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For Asia and Oceania

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2005 (Zenit) - With the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops under way, Catholic Online is publishing in these days a summary of the past synodal assemblies.

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17. Special Assembly for Asia

In session: April 19-May 14, 1998

Synod fathers: 191

Topic: "Jesus Christ the Savior and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: '... That They May Have Life, and Have it Abundantly' (John 10:10)"

In the apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," the Holy Father announced his intention to call special synodal assemblies on the continental level as part of the preparatory program leading to the Jubilee Year 2000. On Sept. 10, 1995, the Holy Father established the pre-synodal council for the Special Assembly for Asia made up primarily of cardinals, archbishops and bishops from Asia. Part of their task was to assist the General Secretariat in the drafting of the background document released on Sept. 3, 1996, and the working document published on Feb. 13, 1998.

During the Special Assembly, the synod fathers, keeping in mind that the Church is a small but vibrant flock on a continent where the great religions of the world are present, focused their attention on the uniqueness of the person of Jesus as Savior and his gift of abundant life in the context of the Church's program of a new evangelization.

Of particular concern was how the Church, in a concrete pastoral plan, can continue the Lord's mission of love and service in Asia. At the conclusion, the synod fathers published a Message to the People of God which treated various points of the synodal topic.

A postsynodal council resulted from the synodal assembly. This council offered assistance in analyzing the special assembly's recommendations and contributed to the drafting of the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia," signed by the Pope on Nov. 6, 1999, in Sacred Heart Cathedral, during the synod's celebration phase, Nov. 5-8, 1999, in New Delhi, India. Since that time, the postsynodal council had met periodically to evaluate the distribution and implementation of the document.

In 2002, a report was prepared and mailed to each member of the hierarchy on the Asian continent, the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the patriarchs, major archbishops and metropolitans of the Eastern Churches "sui iuris," the presidents of the episcopal conferences worldwide and other interested parties.

At its meeting last November, the Special Council shared further reaction to the postsynodal document, evaluated the significance of the Special Assembly on the Asian continent, related the present state of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in various countries and spoke of published works recounting the lives of saints and blessed from Asia.

18. Special Assembly for Oceania

In session: Nov. 22-Dec. 12, 1998

Synod fathers: 117

Topic: "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life"

The Special Assembly for Oceania was the third continental or regional synodal assembly to be held in the series announced by the Holy Father in the apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente" as part of the preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000.

On June 7, 1996, the Holy Father appointed the pre-synodal council made up primarily of bishops from Oceania. In a series of meetings held in Rome and Wellington, New Zealand, this council offered assistance in drafting the background document, establishing criteria for participation, and finalizing the working document.

A unique feature of this synodal assembly was the fact that all bishops of the region were to participate as ex officio members. To ease travel difficulties and limit the absence of the bishops from their local Churches, arrangements were made to hold the customary "ad limina" visits in conjunction with the special assembly.

Despite the great difference in pastoral situations in the region, many common concerns emerged in the course of synod work, e.g., inculturation of the Gospel, renewed attention to catechetics and formation, the revitalization of the faith of believers, and pastoral care of youth, migrants and native peoples, etc.

On Dec. 11 the members of the Special Assembly elected a postsynodal council, to which the Holy Father appointed three members. This council held a number of meetings to discuss the outcome of the special assembly and to offer assistance to the Holy Father in drafting the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Oceania," promulgated Nov. 22, 2001, at an important, historic ceremony in the Vatican during which the document was simultaneously transmitted on the internet to all the dioceses of the region. "Ecclesia in Oceania" thus became the first papal document to be transmitted by internet in the computer age.

In 2003, the postsynodal council met to begin the process of evaluating the impact and implementation of "Ecclesia in Oceania" in the region. In this regard, a questionnaire was composed and sent to all bishops in Oceania. The Special Council is scheduled to analyze the results of this consultation at its next meeting to be held in the summer of 2006, in Fiji, in conjunction with the plenary assembly of the Federation of the Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.

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