◎ Korean Buddhists Congratulate Christmas
On December 21, 2000, the Most Venerable Jung Dae, President of the Korean Buddhist Chogye Order, issued a message addressed to all Christians in Korea and the world to congratulate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
In the message, the Most Venerable said that "Message of truth and love that Jesus brought to the humankind and taught us by his own example is essentially the same message of the great compassion and great mercy of Buddha."
"The humanity will be able to build a world of harmony, unity, justice, peace and love when the religions fulfill their role of being salt, light and guide of the world. We hope that Christians and Buddhists can work together, side by side, to build such a world in unity, solidarity and collaboration for the good of the humankind," the message read.
The Most Venerable Jung Dae wished the Christmas of the year 2000 brings joy and hope to the poor who suffer from poverty and instability.
The Chogye Temple put on a huge placard in front of the Temple to congratulate the coming of Jesus Christ.
On the occasion of the 2544th Buddha's coming day in May, 2000, following the annual message for Vesakh of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, President of the Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligous Dialogue of the CBCK sent a congratulatory message to all Korean Buddhists.
Such mutual expression of respect and friendship for each other's founder between the Catholics and Buddhists is the first time in Korea.
In the meantime, Venerable Seong-o, the chief Buddhist monk at Peomeo Temple in Busan, made a special visit to the Most Rev. Augustine Cheong, Bishop of Pusan, with other important Buddhist figures to congratulate the 2000th anniversary of Jesus, and exchanged friendly dialogue.
The Most Rev. Cheong and Buddhist leaders agreed upon the importance of unity, harmony and reconciliation among religion people and promised to collaborate in helping North Koreans and the poor. Besides that, several Catholic churches had the same kind of friendly visits of Buddhist leaders.
◎ Myongdong Cathedral Will Ban All Unauthorized Rallies
Officials of Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul said that the cathedral's life was seriously affected by the 6-day rally of Korea Telecom workers from December 17, 2000.
Rev. Paul Paek Nam-yong, the chief pastor of the Myongdong cathedral, issued a statement regarding the rally of the Korea Telecom Workers and made clear that any political dissidents, pro-democracy activists and striking workers will no longer be able to seek refuge at Myongdong Cathedral, for it decided to ban all unauthorized protests and sit-ins inside its compound.
Myongdong Cathedral sent a notice to Chunggu Police Station stating that those wanting to hold rallies on church grounds must receive prior consent from the cathedral.
"We request that the police permit only the demonstrations that are approved by the church when various organizations register to hold rallies at Myongdong Cathedral," read the notice.
"We ask that police block protestors and their various materials and equipment from entering the cathedral, in order to prevent unauthorized demonstrations from being held,'' it said.
"So far, the Myongdong Cathedral has long suffered from the rallies of various interest groups, and the recent protests by Korea Telecom workers have caused considerable inconveniences to the church life," it said.
The church announced on December 23 that it would no longer permit any sit-in protests or long-term demonstrations within its confounds and facilities. Since the 1970s, the cathedral has served as a sanctuary for the politically oppressed and workers including voiceless people in the society.
Rev. Paul Paek Nam-yong said the recent demonstrations tarnished the image of the church, as well as causing property damage and inconveniences to people wishing to attend church services. But he said the cathedral would still allow rallies on the ground case by case, short-term, simple rallies that represent the voice of the poor and oppressed in a sincere manner.
The recent move of the cathedral came after some 10,000 workers of Korea Telecom demonstrated there for six days to protest the government's massive layoff plans. They were criticized for holding rallies in a disorderly fashion, littering and urinating all over the church facilities. Many people were unable to attend Church services due to the rallies, and one church member claimed she had been beaten by demonstrators.
Meanwhile, civil organizations voiced disappointment over the cathedral's decision and urged it to maintain its role of embracing those that are alienated from society.
"People come to Myongdong Cathedral to voice out protests as they cannot do it anywhere else," said Sohn Nak-koo, executive director of the education and publicity department of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
"Although we truly regret that we have caused to the church any damage, people have to think what kind of extreme situation led us to hold the sit-in protests,'' he said. He disclosed that they had the church cleaned up, through a cleaning service after the demonstrations ended.
"The church's decision will ultimately result in lessening the symbolic image of being a sanctuary for the oppressed, which it has become famous for,'' he said.
◎ Cardinal Kim Celebrates the 10th Anniversary Mass at the Chong Ha-sang Paul's Homeless Center
On December 21, 2000 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of foundation of the Chong Ha-sang Paul's House in downtown, Seoul, the homeless center, His Eminence Stephen Cardinal Kim concelebrated Mass with Rev. Gerald Hammon, regional superior of Maryknoll Fathers in Seoul, and encouraged volunteers and said; Jesus was born in poor condition, among homeless people and lived as one of them, and he gave his life for our salvation. So we have to serve our brothers and sisters as Jesus showed us by his own example."
Established in 1990, the Chong Ha-sang Paul's House served free meal to some 400,000 homeless people and provided medical service to 18,000 people for 10 years.