Dear CBCK Newsletter Readers
It is my great joy to send you, the readers of the CBCK Newsletter throughout the world, my warmest greetings of peace and fraternal love. The General Assembly of the CBCK held last October elected me as President and entrusted to me this important task for which I will do my best, working in unity and collaboration with all member Bishops.
On this occasion I wish to invite you all to join me in thanking our Holy Father Pope John Paul II for the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which he promulgated last October 16 by adding the "mysteries of light" to the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the Rosary and proclaimed the "Year of the Rosary" from October 2002 to October 2003.
It is timely to make a revival of the Rosary, which is a prayer for peace and for the family, and to implore God for the gift of peace and unity. We live in an age which witnesses every day in numerous parts of the world increasing scenes of bloodshed and violence. In his Apostolic Letter the Holy Father invites us to rediscover the Rosary as a means to immerse ourselves in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who 'is our peace'(Eph 2,14; cf. RVG n.6).
One of the critical issues of Korean society is the breakdown of family and the division of the nation. The family is a community of life and love and the primary cell of society. However, the escalating number of divorces and abortions demonstrates the critical situation of the family in our society. It is our epochal mission to redress the family that is the foundation of our human society and the Church, and to work for peace in the world and reconciliation of the Korean peninsula, the only divided country in the world since the collapse of the Cold War.
The Rosary is one of the most effective prayers to preserve the family in peace and harmony (cf. Familiaris consortio n.61). When family members recite the rosary together the Virgin Mary will give strength to overcome family difficulties.
With the Rosary we can build a culture of life and love in our society where a 'culture of death' prevails.
Dear CBCK Newsletter readers,
In union with the Holy Father's intention let us recite the Rosary faithfully during the "Year of the Rosary" for peace in the world, reconciliation of the Korean people and the sanctification of the family so that Christ, the light of the world, can shed light within our society and families. Thank you.
+ Andrew Choi Chang-mou
Archbishop of Kwangju President
Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea
The CBCK Held the 2002 Autumn G.A. and Elected New Officers
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea held the 2002 Autumn General Assembly from October 14 to 17. At the meeting, the Bishops elected the Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou as new President, the Most Rev. Augustine Cheong Myong-jo as Vice President and the Most Rev. John Chang Yik as Secretary Bishop of the CBCK. Rev. Casimir Song Yul-sup was appointed as Secretary General.
The Bishops decided to support the Catholic Doctrine Correspondence Course to animate correspondence catechesis and publish the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Korea as a local adaptation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to deepen the understanding of the general Catholics. They discussed social issues such as the "five day work week system" and "foreign workers from other Asian countries" and agreed to positively seek appropriate pastoral counterplans by examining the study results of each diocese. The Bishops also discussed general absolution and agreed with the opinion of the Committee for Liturgy of the CBCK that Can. 961 is sufficient for Korean situation and decided to report it to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou, new President of the CBCK, said "During my term, I want to focus on the reconciliation and unity of the Korean people and the realization of justice and peace in our society through forgiveness, and to work for the promotion of each Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and good administration of the Catholic Conference of Korea."
A New Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Seoul Consecrated
A New Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Seoul Consecrated
On November 21, the episcopal ordination of Rev. Lucas Kim Woon-hoe took place at Myongdong Cathedral of Seoul, with the Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul presiding. Some 2,000 people including His Eminence Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, the Most Rev. Giovanni Battista Morandini, Apostolic Nuncio in Seoul, the Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou, President of the CBCK, and other bishops, priests, religious and lay Catholics participated in the ceremony and prayed for the new Bishop.
The Most Rev. Cheong said in his allocution, "The episcopate is not for personal honor or ruling but for sacrifice to the point of giving your life for the good of the people of God." He asked the new bishop "to be a good pastor who humbles himself and listens to the voices of the faithful."
Bishop Kim responded, "I will dedicate all my life to fulfill the will of God who called me to the episcopate," and wished that all the faithful in the Archdiocese will become one in the love of God.
The Apostolic Nuncio said in his congratulatory message, "the episcopal motto of the Most Rev. Kim 'Unanimes Caritate' bears an important message to today's world which suffers from hatred and revenge, including the devided Korean Peninsula." He also asked the new bishop "to become 'another Christ' in the footsteps of many great Korean martyrs priests who offered their lives for the development of the Church in Korea."
The Most Rev. Kim was born in Seoul in 1944 and ordained a priest in 1973 after graduating from the Catholic University of Seoul. As a priest, he taught students at Dongseong Middle School in Seoul and served as pastor of two parishes in Seoul. He also worked as director of vocations and education in the Archdiocese of Seoul. Since 1995, he was the principal of Dongseong High School.
Diocese of Masan Welcomes new Bishop
On November 11, the Most Rev. Francis Xavier Ahn Myong-ok was installed as the 4th Bishop of Masan (area: 8.994 ㎢, population: 2,501,084, Catholics: 144,532, priests: 134, parishes: 63, men religious institutes: 5, women religious institutes: 26, major seminarians: 51) by succeeding the Most Rev. Michael Pak Jeong-il who retired on November 11 upon reaching the age of 75 in accordance with Can. 403, §3 and Can. 409. 1§.
The ceremony of the episcopal installation was held at the Auditorium of Seong-ji Girls' High School in Masan in the presence of all the Bishops who are members of the CBCK including His Eminence Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, the Most Rev. Giovanni Battista Morandini, Apostolic Nuncio in Seoul, and 3,500 attendants.
The new Bishop said in his homily, "Because God called me to this new office, I accept it humbly and will devote myself to being in the vanguard of social evangelization by seeking God's will proclaiming the words of God and life. I promise you to live in such a way as to not disappoint your expectation." His Eminence Cardinal Kim, who was the first Bishop of Masan, congratulated the new Bishop saying "In the new millennium God sent a new Bishop to the Diocese of Masan," and added "everything will be renewed when we try to remember Jesus and imitate Him according to the pastoral motto of Bishop Ahn, which says; 'Remember Jesus Christ'(2 Tim 2, 8)," while the Most Rev. G.B. Morandini recommended the clergy, religious and faithful to form the Church in Masan, hand in hand, joining together around the new Bishop, and said to the clergy "You are providentially constituted to be the collaborators of the Episcopal order."
The Most Rev. Ahn was born in Masan in 1945, graduated from the Catholic University of Gwangju, and was ordained a priest in 1975. He studied at the Leopold-Franzens-University of Innsbruck, Austria and obtained a master's degree in moral theology. Until he was appointed as the Coadjutor Bishop of Masan, he was the rector of the Catholic University of Busan and taught moral theology.
Human Rights Must be Respected
from the First Moment of Conception
On the occasion of the 21st Human Rights Sunday on December 8, the Most Rev. John Choi Young-soo, President of the Committee for Justice and Peace of the CBCK, issued a message entitled "Human Rights Must be Respected from the First Moment of Conception" and invited Korean Catholics to make efforts to promote human rights and work for the common good of society. Pointing out the reality of the human rights situation and the need to be improved, he asked the government to establish a systematic device to protect human rights, saying, "the most important duty of the democratic nation is to secure the human rights of its people."
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
This year, we celebrate Human Rights Sunday on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church has taken the lead to respect the dignity and values of human person, created in the image of God, and to protect them. Also, the Church has emphasized the option for the poor and tried to live out Jesus’ teaching; "What you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me"(Mt 25,40).
Under the authoritarian regime we suffered from all kinds of human rights abuses, however, the situation of the human rights of people has been improved along with the progress of democratization. Disclosure of mysterious deaths that were committed under the military regime in the past and establishment of systematic devices to guarantee the human rights of people such as the National Human Rights Committee have been established. However, human rights abuses and loss of lives are still occurring in many areas such as the discrimination of foreign workers, human trafficking, abortion, sexual violence, environmental destruction and daily accidents including violation of traffic regulations. This is because we did not repent enough our wrong doings of the past and have not abandoned our selfishness. By remembering that the most important duty of a democratic state is to guarantee the human rights of its people we want to mention the following points.
First is about the strike of labor unionists of Catholic-run hospitals. The sad situation of the long-term and illegal strike of Catholic-run hospitals looks to run counter to the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church. However, it is a question between the hospital and the labor union not a case of antagonism between the Church and labor. For many years, the Catholic Church in Korea has taken up the cause of the workers and tried to defend their rights. In fact, since the 60s, consistent efforts of the Church in this domain has been estimated highly by Korean society. Labor-management relations should not be a confrontation structure but relations of collaboration as it is well reflected in Rerum Novarum, the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII; ”capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital.” The workers should avoid violence when they have to fight for their rights. The right of collective action of workers has to be guaranteed but it is allowed only when it is 'lawful'. An illegal strike by holding the patients as hostages can never be justified as a lawful act of labor rights. We cannot accept violent collective action led under the pretext of collective interest.
Second is about unborn children's human rights. A critical and shocking reality of the silent approval of the government about the increasing number of abortions denies many noble declarations made on human rights. Indeed, the reality of such tragedy is a contradiction of our society which advocates the defense of human rights and its promotion as a major goal to be fulfilled. Abortion is not the only offence against initial human life. Nowadays, a certain domain of life science insists on the production of human embryos and their use, and the government is moving toward the legislation to allow this. We oppose and denounce such acts against life and human rights. All attempts to justify this criminal act on human embryos as a noble act of medical progress should be stopped. Human embryos have rights to be respected and protected.
Third is about the presidential election slated for December 19 of this year. We should not confuse the Church with a political party. Very regrettably, our country, which is still suffering from division, is stained by all kinds of corruption and crime, and has not overcome regional discord.
In this critical situation, we are called to make efforts to redress the political order and seek for the common good by keeping in mind the words of the Pope John Paul II; "No peace without justice no justice without forgiveness" (2002 World Day of Peace). In this coming presidential election we have to elect a leader with objectivity and prudence and who can contribute to the common good of the people by rejecting regionalism.
We entrust the reconciliation and peace of our people in the hands of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, the patron of the Church in Korea. We pray for the peace of Jesus to be with you all.
December 8, 2002
21st Human Rights Sunday
+ John Choi Yong-soo
President Committee for Justice & Peace of the CBCK
Pastoral Letter on Abortion
Abortion is Murder
The Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Bishop of Inchon, issued a pastoral letter on abortion on October 18, to counteract the serious reality of abortion that claims 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 unborn lives annually. "We feel indignant over the massacre of six million Jewish people by Nazis, but tend to close our eyes to the reality of our society where parents and doctors kill the same number of unborn children by abortion in three years," Bishop Choi pointed out and added "if we were murderers or onlookers of homicide committed against unborn lives, we should deeply regret this and try to correct it." He recommended pastors to continuously enlighten the faithful about the Church's social teachings on abortion," and said, "if pastors remain silent about this critical situation of abortion as they have done until now, the tendency of devaluing human life will erode the consciences of the faithful."
News Week magazine of April 8, 2002 carried a 2-page article entitled Dark Secrets of Korea with gloomy pictures of surgical instruments used in a gynecology clinic. The article said that in Korea 1.5 to 2 million unborn babies are killed per year by abortion, and this number is the same as the United States, but it is six times higher than the U.S. considering the population rate. The TV station, KBS, on its evening News Hour of April 20, 2002, aired a shocking story that 10 percent of high school girls experienced abortion, and the number of aborted babies reached as many as 300,000 per year. According to recent statistics, 600,000 babies are born in Korea per year and about 1,800,000 babies are killed by abortion. This means that in 2,500 obstetrics and gynecology clinics 5,000 babies are aborted every day. Considering the population rate it is 20 times higher than Germany, 11 times higher than Italy and France and 9 times higher than Japan.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are often indignant over the massacre of six million Jewish people by the Nazis, but tend to close our eyes to the reality of our society where parents and doctors kill the same number of unborn children with abortion within three years. Can we accept this reality? We have to stop infanticide. Religion circles are struggling hard to abolish the capital punishment system in Korea. They speak out to save a few criminals' lives a year but keep a low voice against abortion. If we were murderers or onlookers of homicide committed against unborn lives, we should deeply repent and try to correct it. We contradict ourselves if we are angry at terrorists while killing our own children.
1. Whoever Commits an Abortion is a Murderer
We know that a child is a perfect human being from the very moment of conception. "In reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the process of generation begins. From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his/her own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already"(Declaration on Procured Abortion, no 12 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Nov. 11, 1974). We must take this message to heart. It is a crime of murder for a mother to kill her unborn child. Abortion is a violent criminal act of killing the baby in the mother's womb. Killing an innocent and defenseless baby in the mother's womb, the safest place for a baby, is the most atrocious sin among all sins. Therefore, abortion cannot be justified for whatever reason. Neither worries about social critics or an obstacle for the future of unmarried mothers nor worries about a mother's health, economic impact, mentality to preferring a son to a daughter, fear of the birth of a handicapped baby of married people, can justify the abortion, a criminal act of homicide.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, especially, our Young People,
Please remember that thinking of abortion is a satanic temptation against which we have to stand resolutely.
2. Whoever Encourages an Abortion Commits a Sin
Those mothers, husbands or siblings who encourage a pregnant woman to abort the unborn baby commits a sin. What crime would be greater than to invite someone to kill people? Jesus said, "Alas for the world that there should be such obstacles! Obstacles indeed there must be, but alas for the man who provides them!"(Mt. 18,7). The coming of a human being into the world is God's providence regardless of the reason. Though we don't understand fully God's ways we have to follow His will. That means that we should not kill lives. For unmarried mothers, we have to help her discretely so that she can give birth without worries. The Church will take care of the baby. To accept a baby with a handicap we need great courage, but we trust in God's providence and His endless blessing.
3. Whoever Procures an Abortion Commits a Grave Sin
In the case of the Unites States, according to the research made in 1977, of 307 obstetricians and gynecologists 67 percent did not perform abortions. However in Korea, except in Catholic-run hospitals, it was hard to find ten doctors who did not perform abortions. Furthermore, it is a known fact that over 70 percent of Korean gynecological clinics consider surgical operation to cause an abortion as their main source of income. Truly, this is a matter of great regret. We shudder at the sight of the cruel murder on media and ask ourselves how such a thing would be possible! An embryo is a life. An unborn baby is a human being. Looking out for one's economic interest by performing abortion is a murderous act that is unacceptable. If we believe in the next world we shouldn't behave in such a way. Human beings do not live for thousands of years, but we believe in eternal life. Therefore, we appeal to all parents and doctors to stop abortion.
4. Whoever Supports an Abortion Commits a Sin
All those who are involved in abortion commit a sin. We Catholics have to make an effort not to take part in abortion for whatever reason even for our job. If necessary, we have to change our job. We should not join in murdering affairs. Jesus wants a clear declaration of faith. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters"(Mt. 12,30).
5. An Abortion is a Source of Sins
Current social trends favoring abortion are the root cause of all kinds of social sin; prevailing sexual crimes of the youth, prostitution of minors, unmarried mothers, human trafficking, gender unbalance of males and females including devaluing of human life. Abortion is a horrible crime based on materialism, hedonism and individualism menacing the family which is the foundation of society. Abortion increases distrust between the couple, family discord, adultery, incest or homicide of lineal ascendant etc.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We Catholics of a religion of truth and life are called to be "salt to the earth and light of the world"(Mt 5 13-14) by taking the lead in stopping abortion and protecting life. For this, as a Bishop, I want to recommend our pastors continuously enlighten the faithful about the Church's social teachings on abortion. If pastors remain silent on this critical situation of abortion as they have done until now, the tendency of devaluing human life will grow and erode the consciences of the faithful. In this regard, we also need to positively seek for ways of pastoral care of those who have committed abortions. Pastors should teach the faithful that abortion is a grave sin according to both the Criminal Law of the Republic of Korea and Canon Law. The Criminal Law stipulates that "A woman who procures her own miscarriage through the use of drugs or other means, or kills her baby in her womb commits aborticide (cf: Criminal Law nos 269 & 270) and whoever kills a baby while being delivered commits homicide and whoever kills immediately after the delivery commits infanticide (Criminal Law n.251). According to the Code of Canon Law the aborticide is considered more grave than general homicide. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication" (Canon Law n.1398). The Church provides pastoral care for people who repent sincerely their sins through the Sacrament of Penance, but they have to pay their due of temporary punishment corresponding to their sins.
It is wrong to think abortion is something normal and it is enough to go to confession to be pardoned. A sincere conversion is required. Second, the pastors should provide for teaching the faithful about natural family planning. The Catholic Church is not against birth control but advises the natural way of birth control like the Billing's method. I recommend that all the faithful accept the Church's teaching on bioethics and live it out. Both the natural law and the divine law command us to respect life itself. Whoever neglects it neglects oneself. We Catholics have to convert ourselves first and recognize our negligence in our faith life.
We have to ask God's mercy on behalf of the unenlightened people about the nature of abortion and its impact on us all. Today, the innocent unborn children's "blood is crying out to me from the ground!"(Gn 4, 10).
It is essential to stop abortion and protect life. Let's take the lead in this matter. There are people who suffer from unwanted pregnancy, but, for those who believe in divine providence, God will provide what they need. "Death was not God's doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living"(Ws 1,13).
October 18, 2002
+ Boniface Choi Ki-san
Bishop of Inchon
News from the Church in Korea
○ Bishops Issue 2003 Pastoral Letters
On the first Sunday of Advent, the Korean Bishops issued pastoral letters and paved the way of pastoral directions for the year of 2003. Major points which emerged from their letter were faithfulness to the Gospel in daily life, animation of the Basic Ecclesial Community, evangelization of the family, option for the poor, continued support for North Koreans and special concern for the marginalized people in society. In view of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Seoul slated for next year, the Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul, called for the positive participation of the faithful saying, "the evangelical values and opinions to be studied at the Synod will be reflected in the pastoral work of the Archdiocese in the future."
The Most Rev. Paul Ri Moun-hi , Archbishop of Taegu, focused on the evangelization of the family, foundation of society and the Church, calling for Christian families to be energetically committed in proclaiming the Gospel, and announced his plan to hold the Youth Congress and the Family Congress in 2003.
The Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou, Archbishop of Kwangju, emphasized the animation of Basic Ecclesial Communities to effectively realize "the mission of ecclesial community" within the local community and asked the faithful to participate in this with a sense of responsibility. Other diocesan Bishops also invited the faithful to look for the criteria of their lives in the Gospel and to proclaim Christ our "new hope" to neighbors and society.
○ Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san Appointed as Member of the PCID
The Holy Father John Paul II appointed the Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue as of September 17, 2002 and announced it through His Eminence Monsignor. Michael L. Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for interreligious Dialogue. The Most Rev. Boniface Choi Ki-san, Bishop of Inchon, is President of the Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligous Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea.
○ The Korean Bishops Ask U.S. Bishops to Support a Fair Amendment of the Korea-U.S. SOFA
On December 5, the CBCK(President: Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou) sent to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) a letter with a document entitled "Comparison between the Amended Korea-U.S. SOFA and SOFA of Other Countries" in which it called for solidarity and support for a fair and complete amendment of the current Korea-U.S. SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement). In the letter the Korean Bishops expressed deep concern about the consequences of the unfair SOFA that can undermine Korea-U.S. relations and asked their U.S. counterparts for support for a fair amendment of the SOFA. They gave as an example the tragic incident of the death of two Korean schoolgirls run over by a U.S. military vehicle in last June and the U.S. martial court's acquittal of two U.S. soldiers involved in the accident that provoked anti-U.S. sentiment among Korean people, sparking nationwide protests. ?air and complete amendment of the Korea-U.S. SOFA is vital to establish a future-oriented relation of Korea and U.S. based on mutual respect and equal partnership as two independent sovereign entities,” they said. Prior to this the CBCK made two requests for solidarity to the USCCB in 2000 and 2001, respectively, for the same issue.
○ Asia Consultors' Meeting of the PCID Held in Seoul
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue(PCID) had its Asia Consultors' Meeting from September 24 to 27 at Aaron Retreat House in Uiwang-si, Gyeonggi-do. His Eminence Cardinal Francis Arinze, President of the PCID, visited the National Center for Confucianism and the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and had a meeting with leaders of the seven main religions in Korea. On this occasion the Cardinal said, "As the Catholic Church has always respected good, noble and true elements in other religions we respect the wisdom, long history and deep roots of your religious tradition in this country." The Cardinal told them about the active efforts of the Vatican for interreligious dialogue with Muslims and expressed appreciation for the friendly and cooperative relationship among religions in Korea and encouraged to continue it in the future.
○ Church Concerned for Commercializing Human Life
On October 14, the Committee for the Doctrine of the Faith, Committee for Family Ministry, Bioethic Committee and the Committee for Justice and Peace of the CBCK issued a 35-page joint proposal regarding the "Life Ethics Bill" that was finalized by the Ministry of Health & Welfare on September 23. The proposal pointed out the great danger of this bill to "open the door to the abuse of human life for commercial profit," in particular regulations on human embryos. The life ethics bill tends to materialize or instrumentalize human embryos, and allows the production of embryos for the purpose of pregnancy and mass production of spare embryos to be used for experiments. The proposal noted "it is a clear violation of human life to use human embryos as means to treat incurable diseases," though it does not reject the need to cure diseases. The proposal urged the government to take a resolute decision beyond the narrow logic that "human embryo should be regarded as human life as far as it has a primitive streak, but if not, it is just a mass of cells."
○ New Secretary General of the CBCK Urges on Abolition of Mother and Child Health Law
With regard to the National Assembly's rejection of the petition of the CBCK for abolition of the Mother and Child Health Law Rev. Casimir Song Yul-sup, new Secretary General of the CBCK, argued about the right to life of unborn babies saying "people who are born and people to be born are equal beings with the same human dignity and right to life," and urged the Korean government to abolish the Law, which permits abortion limitedly. The CBCK petitioned to the National Assembly for the abolition of the Mother and Child Health Law on December 2000 with 1,240,000 signatures, but the National Assembly sent notice to the CBCK on December 14 its rejection of this petition saying "A woman? right for choice has to be respected."
○ A Plaza in Rome Dedicated to Korean Martyrs
A Roman plaza was dedicated to Korean martyr saints with the name of "Largo Santi Martiri Coreani". On November 29 at the Pontifical Korean College in Rome the naming ceremony took place with some 250 participants including the Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou, President of the CBCK, who presided at the naming ceremony, the Most Rev. Paul Ri Moun-hi, Moderator of the College, the Most Rev. Joseph Lee Han-taek, Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul from Korea, and the Most Rev. Michael L. Fitzgerald, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Ambassador Song Yeong-o, the Korean Ambassador to Italy. The Largo Santi Martiri Coreani in Rome, center of the universal Church, is expected to promote the cooperation and exchanges between Korea and Italy and to bring to light the status of the Church in Korea. Rev. Anthony Jon Tal-su, Rector of the College, announced the College's plan to erect a statue of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon in the plaza and said that all Korean Catholics visiting Rome are most welcomed to this significant place to pray to their martyr saints.
○ Sr Helen of "Dead Man Walking" Urges Korean Government to Abolish Capital Punishment
Sr. Helen Prejean whose autobiography was the basis of the movie "Dead Man Walking", called on Korean government to abolish capital punishment for the sake of human dignity. Invited by the Committee for Justice & Peace of the CBCK Sr. Helen said, "Capital punishment exists because many people think that criminals' lives are worthless. However, nobody has the right to kill another, no matter what kind of criminal that person may be. Many people would oppose capital punishment if they knew the harsh reality. In fact, it is always the poor, neglected by the law, who are executed.
Also, since all humans are frail, even the best of the justice systems can execute innocent people. In modern societies, the death penalty should be replaced with life imprisonment." She gave talks at Myongdong Cathedral of Seoul and at the Memorial Center of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon in Daegu, and held press conferences. She hoped that Korea will become a beacon of moral leadership to other Asian countries by being the first country in Asia to stop government killing by the death sentence. A nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for three consecutive years from 1998, Sr. Helen is well known for her decades of campaigning against the death penalty.
○ Catholic Association of Spiritual Theology Born
On September 25, some 150 theologians and pastoral workers gathered at the Catholic University of Seoul and officially announced the establishment of the Catholic Association of Spiritual Theology. "We members of the Catholic Association of Spriritual Theology will humbly work for the glory of God, salvation of humanity by concentrating our wisdom and efforts on the spiritual apostleship, thus contributing to the mission of evangelization, developing spiritual charisma so that Korean Catholics can apply it to their everyday faith life," the declaration read. The Association is expected to contribute to the qualitative progress of the Church in Korea in line with her quantitative growth in the new millennium.
News in Brief
On the occasion of the celebration of the 24th anniversary of Pope John Paul II to the papacy held at the Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on Oct. 15, the Most Rev. Giovanni Battista Morandini, Apostolic Nuncio in Seoul, said, "the Holy Father is concerned about the Korean peninsula to the extent that he made 'Reconciliation of Korean people' the Missionary Prayer Intention of Sep. 2002," and invited the Korean Catholics "to return his love by working for the unity of Korea and fulfilling their Christian duties."
Cardinal Kim was awarded the La Orden Bernardo O'Higgins En El Grado de Gran Cruz from the government of the Republic of Chile on Nov. 10 for his support or the democratization of Chile in the 80s. "Korea and Chile, though they are placed in opposite sides of the globe, have realized democratization by the people's struggle against the dictatorship and the two countries have many common points", said Chilean Ambassador Fernando Schimidt in Seoul.
The Committee for Women of the CBCK published Church and Women, a 760-page long collection of Church documents on women, on October 2002. The first comprehensive collection of documents of its kind, it is expected to offer effective tools for study on women in the Church in Korea.
The Diocese of Masan carried out a one-month(October) campaign to save North Korean children to witness Christian love for North Korean brethren in difficulties, especially ill-fed children. Other religions, civic organizations and local people joined the campaign.
According to Itar Tass in Russia, Kim Jong-il , Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, said that he would allow the building of an Orthodox Church in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea. "The Church project will be modeled after the Orthodox Church in Khabarovsk that Kim visited during his visit to Russia last summer, and the frescos and icons will be produced by Russian artists," said Itar Tass and added that the church might be opened in one year.
The Lives of the 103 Martyr Saints
The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints -24
Early in the morning Francis and about 40 others, including children, were rounded up and taken to Seoul.One estimate puts the total number at 100. Francis went in front, followed by the men, then the women and children. The police followed behind. Francis told the group of tired Catholics that an angel was measuring their steps with a golden ruler and encouraged them to think of Jesus on the Cross. It was the height of summer and the heat made walking difficult, especially for the women and children. Among those who watched this strange procession were some who hurled insults at them and others who felt sorry for them.
As they arrived at the Great South Gate, people shouted at them,
"You wicked people. Die if you want to, but, why to make these innocent children die with you?" It was evening before they arrived at the prison.
The next day the interrogation started. The police commissioner said,
"If you want to believe, do it alone. Do not deceive these other people."
To this warning, Francis replied, "Whoever does not believe in the Catholic Church goes to hell." Encouraging them to believe in the Catholic Church was out of love, to save their souls from hell. The angry judge ordered that he be tortured until he recanted and apostatized. But he bravely withstood the torture even though his whole body was bleeding and covered with wounds.
Francis was bleeding heavily and his bones were exposed, but he was steadfast. Next the other Catholics were called and questioned. But they couldn't endure the harsh tortures and finally they all denied their religion except three persons; Francis, his wife, and one of his women relatives, Yi Emerentia. Catechist Ch'oe Francis was sad to see his fellow Catholics go away and his Mount Suri community being reduced to only three.
When the judges discovered that one of his sons, Ch'oe Yang-up Thomas,had gone to Macao to study theology, they increased pressure on him to make him deny God. They beat him so severely that the bones of his arms and legs were all dislocated. Francis said to them: "You can make me stop eating, but you can never make me deny God." He went on "How dare you demand that I betray the Church. Infidelity among ordinary people is regarded as wrong. How much more so is infidelity to God!"
According to witnesses, during the two months Francis was in prison, there was hardly a day that he was not subjected to torture until his whole body became one great wound.
It is told that he was whipped 340 times and beaten with a club on his shins 110 times. Despite all, he never stopped praying or preaching the Gospel to people around him. One day, to aggravate his suffering, the police chief tied a fierce robber with him. The robber ridiculed him and kicked his wounds. But Francis endured everything without a word until even the robber was won over and exclaimed, "If anyone is going to believe in the Catholic Church, they should believe like him."
If his patience and courage had not come from a deep faith in God he could not have withstood such severe torture and hardship. In the midst of this pain, whenever he was asked to explain the doctrine of God, Francis was filled with joy and gladly preached the doctrine to those in prison with him. One day a prison guard put Bishop Imbert's mitre and vestments on Francis, and he bowed reverently, saying that he was bowing to the Cross.
On September 11, Francis was taken out to the court again and beaten with a cudgel 50 times, but it was his last torture.
Back in his cell, knowing that he was dying, he said to his fellow Catholics, "I had hoped to give witness to the faith by dying under the sword. But it is God's will that I die in prison."
A few hours later, on September 12, 1839, he drew his last breath. He was thirty-five years old. Although his death was not as dramatic as being beheaded, his spirit still shines as a heroic sign of true faith for all believers.
His wife, unable to overcome her motherly love for her young children, agreed to apostatize but immediately regretted her decision and withdrew it. After great suffering, she was beheaded at Tangkogae on December 29, 1839, at the age of thirty-nine. Francis was canonized on May 6, 1984 at Yoido, Seoul, by Pope John Paul II.
Ch'oe Kyong-hwan Francis' oldest son, Ch'oe Yang-up Thomas(1821-1861), was ordained a priest in Shanghai in 1849 and returned to Korea. He worked in Korea for twelve years, going to isolated country places where no foreign priest could venture. He also gathered much information about the martyrs, translated it into Latin and sent it to Rome. Dallet's History of the Church in Korea, owes indeed much to the work done by Father Ch'oe Yang-up Thomas at that time. Apart from the history of the Church in Korea, Father Ch'oe also wrote much on Korean culture, customs, geography, literature and art, introducing these to a wider Western audience.He also produced books on Catholic teaching for the use of the Korean believers. The words of one of his poems described his mind:
"Oh yes, my friends, Let us search for our true home."