Anti-Death Penalty Movement is Pro-Life Movement!
Capital punishment is universally acknowledged as a brutal, inhuman and disgraceful punishment against human beings. One can never triumph over violence by the death penalty which gives priority to revenge and retaliation. Therefore, rather than relying on the death penalty system, we have to help the offenders to return to a normal way of life through sincere repentance, thus bringing about a truly human society of love, justice, tolerance and forgiveness. The purpose of the anti-capital punishment movement is not only to spare the life of criminals but it is a 'Pro-life movement' and 'Peace movement'.
Regarding the death penalty, Pope John Paul II pointed out in his encyclical letter "Evangelium vitae"(March 25, 1995) that "There is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of "Legitimate defense" on the part of society."(no.27) and stressed that "The punishment ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender"(no.54). Also in the message for the XXX World Day of Peace in 1997 the Pope made clear that according to the Christian outlook of human beings "No punishment can suppress the inalienable dignity of those who have committed evil." and added that "The door to repentance and rehabilitation must always remain open to the offenders.” He also pointed out that justice and forgiving love are the most essential factors to realize peace for our times in his message for the XXXV World Day of Peace of 2002 entitled 'No Peace without Justice, No Justice without Forgiveness? What the Pope wanted to stress in these messages is that the key purpose of the movement to abolish the death penalty is not simply to save the life of offenders but to protect the life of human beings and it is a 'pro-life movement’ and a 'peace movement'.
In this regard, the Sub-Committee to Abolish Death Penalty of the CBCK launched the campaign to call for forgiveness and reconciliation between family members of victims and assaulters and held a series of cultural events and prayer meetings in April and May including 4-week street concert, performances and pan-religion memorial service for victims.
Fr. John Kim Jong-su
Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea
Peaceful Reunification is the Only Option Open to Korean People
Peaceful Reunification is the Only Option Open to Korean People
On the occasion of the 2000 Prayer Day for Reconciliation and Unity of Korean People, the Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il, President of the Committee for the Reconciliation of Korean People of the CBCK, issued the following message. Reminding Korean Catholics of the heartbreaking suffering caused by the tragedy of the division of Korean people he invited them to pray and act for peaceful reunification based on dialogues and negotiations with patience and tolerance. Following is the full text of the message.
At the dawn of the 21th century, humanity is building international cooperation and support in order to foster the culture needed for a new era through a stream of information and globalization.
World leaders also have been discussing on many occasions urgent questions such as peacemaking, bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, remission of foreign debts, common efforts for environmental protection, etc. to make the world a better place to live. Although the tension between nations, ethnic conflicts and confrontations have not completely disappeared, most of the heads of States and people in the world have come to recognize through life experience that we can obtain nothing through confrontations and wars.
Unfortunately, the Korean peninsula is still in a state of confrontation and hostility of cold war era, so Korean people are compelled to live their daily lives with alert for each other. Two years ago, the heads of South and North Korea met for the first time since the nation's division and promised to make common efforts for peace and reunification of Korea by signing 6.15 Joint Declaration. At that time all Korean people were deeply moved at the historic scene and inspired with expectation for the future. However, we have not witnessed any notable changes since then and instead continue to see people dying without meeting their families who have been separated for half a century.
Moreover, thinking about the emerging North Korean defectors who are living uncertain lives in China or Russia, we cannot but feel sorry for their suffering. Most of them left their families behind in North Korea and were forced to work and live a life of slavery in China as illegal residents. We also heard that recent assisted defections have made the situation more difficult and have led to mass arrests of North Korean defectors in China, as well as those who helped them. We cannot ignore this tragedy any more.
As the division of the nation was not our own fault, so too, reunification seems unable to come about solely through our own will. We all understand that the interest of big powers and geopolitical relations exert great influence on our reunification efforts. Nonetheless, what is important for the reunification of Korea is our own volition and efforts to become one. Both South and North Korea understand that reunification cannot be achieved by appealing to arms. Nobody can deny that peaceful reunification is the only option open to Korean people. However, for the sake of peaceful reunification, not an oppressive one by reason of power, we need to continue dialogues and negotiations based on patience and tolerance. For this purpose, the Government, the people and the Church respectively have their role to play.
Many priests and Catholics in South Korea have visited North Korea and met the faithful there, celebrating Mass with them at Jangchung church in Pyeongyang, the only place in North Korea where Eucharist can be celebrated, though it is in a restricted condition. For the last seven years, the Church in Korea provided North Korea with a considerable amount of food, agricultural equipments, fertilizer and medicine. That was of great material help for North Koreans and contributed to change their feeling toward South Korea as well.
The internal oneness of people is more important than the external structural unification of a nation. It is said that the reunification of Germany has not been completed yet because the people of West and East Germany still bear ill feelings toward each other though the nation was structurally united. In this regard, Günter Grass, a German laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature once gave us an advice; "People from West Germany lacked respect for those from East Germany. The former came to think of the latter as relatives who are always begging for something. Consequently, most East Germans consider themselves inferior citizens. If South Koreans assume attitudes of superiority over the poor North Koreans, Korea would be prone to find itself in this kind of difficulty after reunification"(at international symposium of "Reunification and Culture", May 29, 2002).
If we recklessly squander, causing 15 trillion won of food waste annually but remaining indifferent to our numerous brothers and sisters who are suffering from starvation or wandering in foreign countries, God will not tolerate this. It is absurd and unfair that people of the same country who are divided just across a boundary lead totally different lives in extreme poverty.
Through prophets God repeatedly told the Israelites not to be indifferent to orphans, widows, wanderers and the poor. Jesus Christ, when his life in this world was coming to an end, reconfirmed this, saying, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me"(Mt. 25,40).
Our positive concern and support would move our North Korean brethren's mind from confrontation and distrust to amicability and unity, and then the real meaning of unification of Korean people would begin. Our prayer and action for reconciliation and unity of Korean people should continue. Prayer Day for Reconciliation and Unity of Korean People'’ should not be limited to an annual event. Rather, we should remember our North Korean brethren whenever we are at table and at Mass on every Sunday and look for ways to relieve their suffering and sorrow. This is the mandate of God as long as we confess our faith in Christ, and at the same time it will become an effective way to realize the Gospel in this land.
June 23, 2002
+ Peter Kang U-il
Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul President
Committee for the Reconciliation and Unity of Korean People
A Proposal to Build a New Culture of Life
A Proposal to Build a New Culture of Life
On the occasion of the eighth 'Day for Life' the Most Rev. Peter Lee Ki-heon, President of the Committee for Family Ministry, issued a message and invited the faithful to recognize the value of life by removing the culture of death, and reminded them that in the present world there exists a dramatic struggle between the 'culture of life' and 'culture of death'. Following is the full text of the message.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the occasion of the eighth 'Day for Life' the Church in Korea invites you to reflect on the present reality in order to build a new culture of life which again recognizes the dignity of life by removing the culture of death expressed in the loss of consciousness of God and that of human beings.
The Pope John Paul II expressed the present crisis of life by saying that there exists "a dramatic struggle between the 'culture of life' and the 'culture of death'(Evangelium vitae no.95)." As he said, in our world, the dignity of human life is facing a critical situation of danger. Especially, the ethical question of biotechnology related to human cloning has become a subject of real concern today. In this juncture, we Christians feel an urgent need to build a new culture that respects human life by developing a critical sense that enables us to discern true values and real needs. Building the culture of life can be started through an authentic understanding of life science that is the background of human cloning which has emerged as one of the most serious questions in these days and through rediscovering of the essential meaning of human life and its fundamental values.
The life science was started quite recently with the purpose of studying life resources and matters deriving from them, and to apply them to making useful products or improving the manufacturing process. However, this science has expanded to deal with matters related to the human body, such as genetic alternation, gene therapy, study of fertilized egg, animal cloning, and also the domain of human cloning. In such a way, the life science, in its characteristics, shows the possibility of unlimited rapid progress and at the same time it presents complex problems. The life science, in the literal sense of the word, is the basic science that concerns the domain of life and health from the birth and to death of a human being.
The life science ought to be protected and nurtured to promote the human welfare through the freedom of intellectual research and medical and industrial development. However, when we consider the possibility of the misguided application of the scientific technology, such freedom and protection are appropriate only if they do not harm human beings, society and the ecosystem. However, the problem is that such norms are not observed in modern society. Ethical problems and controversial criticisms related to the life science are raised due to the different standards and means of appropriation.
Nowadays, along with the progress of life science the human life is in danger of being degraded into an experimental instrument or means. It is said that the purpose of the progress of life science is to cure disease and improve human society, however, the truth is that behind the facts a biological thought of human life is predominant. Therefore realistic and utilitarian thought may cause contempt of human life, violation of human dignity and destruction of creation. Under the influence of such thinking unethical scientists dream of a "utopia through science" and pursue idolatry and divinization of scientific technology, which can bring disaster on all of humanity. The Church is concerned with the fact that the structure of sin is actually operating in certain domains of life science that are rapidly developing.
In our day, humankind comes in contact with itself first through the world of technology which it has created rather than by perceiving it through God's hands. In human nature there is a sense of conviction that "I can do", and the attempt of human cloning is said to be the expression of humankind's desire and limitless ambition to want to become the builder of self and the master of one's history.
The Church of today is deeply concerned that the violation of human life and the destruction of the environment are not a simple fact but a phenomenon of loss of God who is life; The eclipse of the sense of God is the eclipse of the sense of humanity that inevitably leads to a practical materialism, dragging modern society down under the domination of another form of atheism(cf. Evangelium vitae, n.23).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
From the Christian view the humankind can rebuild the world because the created world is entrusted to the creative freedom of humanity. This means that human beings are not merely observers of the created world but can change its appearance. Hence, the Christian faith and science don't conflict with each other, and all sincere desires and pursuits of truth conform fully with the end of the creation for they are the contents of the rational capacity that humanity received from God. In addition, the scientific inquiry of things is what demonstrates the proper dignity of humankind, therefore such capacity praises God the Creator who gave it to us. The world, all earthly things, and the scientific ability of humankind that researches them have their origin in God's creative work.
Therefore, the illusion of unlimited technical civilization ignoring God leads to a dehumanization of persons by taking from them the internal, spiritual and moral values that are proper to all human beings. Therefore, if scientific and technological knowledge don't go side by side with faith, it is self-evident that science and technology will end up to leading humanity to self-destruction.
Therefore, the humanization of science and technology, and further more the moralization of scientific technology centered in God are an urgent matter. Also formation of thought that places the spiritual moral value prior to scientific technique is important and an urgent pressing question. In this sense, to build a new culture of life, the Church community has to preach strongly to all people, especially to those who are engaged in the field of life science, witnessing to the faith that life science must be a science that recognizes human life as essentially a gift from God, a science based always on the dignity of human life, and a science that serves absolutely the life of human beings.
May 26, 2002
Eighth 'Day for Life'’
+ Peter Lee Ki-heon
Bishop of Military Ordinate President
Committee for Family Pastoral Ministry
Let Us Change First Way of Life
Let Us Change First Our Way of Life!
- Campaign to save water and reduce food waste -
For the 'Day of Environment'’ on June 5, the Most Rev. John Choi
Young-soo, President of the Committee for Justice & Peace of the CBCK, issued a message and asked the faithful to take the lead in the environmental movement through a renewed way of life, such as saving water and reducing food waste. Following is the full text of the message.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. On the occasion of the Day of Environment on June 5, we invite you to participate in the environmental movement aimed at preserving all the things God entrusted to humankind, thus together to bring back our land to life. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, pointed out that the environmental problem is one of the most urgent problems that humanity is confronted with today. By considering the environmental problem as one of the most pressing issues the Church shows her deep concern for it.
2. Nowadays, all over the world we observe environment pollution, and consequent problems are intensified day by day. Our earth suffers from disregarded rubbish, and for a long time clean rivers and streams in our country have been contaminated by pollutants. Air pollution in cities has reached such a point that people's breathing is affected. In some way, this horrible situation of environmental damage including the bare mountains and polluted rivers is a clear reflection of our inner image. Human greed and selfishness have destroyed the ecosystem in which all living things are called to coexist in harmonious relationship. Instead, this greed and selfishness are leading us to self-destruction.
3. Environmental destruction is one aspect of a serious and fundamental moral crisis’ which we have to overcome with all our wisdom and intelligence. It is time for us to keep an attentive eye out for ourselves and our surroundings because the environmental issue is no longer just a concern reserved for scientists of environmental engineering or ecologists, but it is a concern of us all. Recovery of the environment requires a radical change of our way of life. Unless we change our life style and way of consumption we cannot heal the sick earth. For this, we should first undertake a radical conversion regarding the environment and empty ourselves of self-interest.
4. The Environmental Sub-Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea appeals to all Catholics to actively participate in the campaign to save water and reduce food waste. Korea is classified as a country having a shortage of water. With increasing population, industrialization and urbanization a high quantity of water is required. In addition, the pattern of rainfall connected to the unusual weather is alarming us. In various parts of the world people suffer from unprecedented disasters caused by deluge or drought, and the water pollution is threatening people's lives seriously. Therefore, before it is too late, we have to save water and protect it from contamination. We have to begin this practice in our own family first and especially change our bad habit of wasting water. Saving water can be done with just a little attention in our daily life.
5. One of the things we want to do but do poorly is to avoid wasting food. In Korea, due to the bad habit of throwing food away, every year 46,000 tons of food waste are produced, which is the equivalent of 15 trillion won(some US$12 billion), 13 percent of the national budget. It is said that 160 thousand children in Korea are starving and over 6 million children in the world are dying of hunger every year. It is not proper attitude to splurge on food and water while on the other side of the earth people are dying due to a lack of food and water. Reducing food waste is not something that requires a great deal of efforts but only a thoughtful mind and attention. Now we have to recognize that reducing food waste is our own responsibility which must be done to save and protect our land, air, water, all living things and life itself.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
6. We have a duty to protect the environment to keep our earth healthy, for the well-being of future generations depends on this. To restore the environment takes a long time and a great deal of effort once it is polluted. Let us give thanks to God for He gave us life and strive to preserve the creation order.
June 5, 2002,
'Day of Environment'’
+ John Choi Young-soo
Auxiliary Bishop of Taegu President
Committee for Justice & Peace
A Congratulatory Message to Buddhist Friends of the Feast of... The Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Bishop of Inchon, President of the Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue of the CBCK, offered a congratulatory message to Korean Buddhists on the occasion of the feast of Buddha's Birthday on May 19 and invited both Catholics and Buddhists to reinforce their friendship and close cooperation in realizing their common goal. In the meantime, His Eminence Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stressed in his message to all Buddhist friends in the world issued on the occasion of the feast of Vesakha the need for collaboration of the two religions in fighting against the 'culture of death'’ and building a 'culture of life'. Following is the full text of the message of the Most Rev. Choi to Korean Buddhists. May 19, 2002 News from th Church in Korea ●Emeritus Bishop of Suwon Passed Away News in Brief With an increasing number of North Korean asylum-seekers coming to South Korea, Catholics involved in the North Korea-related associations have urged the Church to intensify the aid to North Korea and to plan special pastoral care for North Korean defectors. ● The Church in Korea supports the successful hosting of the 2002 World Cup by organizing cultural events and volunteer works and offering Mass in foreign languages so that the World Cup can be a genuine fraternal festival for people of all nations as children of God, and not just a competition field. Diocese of Suwon sent 2002 footballs to children in North Korea and Afghanistan through the National Red Cross of Korea. ● ● Rev. Didier T'Serstevens, director of 'Rainbow Family', a Social Welfare Center in the Diocese of Chonju won the 12th Ho-am Prize on May 23 for his 40 years of services for farmers and the disabled regardless of their nationalities and religions. Born in Brussels, Belgium and ordained a priest in 1958, he came to Korea in 1960. Although he himself suffers from a chronic disease of 'multiple sclerosis', he still cares for 150 disabled people. ● As the Korean Catholics celebrate May as Month of Mary and the Korean people as Month of family, the Most Rev. Augustine Cheong Myong-jo, Bishop of Pusan established the Family Blessing Letter to promote the value of family. The Letter is granted to families of profound faith where three generations live together and have more than three children. The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints Saint Kim Ob-I Magdalene (1774-1839) Kim Ob-I Magdalene and Han A-gi Barbara were arrested together in September 1836. It is not certain whether Kim A-gi Agatha was captured with them or at her own home. In any event, the three of them were taken into custody on the same day.
On the occasion of the feast of Buddha's Birthday 2002 we offer our hearty congratulations to all Korean Buddhists and pray that the mercy and compassion of Buddha may be granted abundantly to each of his followers. The Catholic Church has wonderfully expressed in regard of Buddhism at the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II: "Buddhism in its multiple forms acknowledges the radical insufficiency of this shifting world and it teaches a path by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, can either reach a state of absolute freedom or attain supreme enlightenment." And the Council affirmed that the "Catholic Church rejects nothing which is true and holy in other religions."
Based on this understanding the Catholics and Buddhists have built up friendship and a collaborating relationship. We Catholics know well that Buddhism has several thousand years of history and throughout this history it has made a great contribution to build a peaceful world for our people. Also, we highly recognize the contribution of Buddhism in promoting our culture.
On this occasion of Buddha's Birthday we wish that our two religions could walk together on the way of truth to enlighten the people and build a society of beauty and well-being by consolidating our friendly relationship and the collaboration we have built up to the present. In our world material values are predominant while spiritual values are declining more and more. Thus, as the spiritual leaders, we should unite our efforts to awaken spiritual values in our society and to promote love and respect for the poor and suffering people. This will bring about hope and blessing to our people and nation.
Once again, we wish that the abundant compassion and mercy of Buddha be granted to each of you.
+ Boniface Choi Ki-san
Bishop of Inchon President
Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue
The Most Rev. Angelo Kim Nam-sou, emeritus Bishop of Suwon, passed away of chronic disease on June 1, at St. Mary Hospital of Daejeon at the age of 80. The funeral Mass was solemnly offered on June 5 at Jeongjadong Cathedral of Suwon, with concelebration by the Most Rev. Paul Choi Duk-ki, Bishop of Suwon, His Eminence Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, the Most Rev. Giovanni Battista Morandini, Apostolic Nuncio in Seoul, and other Bishops and some 200 diocesan priests while 7000 faithful mourned over his death and prayed for him. He was buried at Mirinae Clergy Cemetery in Gyeonggi-do.
While assuming important responsibilities in the Church in Korea, the late Bishop also made a significant contribution to the canonization of 103 Korean martyr saints and pro-life movement. In particular, he played a vital role in diffusing the spirit of the Second Vatican Council among Korean Catholics by translating into Korean many documents of the Council.
He was born in Manchuria in 1922 and ordained a priest in 1948. He was consecrated as the second Bishop of Suwon in 1974 and laid the foundation for the development of the Diocese until he retired in 1997.
●The Most Rev. William McNaughton Retires from Episcopal See after 41 Years of Service
The Most Rev. William John McNaughton, 77, who served for 41 years as Bishop of Inchon retired from his episcopal see as of April 25. Born in 1926 in Lawrence, U.S.A., he was ordained a priest in 1953 at the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and came to Korea in 1954, and was appointed as the first Bishop of Inchon in 1961. Since then, he dedicated himself to the Diocese of Inchon for 41 years. He participated to the Council of Vatican II as the delegate of the Church in Korea. In all he served the Church in Korea for 48 years. Korean Catholics, especially those of the Diocese of Inchon, expressed him their deep gratitude and at the same time sorrow for his departure. The retiring Bishop recommended the faithful to have a special concern for marginalized people and those Christians who have stopped coming to Church.
The Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Coadjutor Bishop of Inchon, succeeded him on April 25 and became the second Bishop of Inchon.
●126 Martyrs and Confessors Confirmed as Candidates of Beatification and Canonization
On May 20, the Episcopal Special Commission for Beatification and Canonization of the CBCK announced 126 candidates for promotion to beatification and canonization. From the 222 martyrs and confessors presented by many dioceses for promotion on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Sinyu persecution(1801), the Commission confirmed 124 martyrs and two confessors as candidates and withheld 29 and dropped 69. Among the 124 candidates are included 13 existing candidates for whom the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has declared "No impediment".
The Commission appointed Rev. Peter Ryu Han-yeong to the Postulator and Rev. Anthony Jon Tal-su, Rector of the Pontifical Korean College in Rome, to the General Postulator, and established under its wing the Theological Committee, the Historical Committee and the Joint Committee for Promotion of the Beatification and Canonization.
●Statistics Indicate 3.9% of Increase of Catholic Population
As of the end of December 2001, the Catholic population in Korea reached 4,228,488, which amounts to 8.8% of the general population of Korea(48,021,543). The 2001 Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea issued by the Catholic Conference of Korea on June 15, 2002 revealed that 156,928 people were newly baptized in 2001, by which the Catholic population in Korea increased by 3.9% from the previous year.
According to the Statistics, the Archdiocese of Seoul had the largest Catholic population as many as 1,370,021, which was followed by the Diocese of Suwon(539,607) and the Archdiocese of Taegu(382,361). The increase rate was highest in the Military Ordinariate with 21,808 new baptisms or 13.8% . As of the end of 2001, the Catholic Church in Korea has 15 dioceses; 1.258 parishes; 1.074 secondary stations; 1 Cardinal; 4 Archbishops; 23 Bishops(including two foreigners); 10 Monsignors; 3,192 Priests(including 182 foreigners); 1,231 men religious(including religious priests); 8,455 women religious.
●Ancient Commentary Bible Selected as One of '100 Korean Cultural Heritages'
Seong-gyeong-jik-hae, a Korean commentary book on the Bible through which early Korean Catholics first encountered the Word of God, was selected as one of '100 Korean Cultural Heritages' by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism of the Korean Government on April 29 for its historical significance as the first Korean translation of the Bible and faith material for the common people. The Ministry selected 100 Korean-related materials including old books, printed materials, and obsolete languages and characters to re-emphasize the value of Korean languages. Seong-gyeong-jik-hae is a bound book of commentary and meditation on the Sunday Gospel readings that John Choi Chang-hyun, martyr of Shinyu persecution in 1801, translated from the Chinese. It was made by combining the Korean translation of Seong-gyeong-jik-hae published by Fr. Diaz, S.J., a Portuguese missionary(1574-1659) in Beijing in 1636, and Seong-gyeong-gwang-ik published in 1740. Being handed down as a transcription, it was published in nine volumes of printed books in 1892 by the Most Rev. Mutel, Archbishop of Corea(Apostolic Vicariate).
● World Day of Prayer for Vocations Celebrated
On the occasion of the 39th World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 21, various events took place in each diocese to help the youth to think of the meaning of vocations. In the Archdiocese of Seoul, the seminary of the Catholic University opened its door to the public and held various events. As many as 9,000 young students and their parents attended the Mass presided by the Most Rev. Joseph Lee Han-taek, Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul, and showed high interest in the priestly vocation and consecrated life. The Most Rev. Lee explained in his homily about the various callings of God in the Church and the importance of discovering one's right vocation and responding to it. Other dioceses also had similar events such as Masses, counseling for the discernment of vocations and offering information on seminaries and religious institutes etc.
●Church in Korea Concerned for Human Rights of Foreign Workers
The Committee for Justice and Peace of the CBCK resolved at its permanent council meeting held on May 9 to speak out on the Catholic position for various problematic social issues, especially for the critical issue of human rights of foreign workers in Korean society. The participants agreed that the issue of the foreign workers be a pressing topic on the level of Episcopal Conference and eventually on the level of the Church in Korea. In recent years, discrimination against the foreign workers and exploitation by certain Korean employers have emerged as serious human rights issues in Korean society. Many civic and religion groups including Catholic organizations working on their behalf have urged the government to establish an appropriate labor system by which the foreign workers can receive fuller domestic legal protection. According to the report of Korea Labor Institute, as of the end of 2001, about 77.4 percent of the total 330,000 foreign workers in South Korea are overstaying their visas thus classified as illegal aliens.
●Revised Korean Translation of the Documents of the Second Vatican Council Published
The Catholic Conference of Korea published a revised Korean translation of the Documents of the Second Vatican Council in a bilingual edition of Latin and Korean on May 17, 2002.
The Documents of the Second Vatican Council were first translated into Korean in 1969 and since then have served as the principles and norms of renewal in every field of Christian life. The project started in 1998 in the wake of the revision of the spelling system of Hangeul (Korean language). The new edition focused on conforming to a rearranged Catholic glossary and contemporary Korean usage while preserving the precise meaning of the original Latin text and the spirit and expression of the Second Vatican Council. In addition, it includes indices in the appendix.
●Society of Jesus in Korea to Seek Active Apostolate Policy
The Society of Jesus in Korea adopted an active apostolate policy of "go looking for people" by establishing "diocesan collaboration" as one of the primary apostolate fields of the Society at the 2002 General Assembly of the Society held at Sogang University from May 18 to 19 by the Korea Region. The participants discussed the apostolic mission and orientation of the Society for the new millennium and decided to take a positive attitude toward collaborative apostolate with dioceses aimed at meeting the needs and requests of dioceses in close contact with the latter. The resolution of the Society is based on the understanding that it is time for the Society to concentrate itself more on apostolic activity and on its role of collaborators and helpers and to realize this by assisting the diocesan activity in a close relationship of cooperation with the dioceses and the faithful of the Church in Korea.
Thirty-five delegates from the Diocese of Nagasaki, Japan, including Rev. Nakamura Mitsuru made a five-day visit to Korea from April 12, to learn about the Basic Ecclesial Community(BEC) in the Archdiocese of Seoul. The Diocese of Nagasaki having some 70,000 Catholics in 72 parishes is preparing for implementation of BEC by translating related materials provided by the Archdiocese of Seoul.
Saint Kim A-gi Agatha (1787-1839)
Saint Han A-gi Barbara (1792-1839)
In prison they found themselves in the company of several other Catholics. They were Nam Myong-hyok Damian, accused of hiding the bishop's vestments, Kwon Tug-in Peter, accused of making and selling crucifixes and holy pictures, Pak A-gi Anna, who remained in prison despite the apostasy of her husband and children and Yi Ho-yong, Peter's sister Yi Agatha.
The first to be questioned was Pak A-gi Anna. In spite of the torture she remained unbowed.
"So what if my husband and son have apostatized! I choose to keep my faith and die for it," she lightly answered the police. Next was Han A-gi Barbara. No less brave than Pak A-gi Anna, her body was a bloody mess when they had finished with her. While Han A-gi Barbara was undergoing torture, Kim Ob-I Magnalene have witnessed her faith by explaining Catholic doctrine to the police commissioner. Next Kim Agatha was called.
"It is true you believe in the Catholic Church?"
"I don't know anything but Jesus and Mary."
"If you could save your life by rejecting Jesus and Mary, wouldn't you reject them?"
"I would rather die than reject them."
And in spite of the tortures Agatha could not be persuaded to change her mind. Seeing this the police commissioner had them moved to prison. When the other Catholic prisoners saw Kim A-gi Agatha arriving they cheerfully greeted her.
"Here comes Agatha who doesn't know anything but Jesus and Mary," they said, congratulating her on her bravery.
Because of her inability to learn the doctrine and prayers Kim A-gi Agatha had not yet been baptized. She was the first to be baptized in prison during the persecution.
Baptism gave her new strength and with it she went on to overcome terrible torture and punishment.
After all the investigations and trials, death sentences were handed down on Nam Myong-hyok Damian, Kwon Tug-in Peter and Pak A-gi Anna on May 11, 1839. The next day Yi Kwang-hon Augustine and Pak H.I.-sun Lucy were also sentenced to death.
It took three more days of discussion before Kim Ob-I Magdalene, Han A-gi Barbara and Kim A-gi Agatha were given the sentence for believing in Catholicism and refusing to give up that belief.
Finally May 24, 1839, arrived. The events of that day are described by Cho Shin-ch'ol Charles as follows "On the appointed day ox carts, with crosses taller than the average person erected on them, were brought to the jail. When all was ready guards brought the condemned prisoners out and tied them to the crosses by the arms and hair. A foot rest was put under their feet and the signal given to depart.
When they arrived at the steep hill on which the Small West Gate is situated the guards suddenly pulled away the foot rests and the drivers urged the oxen to run headlong down. The rad is rough, with many stones. The carts lurched, causing extreme agony to the prisoners who were hung on the crosses by their arms and hair. The execution ground is a the foot of the hill. The guards took the prisoners from the crosses and tore off their clothes. The executioners tied their hair to the wooden beam and proceeded to cut off their heads."
The nine martyrs received their crown at three o'clock in the afternoon, the same time as Jesus breathed his last on the cross several tens of centuries. In accordance with the law the bodies were left at the execution site for three days.
In the court record of the time it is written:
"On April 12, Yi Kwang-hon Augustine, Kwon Tug-in Peter and others, in all none criminals, were executed for following the false religion."
Bishop Imbert wrote as follow:
"With difficulty we reclaimed the bodies at dawn on April 27. We buried the bodies of the martyrs at a place I had prepared earlier. I would have liked to have dressed the bodies in fine clothes and anointed them with expensive perfume, in the European manner. However, we are poor and to dress the bodies in this way would have been a burden on the Catholics, so we just wrapped them in straw matting. Now we have many protectors in heaven. When the day of religious freedom comes to Korea, as I know it will, these bodies will be a precious heritage."
Saint Kim Ob-I Magdalene, Saint Kim A-gi Agatha and Saint Han A-gi Barbara were beatified on July 5, 1925 and together they were canonized on May 6, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.
The Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Bishop of Inchon, President of the Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue of the CBCK, offered a congratulatory message to Korean Buddhists on the occasion of the feast of Buddha's Birthday on May 19 and invited both Catholics and Buddhists to reinforce their friendship and close cooperation in realizing their common goal. In the meantime, His Eminence Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, stressed in his message to all Buddhist friends in the world issued on the occasion of the feast of Vesakha the need for collaboration of the two religions in fighting against the 'culture of death'’ and building a 'culture of life'. Following is the full text of the message of the Most Rev. Choi to Korean Buddhists.
May 19, 2002
News from th Church in Korea
●Emeritus Bishop of Suwon Passed Away
News in Brief
With an increasing number of North Korean asylum-seekers coming to South Korea, Catholics involved in the North Korea-related associations have urged the Church to intensify the aid to North Korea and to plan special pastoral care for North Korean defectors.
The Church in Korea supports the successful hosting of the 2002 World Cup by organizing cultural events and volunteer works and offering Mass in foreign languages so that the World Cup can be a genuine fraternal festival for people of all nations as children of God, and not just a competition field. Diocese of Suwon sent 2002 footballs to children in North Korea and Afghanistan through the National Red Cross of Korea.
Rev. Didier T'Serstevens, director of 'Rainbow Family', a Social Welfare Center in the Diocese of Chonju won the 12th Ho-am Prize on May 23 for his 40 years of services for farmers and the disabled regardless of their nationalities and religions. Born in Brussels, Belgium and ordained a priest in 1958, he came to Korea in 1960. Although he himself suffers from a chronic disease of 'multiple sclerosis', he still cares for 150 disabled people.
As the Korean Catholics celebrate May as Month of Mary and the Korean people as Month of family, the Most Rev. Augustine Cheong Myong-jo, Bishop of Pusan established the Family Blessing Letter to promote the value of family. The Letter is granted to families of profound faith where three generations live together and have more than three children.
The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints
Saint Kim Ob-I Magdalene (1774-1839)
Kim Ob-I Magdalene and Han A-gi Barbara were arrested together in September 1836. It is not certain whether Kim A-gi Agatha was captured with them or at her own home. In any event, the three of them were taken into custody on the same day.