The Churches of Asia and Synodality


Christina Kheng, a laywoman from Singapore, teaches pastoral leadership at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila. Her dream is for Asia’s Church to be more missionary, less frightened, and share responsibility for the journey with the laity.




Christina Kheng expects the synodal journey to reduce the gap between Church leaders and the laity and above all limit the cultural rigidities that are specific to Asia. She also expects the Synod to provide an opportunity to elaborate a new way of sharing responsibilities within the Church, holding the leadership together while listening to everyone’s voice. In the interview with AsiaNews, she talks about her own commitment to this endeavor and what steps forward the synodal journey can make to help the Churches of Asia.

What role do you play in the Synod’s Commission on Methodology?
The Commission on Methodology is called to accompany the synodal process both in local Churches and the synodal assembly. We are helping translate the theology of synodality into the concrete life of communities, welcoming the voice of the Spirit, and listening to one another.

Our first task was to contribute to the drafting of the Vademecum published at the start of the journey. After reading it, some people told us, “It is a document with a different tone, very open to dialogue, and flexible.” It does not say, “Do this!” Instead, it encourages creativity. This, I think, is our task.

You teach pastoral leadership. What is that?
It means to live one’s ministry in a way that is both effective and rooted in the Gospel. Today, learning to manage operations and organizations requires an interdisciplinary approach so that the Catholic faith and secular approach of the management sciences can be held together.

What difficulties does this challenge entail?
Often today those who lead an organization within the Church end up adopting the most common corporate model. This is wrong because it contradicts the Gospel’s vision in several ways. Our view of man is not based only on the here and now; it is also spiritual, calling on us to look at the person as a mystery and not only as a workforce caught in a cog.

Pastoral workers are often very spiritual people who pray deeply, but when they find themselves leading their organization, it is as if they forget the faith and the Gospel, using only the business model of management.

Instead, we must learn to integrate both aspects. And once this is done, we can have something to pass on to lay managers. Indeed, today’s paradox is that many companies talk about social responsibility because they see that something is missing from their model.

Can the path towards synodality be a school for this?
Absolutely. The fact that it aims to involve those on the margins and tries to converge by including the voice of all is something important. In all societies today we see growing polarization, with people looking at each as enemies, with less tolerance for those who have different views. The synodal process can do much to develop a model that holds together leadership and dialogue, a collaborative way of carrying out one’s mission.

What does the synodal process say in particular to the Churches of Asia?
The Churches of Asia must improve internal dialogue. For cultural reasons and the traditional way of living the Church, there is little shared responsibility with the laity. Although they go to Mass much more than in Europe, in most cases laypeople think that being Catholic stops there and expect pastors to provide guidelines as to what they must do. This must change. We need more cooperation.

The clergy and the religious in Asia must also change, helping everyone to make their voices heard. It will be important that ordinary Christians also be present at the continental meeting ahead of the Synod, not only bishops, priests, religious, and laypeople with an assigned role. It will be important to have room for the poor, for young people, and for those who come from the most forgotten areas.

In Asia, Christians are a small minority almost everywhere. Will the Pope’s call to listen also involve men and women of other religions?
Of course. Even if technically the synodal path is a journey of listening to the people of God, to make a discernment means to listen to all the voices in society. We cannot exclude the poor, the marginalized, other religions, even the voice of creation that cries out today. The sensum fidei of the People of God is born from this. It is not to say what I think, but to listen to the Word of God and to the world around us so as to read the signs of the times.

Asia is living this path while it is still deeply marked by the pandemic
In many countries, Mass is still celebrated online. I was only able to attend Mass in person in Rome after many months. Of course, an online Mass is better than nothing, but we must multiply our efforts so that people can gather together again, even when this means following complex procedures. In addition, the pandemic has deeply affected religiosity, raising questions about the meaning of life. If the religious community does not help to provide answers, many will lose interest or look for other ways.

Where do you hope to find the Churches of Asia at the end of this Synod?
I dream of a synodal Church, more alive in its missionary spirit. Many of our countries today are growing economically, very fast but without equity, destroying the environment, with so many people losing their values, with young people left out. The Church in Asia should not just be frightened by all this, seeing herself only as a persecuted community. She must find the way for dialogue within these societies by living her mission. I am convinced that shared responsibility, by reducing the distance between the hierarchies and laity, can help a lot towards this end. Published in AsiaNews

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage


Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart