here, it can be interpreted as saying that all those who ‘do God’s will’ are not tied to blood.

Regarding the subject of this writing, the place where people working for the “Kingdom of God” gathered can be called family in a broad sense. Meanwhile, “Why did you look for me? Didn’t I know I was supposed to be in my father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) The passage shows that ‘home’ as a physical space is not a family. This can be interpreted complementarily to the family view of the aforementioned Gospel of Mark. To say that Jesus must be in the ‘Father’s house’ can be engraved with the meaning of always being in the Kingdom of God or with God. This means that Jesus is not alone, but God with those who work for the Kingdom, that is, with the new meaning of ‘family’. Or, in the sense of being together in the kingdom of God, the two can be connected to understand each other complementary to each other.

Just as Asian societies, including Korea, have to break free from the myth of a ‘normal’ family, the church needs to break free from the concept of ‘Holy Family’ brought up as a custom. This can start by reinterpreting the concept of the holy family. The concept has clear limited and distort image of what it means to be ‘holy’. It is as if only a family that has both parents who are believers, and has been in a safe and comfortable situation, is called a ‘holy family.’ If then there are very few families that belong to this category. From a sociological rather than theological point of view of Jesus’ family, his mother was a ‘single mother’ and his father was a stepfather. Even worse, Jesus himself got killed young which is to be called ‘holy’? From this Jesus’ family type would have been viewed as a so-called
‘problematic family’? Nevertheless, Jesus’ family is the holy one because it was gathered around Jesus-Christ, Jesus-Spirit and Jesus-God. If we gather around Jesus’ love and mercy, hope and commitment to his mission, we can say that any type of family is a holy one

Synodality in Our Daily Life

By: Sunita Hammed

I’m writing this article with great pleasure and also Thank you for this opportunity.  I am thankful to ALL Forum who encourage me to write this article.  “Synodality as a concept really just means collegiality.  The theme of the Synod is Communion, Participation, Mission.

Fundamentally, synodality is about journeying together. This happens through listening to one another in order to hear what God is saying to all of us. It is realizing that the Holy Spirit can speak through anyone to help us walk forward together on our journey as the People of God.

Synodality is not a model, according to which the Church could be organized; it is the expression of the Church’s existence and mission grounded in the mystery of the divine life. Synodality is a way of life for every one and through it we can listen to each other and can-do dialogue in a better way. Few values of the synodality we can adapt in our daily life are as follow:

Synodality – Images:

Synodal virtues: faith, hope, love

Faith: When our relationships express our faith, we will be committed to each other on the journey, no matter how long or what difficulties may occur. This is because our faith is not just faith in one another and in the sacramental structures of the Church, but it is faith in God who is present and guides everyone who is a member of the community of faith. Faith is the courage to persevere, keeping our minds, hearts and wills always focused on and open to God.

Hope: This is one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit. It fills us with creativity and opens new possibilities. Hope always allows us to begin again. It is not afraid of failure but, because it is always open to the future, which is God’s gift, it has the power to learn from failure and to grow in understanding.

Love: Love, as St Paul reminds us, is the greatest of the Spirit’s gifts because God is Love (1 Cor 13). When we are loved, we experience consolation and, when we love, we are ministers of Christ, the Consoler. This love has the power to overcome all hatred.

They are not only the paths of synodality, they are the paths of Christian life and mission.  Synodality is an essential need of the time for our life, Church and society. May God bless us to move forward in synodality and peace.

Woori Theology Institute (WTI) Conducted a Monthly Online Seminar on June 2022

Woori Theology Institute (WTI) conducted a monthly online seminar on “Peace on the Korean Peninsula beyond Discrimination and Exclusion” in Seoul on June 28, 2022. The speaker working for the Committee for Reconciliation of Korean People in Masan Diocese in the local Church, focused on how to achieve reconciliation and peace between the two Korean groups, how to heal the deep wounds caused by war and division, and furthermore, how to cultivate a spirituality of peace that goes beyond discrimination and exclusion in Korean society. It is no exaggeration to say that the deepest wounds in current Korean society system from the forced division of the countries and confrontation between them.

Due to war and division, the South and the North Koreans have expressed feelings of hate and exclusion that are close to a curse between the peoples. In fact, deep-rooted feuds between peoples of the same ethnic group underlie all the feelings of ‘hate and exclusion’ that surround Koreans. Also, within South Korean society, many people were sacrificed and had to walk the path of hardship due to the so-called ‘red gang’. The authoritative regimes for some 70 years after the war have used and maximized the ‘redneck or spy device’ against ordinary people especially in South Korea which killed all the political opponents until today. Now with the increasing number of North Korean defectors, the question of how to well embrace them is emerging.

Two days later, a Symposium was held in Seoul on June 30, 2022 by the Woori Theology Institute (WTI) and the Korea Catholic Culture Research Institute. Themed “The Korean Catholic Church in the Post-Covid19 Era”, the joint conference was firstly conducted offline since the deadly infected disease has spread all over the world in 2020. There were three presentations with the themes of “Reflection on Korean Religions and the Korean Catholic Church during the Covid19 Pandemic”; “Post-Covid19 Era, the Path of the Catholic Church in Korea”; “Theological Reflection on the Covid19 Pandemic” each. The three talks with different approach from religious studies, pastoral angle and theological reflection respectively had 6 commentators including two from Italy and the US. Dr. Paul Hwang who is senior researcher of WTI and the director of ALL Forum joined as moderator and commentator in the seminar and the symposium respectively.

ALL Forum Online Course on Synodality for Maktaba-e-Anaveem Pakistan (MAP)

Starting in the month of June, ALL Forum organised online course on Synodality for 32 participants from Maktaba-e-Anaveem Pakistan (MAP). This online course is currently ongoing and has completed all of its 4 sessions. During this course we have been mainly discussing on Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church (SLMC) the document released by the Pontifical International Theological Commission in 2018.

During the first 2 weeks we have discussed chapter 1 to 4 of the SLMC document, covering Meaning of Synodality; Synodality in the Bible and early church; Vatican II and Synodality; Theological basis of Synodality; Implementing Synodality; People of God and Synodality; Synodality on All Levels; Synodal Renewal of the Church; Spirituality and Communal Discernment. In the 3rd week we engaged in learning about “Synodality in Amazon synod and Thereafter” understanding the Preparation of Amazon Synod and Its “Working Document”(Instrumentum Laboris); Final Document and Its Significance; Opposition to the Synod: Vatican’s Response to the Synod: Foundation of ECA, Ecclesial Conference of Amazon.

During the 4th week we observed the “Possible Cases Synodal Churches in the World” diving deeper in understanding the Cases of Infanta and PCP II in Philippines & CCRI in India; Chilean Church and Peoples’ Synod; Sex Scandals and Peoples Synod in the US; Women driven Synod “Root & Branch” in the UK; Synodal Path in Germany; Synodality as a Way of Church Reform. We will also be having a 5th week session which be dedicated mainly for discussion so that we reach a better understanding of Synodality. Until now the recording of the sessions are available on our Youtube channel. Please be subscribed to it so that you will receive updates as and when new content is available.

Theology and Society: Development of Liberation Theology

By Rowena Robinson

If a ‘this-worldly’ discipline like sociology finds it hard to agree on its role in the public sphere — for Burawoy and his supporters have many dissenters — how much more difficult must it before an ‘other-worldly’ subject like theology to come to terms with its relationship with politics or social life? The Jesuit sociologist, Heredia 1) shows that, with the advent of modernity in particular, the Church had to contend with what its response should be to the ‘social’ question. Modernity obligated the Church to rethink the relationship between theology and the social world (faith and justice).

According to him, the first response of Catholic and Protestant Churches took the form of ‘liberal theology’ which came to be represented respectively by the efforts of the Second Vatican Council and the World Council of Churches (WCC). Liberal theology was not radical political theology and it frnctioned very much within the framework of capitalism and the welfare state. Certain forms of a ‘social gospel’ also permeated the Protestant and Catholic Churches from the early times and this response was considered inadequate by Christians in the developing world, for whom it appeared clear that any tackling of the ‘social’ issue would have to deal with the structural roots of social injustice and inequality. In particular, for those influenced by Marxist ideas, development was perceived to be a problem requiring an analysis of the class structures of society.

This became the basis for ‘liberation theology’ and it is certainly critical for us to understand the form this theologizing took as well as its relationship with what we are dealing with — public theology. Liberation theology developed first in Latin America. If liberal theology essentially focused on individual freedom, liberation theology was rooted in Marxist social analysis.7) For one of the most prominent voices within liberation theology, it is possible to distinguish three levels of liberation,

Christ the Savior liberates man from sin, which is the ultimate root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression. Christ makes man truly free, that is to say, he enables man to live in communion with him; and this is the basis for all human brotherhood” 3)

For, it is not possible to direct oneself only to purging one’s own sinfulness or renewing one’s relationship to God without attending to one’s relationship with other human beings.’ In this, the struggle for social justice is crucial. For the Christian, solidarity with the poor is essential; otherwise there can be no liberation for all. At the same time, this is not an anti-rich; stance; for the rich too are considered to be ‘alienated’ from their true humanity due to their hegemonic position as the class of exploiters. For the Christian in liberation theology, therefore, there must not only be an ‘option for the poor’ but ‘action for the poor’ on the basis of the Marxian analytic perspective. As he goes on to say:

The theology of liberation attempts to reflect on the experience and meaning of the faith based on the commitment to abolish injustice and to build a new society; this theology must be verified by the practice of that commitment, by active, effective participation in the struggle which the exploited social classes have undertaken against their oppressors.2)

It is true that after its initiation in Latin America, liberation, theology influenced both Catholic and Protestant Churches, to some extent, particularly in Asia to shift away from a perspective based on ‘charity’ to one which gave centrality to social justice and human rights.

As Heredia 4) points out, in India, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) affirmed the ‘right to development’ and began to call for the empowerment of Dalits and tribals. The Protestant Church of North India (CNI) began to shift from a perspective of social service to one of empowerment through a rights-based approach, while the Church of South India (CSI), which has a predominantly Dalit membership, made from its early constitution onwards a commitment to Dalits, and this began to be expressed from the 1980s onwards in efforts to articulate a Dalit theology.


1) Rudolf, Heredia, “Development as Liberation: An Indian Christian Perspective”, in Gurpreet Mahajan and S Jodhka, (eds.) Rekgion, Community and Development. Changing Contours of Politics and Poly in India, New Delhi:Routledge, 2010.

2) Michael, Burawoy, “Public Sociologies: Contradictions, Dilemmas and possibilities”, in Social Forces 82, 4, (2004): 1603-1618.

3) Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, New York: Orbis Books, (1973): 37.

4) Cf Rudolf, C. Heredia, op. ait.

The Pastoral Challenge for Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)

Rapid Social Change

Asia, like the rest of the world, has been undergoing rapid social change, in particular since political independence (from the 1940s) and the globalising of the economy and communications (rapidly since 1989). New religious movements such as Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) arise, then, as both one-dimensional modernity and stagnant religious practice have lost their ability to provide a source of spiritual meaning (Cox 1995: 300-301). Despite the rapid race to modernise, Asian societies are still seeking a guide to the quest for meaning in science, technology and rationalism (Michael 2004: 410). The rise of new religious movements, such as the Pentecostal-like churches and the more creative, liberational BECs, respond to this quest for meaning, identity, power, dignity and self-esteem.1)

Pakistani anthropologist Akbar S. Ahmed has condensed and codified post-modern culture into four basic elements, namely eclecticism, syncretism, juxtapositions and irony (see Michael, 411). In a fluid, multi-dimensional and transitory world any pursuit or claim to a unique truth is seen as a cover for domination. Religious fundamentalism within the majority religions of Asia is a reaction against the invasive, intrusive and threatening features of (post)-modernity.

Cultures and religions which stress the importance of family, community, traditions and social values find it extremely difficult to cope with high-speed change (Michael, 413). Heredia (2004: 36-37), quoting Sudhir Kakar, suggests that religious fundamentalism holds up a crumbling personality the way scaffolding holds up a collapsing building. Such a personality needs a hierarchical order wherein each one has someone to command and someone to obey. Fundamentalism provides stability, clarity and certainty.

Responding to Rapid Social Change

Mainstream Catholicism has been responding to rapid social change not by distancing itself from social upheaval, nor by withdrawing from the threatening multi-religious and multi-cultural landscape, but by encountering it in faith. In the language of John Paul II, our step-by-step approach is one of cultural respect and religious freedom, rooted in right relationships and informed by an appreciation of history; our basic attitude is cosmic in scope (Ecclesia in Asia, 20).

The pastoral vision of the Asian Churches over the past 40 years has been to foster Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) as ‘a new way of being church’, a genuinely local church, ‘incarnate in a people, a church indigenous and inculturated (—) a church in continuous, humble and loving dialogue with the living traditions, the cultures, the religions — in brief, with all the life-realities of the people in whose midst it has sunk its roots deeply and whose history and life it gladly makes its own.’ (FABC I Taipei 1974) 2)

How are BECs Responding to Felt Needs?

Forty years later questions arise: in this time of rapid social change, are BECs responding to the need of perplexed Catholics for certainty and stability? Are BECs proclaiming the whole gospel in all simplicity without being simplistic? Are they reading the bible critically but without emptying it of its supernatural power? Are BECs acknowledging the world of spirits, shamans and miracles, the felt need for physical and psychological healing, while also responding to the real need for societal and cosmic healing? Are BECs continually encouraging their members to move beyond the personal and familial cares of their own, to live out the social gospel in the wider society?

Are they creatively developing non-authoritarian team-leadership? Are they maximising lay participation, nurturing warm fellowship and proclaiming a gospel of hope and empowerment to the bewildered and the marginalised? Pastoral styles emerging from positive responses to (some of) the above questions would characterise our local churches as living in solidarity with the marginalised, being engaged in inter-faith dialogue, sensitive to cultural change and open to ongoing liturgical creativity.


1) See my presentation tomorrow morning, “Spirituality of Pentecostal Groups.”

2) FABC, ‘Statement of First Assembly, Taipei 1974.’See, Rosales & Arevalo 1992, 12-19. The expression ‘A New Way of Being Church’ is found in FABC documents since the 1990 Bandung General Assembly. Basic Ecclesial Communities are being fostered through the Office for Laity’s Asian Integral Pastoral Approach (AsIPA) workshops.

Understanding ‘Family’ Beyond Blood Lines and Marriage

By Neilan D’Souza

Family is often defined as a group or a unit in society consisting of parents and children implying on blood relations and marriage. When we look further we can see that families are structured and can be of various types such as extended family, joint family, nuclear family, single parent family, step family, grandparent family, childless family and same-sex family. Depending on the society and cultures we belong to, different types of families are considered as ‘Normal’ and ‘Abnormal’. Regardless of any type of family or its key members we must note that there are 3 components which are very important for any kind family to exist.

The first component of a family is ‘CLUSTER’, a family no matter how small can never be an individual and this is the beauty of it. To be considered a family there has to be more than one person involved who shares a deep and intimate bond of care, consideration and nourishment with another. This brings us to the second closely connected component that is ‘CONNECTION’. A family cannot exist without a connection, mainly to say a connection of belonging and relationship is needed to enrich and assure closeness of the cluster. This connection need not always be of blood or marriage but can be of friendship and interest.

Illustration a Happy Family/Net

Connection unites us and enriches the cluster helping us to look beyond our differences and value the qualities of a person. And finally the third important component ‘PLACE’, a family exists physically; it is grounded in reality which means to say that it lives and forms a part of society, but it must not be confused with or limited to a home. A home could be called a place where a family lives but this is the boundary which needs to break because it has limited us in many ways to only care for those who are in our home.

Then, as mentioned above is the common notion of categorizing different types of families as ‘Normal’ and ‘Abnormal’. This has been reason to cause all sorts of conflict in both religious and social communities. This applies to the range of families from same-sex families, polygamous and polyamorous families to all other non-monogamous families. Although each type family is different and differently understood both from religious and cultural point of views, we must instead of categorizing them as ‘Normal’ and ‘Abnormal’ families, understand that every type family is unique and deserves acceptance because all families are Clusters, having Connection and Living.

Rather than terming Families as ‘Abnormal’ we must work towards solving the many problems which arise within a family such as distrust, hatred, abuse of all kinds and more. This can only come about when we accept those beyond our own boundary as part of the family and seek help in learning, understanding, sharing and care. Let us try to understand the importance of family beyond blood lines and marriage so that we create a peaceful and cooperative world today.