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Communications on Jun. 15, 2001

2009.08.24 11:01

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◎ Message on 2001 Prayer Day for Reconciliation and Unity of Korean People


"We Ask the North Korean Authority to Allow
Permanent Presence of Catholic Priests"

The Most Rev. Peter Kang Woo-il, President of the Committee for the Reconciliation of Korean People, issued a message on the occasion of the 2001 Prayer Day for Reconciliation and Unity of Korean People on June 24. In the message, he appealed to Korean Catholics for active participation in relief activity for North Koreans who suffer from food shortage. At the same time he asked the North Korean authority to allow North Koreans their basic human rights so that they can freely believe in God and worship Him. Following is an excerpt of his message.

The entire Korean people were excited with the historical encounter of the leaders of South and North on June 15 in 2000 hoping it would be a sign of opening a new era on the Korean peninsula. However, during the year after this South-North summit, we have realized that the reunification of our divided country would not depend solely on the decisions and efforts of Korean people.
Now, we have to pray God to grant us grace of genuine peace and unity and seek for the justice of the Kingdom of God. Jesus pardoned Romans and Jews who accused him as a criminal for their political interest. Jesus offered himself as a sacrificial offering instead of responding them in a human way. Following his example, we too have to forgive our offenders instead of denouncing them.
Under the communist regime, about 60 Catholic priests lost their lives because of their faith in God and a number of religious and lay faithful died martyrs for the same reason. In North Korea where religious freedom is not allowed there is no priest who can confer the sacraments and celebrate the liturgy with the Church community. Therefore, North Korean Catholics have no opportunity to praise God and experience spiritual joy in the liturgy.
However, fortunately, the North Korean authority allows priests in travel, both Korean and non-Korean, to celebrate Mass at Jangchung Church that is located in Pyongyang. In fact, Jangchung Church is the only place in North Korea where Catholics can gather together and pray.
For six years, the Catholic Church in South Korea has tried through Jangchung Church to help North Koreans who suffer from food shortage and financial crisis. Our concern and assistance should continue until they experience relief from the extreme poverty they are placed in.
Even if we have a different ideology and political system we cannot ignore and stay indifferent to North Koreans whose right for survival is under threat. We are disciples of Jesus who taught us that "Just you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me"(Mt 25,40).
South Korea has not overcome its own economic crisis yet. Many people suffer from unemployment and low income. However, the degree of North Koreans' misery cannot be compared to ours. The majority of people suffer from chronic malnutrition, and with collapse of the medical system the sick have no access to medical care.
Let us do first what we can and what we have to do. Only then, let's pray to God and ask Him to help us. Let's do it with one heart and one mind.
Now we want to ask the North Korean authority for the sake of unity and reconciliation to allow North Koreans the basic human rights so that they can believe freely in God and worship Him. For this purpose, we urge to permit the permanent presence of Catholic priests in North Korea.
We urge the North Korean authority to take a radical measure so the Bishops who are the local pastors can visit their North Korean Catholics and confer the sacraments on them.
Such measure and determination will offer North Korea a good opportunity to be welcomed as a mature member of the international community.
Let us achieve genuine peace on this land by curing wounds of division and by making our utmost efforts for unity and reconciliation.


June 25, 2001

+ Peter Kang Woo-il
President
Committee for the Reconciliation
of Korean People.

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