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Book shows vigor of Asian Catholic vision

Compiled and edited by Peter Phan
Orbis books, 352 pages, $60

Reviewed by RICH HEFFERN

Orbis Books has made another important contribution to a deeper understanding of the emerging vision of the churches of Asia by publishing The Asian Synod: Texts and Commentaries by Fr. Peter C. Phan, professor of theology at The Catholic University of America and past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Students of church history and religious studies, among others, will find this book an invaluable companion to Thomas C. Fox’s Pentecost in Asia.

Phan writes in the book’s preface: “Of all the five special assemblies of the Synod of Bishops that Pope John Paul II convoked to celebrate the coming of the third millennium of Christianity, the one for Asia was, theologically speaking, the most exciting.” To help readers appreciate the development, evolution and impact of a synod that will potentially go down in history as one of the most important of the post-Vatican II period, Phan selected key synod texts and has reprinted them along with commentaries by Asian theologians. In doing so, Phan brings to life the dynamics of a synod that for the first time on a world stage laid out the Asian vision of church, what the Asians call “a new way of being church.”

“The Asian Synod,” Phan writes, “marked the coming of age of the Asian churches. If the last three decades of the 20th century belonged to Latin America with its liberation theologies, Asia, with its theologies of inculturation and interreligious dialogue, seems poised to capture the attention of the church in the first decades of the [21st century].”

This book will serve a wide range of readers, from Asian scholars and church buffs to ordinary “in the pew” Catholics seeking vision and hope in a time when both are needed. The book confirms Phan, once more, as one of the most notable new voices on the theological scene.

Rich Heffern is NCR opinion editor. His e-mail is rheffern@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 2002