The issue of the acculturation of the Gospel into the Asian way of life and the issues arising from globalization, such as increasing consumerism, have emerged as central challenges for the Church in Asia in the deliberations of the 8th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) under way in Daejeon, South Korea.

In the opening speech Mgr. Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, emphasized the need to correctly understand the notion of acculturation. It is not, he said, “mere religious folklore and cannot simply mean incorporating local Asian languages, musical instruments, and dances into the liturgy.”

Acculturation to the Gospel, Bishop Sarah said, means having “God enter someone’s life and thought process” changing his or her “moral behaviour and culture” since “there always is a difference between their culture and the Gospel.”

He cited the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as an example of the right motivation for the Evangelization of Asia. “She saw in the destitute the one Jesus to love, serve, and help. Her example should make it easier for the Church to evangelise through love in Asia.”

The challenges of globalization were addressed by Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City. “Globalisation,” he said, “has brought new lifestyles that stress materialism, pragmatism and hedonism compared to Asia’s traditional values.”

However, he also stressed that not all the effects of globalization are negative. “Instead of just condemning (the changes),” Cardinal Pham Minh Man said, “the Church should engage them in a dialogue, one that would select the best of the new and preserve the good of the old.”

Materialism and consumerism are one of the worst consequences of globalization according to Mgr. Andrei Choi Chang-mou, Bishop of Kwangju and President of the Korean Bishops’ Conference; “Too many bad things that happen in families are money-related. Family problems and family squabbles come from serving Mammon more than God. For the Church God must always come first if she wants to help Christian families realise their lives in God and be a beacon to the world and the salt of the earth.”

The conference, whose main theme is “The Asian Family: towards a culture of life,” has been meeting since August 16 and will run until August 23.