From the Editor:
The Winter of our Population Freeze
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea launched the Life 31 Movement on February 7, 2003. The movement is a five-year pan-national pro-life campaign to build a culture of life in opposition to the culture of death that is evident in abortion, capital punishment, the scientific manipulation of life, and the resort to war. In 2004 the movement will promote life further under the motto “One More Life.” The movement will invite the faithful in a prayer contest for the protection of life and in every diocese of the country it will appoint a priest responsible for the Life 31 Movement to publicize the campaign and animate it through church groups.
This is now the freezing season of winter in Korea. But what makes us shiver more than the winter cold is the winter or freezing of our population which refers to an aging population and a low birth rate. Korea's aged population reached 7.2 percent of the total population in 2000 and it is estimated that the aged will reach 14.4 percent in 2019 and 20 percent in 2026. This means that Korea will become a super-aging society. This growth of the aging population in Korea is faster than that of advanced aging countries like Sweden, France, and Germany, and even faster than that of Japan which is the fastest aging society in the world.
In contrast to the aging situation, the birth rate has rapidly decreased: from 4.5 births (total fertility rate: the average number of children born per woman during her lifetime) in 1970 to 2.7 births in 1980; from 1.6 births in 1990 to 1.47 births in 2000; and from 1.3 births in 2001 to 1.17 births in 2002. In this way Korea has become the country with the lowest birth rate in the world, surpassing Japan (1.3 births in 2002) and European countries (Italy: 1.24 births in 2002; Germany: 1.29 births in 2002; England: 1.63 births in 2002; and France: 1.90 births in 2002).
Although the Church in Korea has opposed embryonic cloning, the cabinet approved the Legislative Bill Concerning Ethics and Security of Life on October 7, 2003, which permits embryonic cloning through the transfer of the nucleus of somatic cells. This is an evil fruit of the culture of death that treats human life as a means.
Korea is facing a freezing season of life and the end of winter still seems far away. The Church in Korea is playing a leading role in conserving and protecting life against the forces of materialism, the commercializing of life and the attempts to artificially manipulate life. May God, the Master of Life, bless our efforts so that the culture of life will bear abundant fruit and we will experience the vitality of a new spring. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”(John 10,10).
+ Fr. Casimir Song Yul-sup
Secretary General Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea
2003 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK Held
2003 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK Held
One of the most important decisions made during the 2003 Autumn General Assembly was the agreement to prepare the norms for the sanctification and pastoral life of the priest in accord with the request of the Congregation for Clergy. Accordingly the bishops made a sound examination of the proposed norms during the Assembly and submitted them to the Permanent Council of the CBCK for final approval scheduled for December 16. For this, the opinions of priests, religious and laity concerning the revised proposal of the norms will be collected in a way designed by each diocesan bishop and presented to the General Secretariat of the CBCK.
The Episcopal Commission for Clergy published the Exhortation The Church draws her life from the Eucharist on September 20, 2003 to help priests to maintain their life and identity in harmony with the Eucharist.
The bishops also decided to prepare a joint pastoral letter on the family to be released during the 2004 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK following the FABC 8th Plenary Assembly. The joint pastoral letter on the family will focus on the teaching of the Church about the family community and propose concrete ways to live it out on the level of the family and society. It will examine thoroughly the root cause of the crisis in family life. Korean society is facing the challenges such as the increasing divorce rate, low birth rate, the growing number of abandoned children. It is expected to be a good opportunity to reaffirm the role of the Catholic Church in Korean society now experiencing an unprecedented collapse of family life and to give an impetus to the family movements within the Church.
Another important work of the Assembly was the approval of the Catechism for the Laity of the Catholic Church in Korea which was prepared by the Committee for Catechesis and approved by the Biblical Committee, the Committee for Doctrine of the Faith and the Committee for Liturgy of the CBCK. With this the Catholic Church in Korea will be able to undertake the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in Korea which will be the standard catechism for Korean Catholics.
Message on the 20th Caritas Sunday
"Blessed are the Merciful"(Mat 5,7)
On the occasion of the 20th Caritas Sunday on December 14, 2003, the Most Rev. Gabriel Chang Pong-hun, President of the Committee for “Caritas Coreana” of the CBCK issued a Message. He said, “The practice of love and charity is the heart of Jesus’ teaching and Gospel” and invited the faithful to be the merciful. The following is the summary of the message.
”God is rich in mercy”(Eph 2,4). Jesus showed the love and mercy of God by words, deeds and mode of living. He proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor to the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed (cf. Lk 4,18-21) and witnessed the mercy of God through his entire life.
He did not merely preach the love and mercy of God but asked us to live it. This demand is the essence of Jesus' teaching and the heart of the evangelical spirit. Jesus expressed it in two ways; “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”(Jn 13,34) and “Blessed are the merciful: for they will receive mercy”(Mt 5,7).
We the Christians are followers of Jesus, so we are called to be the merciful and witness of the infinite love and mercy of God. Especially, we should have preferential love for the poor and render them concrete charity. Charity that flows up from the heart is the Christian way of living and the essence of the mission of the Christians. The Church should be aware of the need and responsibility to witness the love and mercy of God to the suffering of human family and neighbors. Doing this the Church confesses and proclaims the mercy of God and lives fully her original mission. The Christians incarnate the love and mercy of God through charity, and furthermore they get them back and reach the “Beatitudes.”
The Church helps the suffering through parish welfare activities. Some 9,000 people are engaged in over 620 church-run social welfare organizations and facilities to help children, unfortunate youths, the elderly, the handicapped, tuberculosis patients, unfortunate women and people without family. This work requires considerable financial resources. Beside material aid we need volunteer services you offer directly in the field organizations. Especially to accompany the poor is the greater charity.
The Caritas Sunday was established to help the faithful to live the Christian love in the example of the divine mercy. One of the ways to welcome Our Lord who is coming among us as a poor and powerless enfant is the charity we offer to people in suffering. We wish you to be “the merciful” where you are and in what you do.
+ Gabriel Chang Bong-hun
Bishop of Cheongju
Caritas Coreana of the CBCK
Position of the Catholic Church in Korea on the Legislative Bill ...
Position of the Catholic Church in Korea
on the Legislative Bill Concerning Ethics
and Security of Life
The Most Rev. Francis Xavier Ahn Myong-ok, President of the Committee for Doctrine of the Faith and the Bioethics Committee of the CBCK, issued on October 16 a message regarding the Legislative Bill Concerning Ethics and Security of Life, passed by the Cabinet council and declared its position against it. The following is the full text of the message.
1. The Catholic Church in Korea declares its position against the Legislative Bill Concerning Ethics and Security of Life that the Cabinet council voted for on October 7, 2003. The bill contains risks that may induce many social ills and problems by permitting embryonic cloning through the transfer of the nucleus of somatic cells and even the use of spare embryos, a process justified as a treatment research through the human and animal nucleus transfer.
2. The bill, on the one hand, prohibits reproduction by the implantation of cloned embryos of somatic cells to the uterus with the goal of cloning a human being. But on the other hand, it permits embryonic cloning with the goal of researching treatments. These acts are contradictory. Cloning for reproduction and cloning for treatment research have different goals and yet they both belong practically to the same act. There is no doubt that cloning for research purposes and cloning for reproduction purposes intend to use human life as a means of research in the name of scientific research and treatment. This is an extremely unethical act that treats human life as a means and destroys it. The initial embryo which is not yet transferred to the uterus is a living human individual, an autonomous organic body and a perfect human life that can be developed into an integral human being. If the public power recognizes and allows such unethical acts as killing innocent lives and destroying human lives by artificial means, it can only be blamed for dereliction of duty because its duty is to protect human life and promote the common good.
3. We point out that such an artificial parthenogenesis, which is used to produce human embryos, affects seriously the dignity of human life. All acts of cloning and all uses of spare embryos in the name of scientific research and with the goal of treatment should be banned because these acts destroy human life and reduce human beings to a biological process.
4. Any act attempting to produce new individual human embryos by transferring the nucleus of a somatic cell, by dividing embryos, and by cloning should be prohibited. This prohibition should naturally include the production of monstrous embryos that are half-man and half-animal by using the reproductive cells
Message on the 22nd Human Rights Sunday
Blessed Are Those Who Welcome Strangers!
On the occasion of the 22nd Human Rights Sunday on December 7, 2003, the Most Rev. John Choi Young-soo, President of the Committee for Justice & Peace of the CBCK, issued a message and reminded Catholics of their duty toward “the most vulnerable of foreigners, undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, those displaced by continuing violent conflicts in many parts of the world, and the victims - mostly women and children - of the terrible crime of human trafficking.” He asked people, especially Catholics, to “make efforts to overcome the anti-life culture and build a new culture of life” and urged the government to “amend the faulty laws.” The following is full text of the message.
1. Human Dignity
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We celebrate today the 22nd Human Rights Sunday. To proclaim and practice the justice of God in all circumstances where human rights are infringed upon, the Catholic Church in Korea instituted Human Rights Sunday in 1982 on the second Sunday of Advent as we prepare for and await the birth of Jesus Christ who will come to save us. It is also time to express concern over situations where the dignity of human beings, created in the image of God (cf. Gen 1,26-27), is trampled upon and where the rights God endowed man with are violated, and to hear the cry of the victims.
The human person, the image of God, is born by an act of love and exists personally by virtue of God, the Creator (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1700-1709). Nevertheless, we often witness cases where the condition of the existence of human beings or communities is not sufficiently guaranteed.
2. Family and Human Rights
”One aspect of fundamental importance for the promotion of human rights is the recognition of the ‘rights of the family’. This implies the protection of marriage in the framework of ‘human rights’ and of family life as an objective of every juridical system” (Pontifical Council for the Family, the Family and Human Rights, n. 9). Charter of the Rights of the Family, promulgated by the Pontifical Council for the Family on October 22, 1983, understands the family as the subject that includes all members of the family on October 22, 1983. Therefore, all society as well as the State should protect the family and marriage.
In this regard, we strongly support the Life 31 Movement which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea launched in February 2003 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the institution of the Mother and Child Health Law by the government. We also urge people, especially Catholics, to make efforts to overcome the anti-life culture and build a new culture of life and we ask the government and legislative body to amend faulty laws.
3. Combat Troop Dispatch and Infringement of Human Rights
Regarding the government’s decision to send combat troops to Iraq, we hereby reconfirm and support the position of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, expressed in its statement titled “We Want Peace, Not War!” (February 14, 2003), and reiterated in the statement of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs titled “Peace to This Land!” (October 13, 2003).
The Korean troops previously dispatched to Iraq were not combat troops, but construction and medical troops supporting peace and the reconstruction of Iraq. We cannot but be concerned that the dispatch of combat troop always involves the possibility of seriously impairing the human rights of the local people and of the stationary troops.
4. Dispute in Wi-do Regarding the Nuclear Waste Dump Site
Buan-gun, located in Jeollabuk-do, was traditionally a peaceful town with small population of 68,000, but it has suffered for more than four months from the tension between its residents and the government regarding the nuclear waste dump site. Finally a furious protest on November 19 injured some 100 protesters, and led to the dispatch of police forces on a large scale by the government.
It seems necessary to examine whether the present situation is the result of collective selfishness or a disturbance caused by suppressing the truth. A transparent and formal channel of communication should be opened so that all matters can be settled between the government and the residents. For this, peaceful solutions should be adopted to avoid conflict between the residents and the public power. The government should make efforts not to use excessive police force and the residents should communicate their opinions to the government in a peaceful manner.
5. Human Rights of North Korean People
We cannot but express deep concern over the human rights of North Korean people. Human rights in North Korea are also an object of international attention that international organizations and groups mention almost every year. In all cases human life must be respected and no public power has the right to injure it. “To choose life implies rejecting every form of violence: the violence of poverty and hunger, the violence of armed conflict, the violence of criminal trafficking in drugs and arms, the violence of mindless damage to the natural environment”(Paul II, Message for the 1999 World Day for Peace, Respect for Human Rights: The Secret of True Peace, January 1, 1999, n.4). Pope John Paul II also said, “Religious freedom therefore constitutes the very heart of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that the right to religious freedom includes the right to manifest personal beliefs, whether individually or with others, in public or in private”(ibid., n. 5).
6. Human Rights of North Korean Defectors and Immigrant Workers
We should also think of the human rights of North Korean defectors and refugees. It is the time for us to consider how we accept North Korean defectors and refugees who have different backgrounds and conditions. We must consider how we treat immigrant workers of different races and with different languages.
”Even though we have contributed to the Korean economy by working diligently in 3D (dangerous, dirty and difficult) jobs, we have been treated like ‘consumption goods’ and we are now forced to leave this country,” a Filipino worker said. Announcing last September that it would enforce “Regulations on the Employment of Foreign Workers,” the government decided to launch a crackdown on illegal immigrant workers, especially on some 120,000 workers who refused to leave this country. This situation drives the foreign workers into a corner.
The Church, on the occasion of 2003 World Migration Day (Jan. 19), called for “serious reflection on the duties of Catholics” towards “the most vulnerable foreigners: undocumented migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, those displaced by continuing violent conflicts in many parts of the world, and the victims - mostly women and children - of the terrible crime of human trafficking”(Pope John Paul II, Message for the 89th World Migration Day, n. 1).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I pray, “May Mary our Mother, who also experienced rejection at the very time when she was about to give her Son to the world, helps the Church to be the sign and instrument of the unity of cultures and nations in one single family. May God’s abundant blessings be with those who welcome strangers in Christ’s name”(ibid. n. 5).
December 7, 2003
+ John Choi Young-soo
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Taegu
President Committee for Justice & Peace of the CBCK
Message on the 2003 Mission Month
Mission is Evangelization
On the occasion of the Mission Month, the Most Rev. Joseph Kyeong Kap-ryong, President of the Committee for Evangelization, issued the message and reminded the faithful that all Christians are called to the mission of evangelization by imitating Jesus' life. (summery)
October is Mission Month during which we are called upon to reflect on the meaning of mission that is evangelization. The biblical meaning of mission is to follow “the goodness and kindness of God our Savior”(Tit 3,4) and to put it into practice. The only model of Christian mission is Jesus Christ. Christians are sent as Jesus was sent. Christians are called to live as Jesus lived and to preach the gospel as Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom of God (cf. Jn 17,18). What the Church has to do first is to imitate Jesus' life and this is her mission and her raison d’etre. The mission community looks at the way of life of Jesus Christ “who emptied himself”(Phil 2,7) and died on the cross to redeem us. Therefore the mission community requires total self-sacrifice and dedication.
The world is growing smaller with the rapid progress of transportation and communication technology. The new world order requires new responses to the existential questions of human beings; meaning of life, goal of life, suffering and happiness, death and the world after death etc. The Church has to devote herself to the evangelization of the people and present a model of human life that is realized by evangelical power. The lay people are excellent missionaries. They contribute to mission no less than priests and religious by making transparent the image of Christ in their everyday lives.
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, said that “man is the way for the Church.” Evangelization as mission work has to be realized in respecting the freedom of people and facing up to reality. Evangelical mission has to witness the new life in Christ and bring Jesus to the poor.
There is no doubt that the social commitment that the modern world expects from us Christians is a “movement for peace.” We have to bring peace for the sake of the unity of the Eastern and Western world by narrowing the economic gap between the poor and the rich, and bring political peace through reconciliation of Korean people. “In your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet you do it with gentleness and reverence”(1Pt 3,15-16).
News from the Church in Korea
News from the Church in Korea
○ The 25 Years of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II Celebrated
The 25 years of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II was celebrated in the Church and diplomatic world as well. On October 16, the Korean bishops concelebrated a Mass to mark the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II at Myeongdong Cathedral of Seoul. The 800 people who attended the Mass included diplomats, laity, religious and priests.
The Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul, in his homily, praised Pope John Paul II for his commitment to the promotion of peace in the world and the culture of life, saying, “He made a definitive contribution to put an end to the Cold War era and Marxism and never ceased to proclaim the gospel of life, especially during his visits to over 130 countries. People who have met the Pope say they were impressed that ‘He is a man of God’. That is why he is called a ‘man of peace’, ‘consciousness of humanity’, and ‘mirror of justice.’”
On October 17, the Apostolic Nunciature in Seoul celebrated the anniversary at the extension Hall of Myeongdong Cathedral by inviting some 300 diplomats and dignitaries from society including laity, religious, priests and religious leaders of different faiths.
On October 31, the Italian Cultural Institute of Seoul celebrated the anniversary at Ae Gyeong Hall of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Archbishop Cheong and Archbishop Giovanni Battista Morandini, Apostolic Nuncio to Korea, together with many diplomatic officials and people from all walks of society and the religious world took part. The participants paid tribute to the Holy Father and wished him well as he continues his noble mission for peace and charity around the world.
On the occasion Rev. Ciro Benedittini, deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, gave a talk titled “Pope John Paul II: 25 Years of Passion for Humanity.” He said that Pope John Paul II changed the image of the papacy by approaching ordinary people and noted that his contribution to humanity goes beyond the domain of human rights.
○ 2004 Pastoral Letters Focus on Evangelization of the Family and Christian Life
With the beginning of the new liturgical year, November 30, 2003, the diocesan bishop of each diocese issued his 2004 pastoral letter and set out the pastoral orientation and major pastoral plans of the diocese for the year to come.
The pastoral letters reflect the major concerns that the Church in Korea face currently such as evangelization of the family community, living a Christian life based on the gospel, renewal of the Church, option for the poor and migrant workers.
The Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul, appealed to the faithful to collaborate with him in actuating the decisions of the synod. “Together with each parishioner, we will march toward transformation and renewal to build the future of our Archdiocese that will please the Lord,” the letter read.
The Most Rev. Paul Ri Moun-hi, Archbishop of Taegu, declared 2004 a year of the family and appealed to the faithful “to make the family a community of love by understanding that the family is the source of life and has an important role to play in evangelization.”
The Most Rev. Andreas Choi Chang-mou, Archbishop of Kwangju, stressed the conversion of each person and the worship of God in liturgical life. He asked the faithful to study the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.
The other pastoral letters focused on the sanctification and evangelization of the family, the animation of basic ecclesial communities based on the words of God, the evanglization of farm villages and faithful Christian life.
○ Church in Korea Celebrates 40 Years of Diplomatic Relations with the Holy See
On December 11 a celebration took place at the Pontifical Korean College in Rome to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and the Holy See.
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See took all the initiative for the celebration. A Mass was concelebrated by H.E. Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State of the Holy See, and the Most Rev. Andreas Choi Chang-mou, Archbishop of Kwangju and President of the CBCK. Over 500 people including diplomatic delegates and officials of the Holy See and priests, religious and Catholics residing in Italy took part in the Mass, congratulatory ceremony, reception and dinner party.
In his homily Cardinal Sodano invited the Korean society and the Catholic community to double their collaboration and contribute to the spiritual and material progress of the nation.
In his congratulatory address, Archbishop Choi said that the friendship between Korea and the Holy See is a model of diplomatic relations for all the nations seeking peace, and he pledged further collaboration between the two states.
The Republic of Korea and the Holy See agreed to establish diplomatic relations at a ministerial level in 1963 and on December 11 of that year Pope Paul VI announced the establishment of an Apostolic Internunciature in Korea. In 1966 the two states raised the diplomatic relationship to an ambassadorial level.
○ ‘Korean American Catholic Day’ Established
The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) declared September 21 Korean American Catholic Day on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of immigrations of Korean community in America. The day was celebrated at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.
Mass was concelebrated with H.E. Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington D.C., presiding. The Most Rev. Andreas Choi Chang-mou, Archbishop of Kwangju and President of the CBCK, the Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, the Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il, President of the Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants of the CBCK, some 60 priests and over 5,000 Korean Catholics from various parts of America attended the Mass.
Following the declaration of ‘The Korean Catholics Day’ by Bishop Wenski, Cardinal McCarrick praised the dynamic faith of Korean Catholics in America and their beautiful liturgical music. “The Catholic Church in Korea introduced by the laity in 18th century has grown strong by her lay martyrs. We ask Korean Catholics to share this power of the faith with American Catholics,” he said.
Archbishop Choi, thanked the Church in America in the name of the Church in Korea and recalled the heritage of faith, saying, “Our fathers in the faith and our martyrs have shown us how to live as Christians.” He asked the participants to contribute to the common good of American society as Korean Catholics and American citizens.
○ Bishops of Korea and Japan Agree to Extend Bishops’ Exchange Meeting
During their 9th meeting held from November 11 to 13, 2003 at the Diocesan Office in Nagasaki, Japan, the bishops of Korea and Japan agreed to continue the Exchange Meeting of the Bishops of the two countries and also to extend its activities.
Originally the Meeting was initiated to study the history of the two countries for 10 years for right understanding and promotion of fraternal relations. However, agreeing over the need and value of the Meeting, the bishops of the two sides decided to continue to hold meetings and even to extend its initial goal to other issues such as the exchange of pastoral information, exchange of youth and people in various fields of the Church. The bishops decided to draw up a blueprint for developing their activities at their 10th meeting, slated for November 2004 in Seoul, Korea.
During the 9th meeting they discussed common concerns with a focus on the issue of the family now in crisis. They heard two presentations made on the family in relation to the FABC 8th Plenary Assembly which will be held in August 2004 in Korea. The Most Rev. Peter Lee Ki-heon, President of the Committee for Family Pastoral Ministry of the CBCK spoke on the current condition of Korean family life and the Most Rev. Augustine Nomura Junichi, President of the CBCJ, on the family problems of migrant workers in Japan.
There were 28 Bishops in all: 14 bishops from Korea including the Most Rev. Andreas Choi Chang-mou, Arch-bishop of Kwangju and President of the CBCK, and the Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il, Liaison Bishop of the Korean and Japanese Bishops’ Meeting, and 14 bishops from Japan, including the Most Rev. Augustine Nomura Junichi, President of the CBCJ, and the Most Rev. Peter Takeo Okata, Archbishop of Tokyo.
○ Archdiocese of Seoul Concludes Synod and Opens New Era
The four-year long diocesan synod of the Archdiocese of Seoul was concluded on September 28 with the promulgation of the post synodal Letter of the Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul, titled “With hope to God.”
The post synodal Letter contains seven major themes to be realized in the coming years: the laity, the religious, the clergy, the youth, mission, faith education, administration of the church and social evanglization.
”The four years of the synod during which priests, religious and laity sat together to discuss and plan the future of the Archdiocese was truly a precious time when we experienced the presence of God among us,” Archbishop Cheong said. He expressed a strong will to build a participatory Church by realizing decisions taken by the synod.
H.E. Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the People, sent a special congratulatory message on this occasion and wished the Archdiocese well for a new era.
○ News in Brief
- The Korean Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, at their plenary assembly in November, agreed to take the initiative to promote overseas mission. The Most Rev. Joseph Lee Han-taek, responsible for religious institutes of the Archdiocese of Seoul, reminded the participants that “The Apostolic See hopes that the Church in Korea will take into consideration Asia, China and Africa in its missionary perspective.”
- Priests of Dapdong Cathedral of Inchon organized a bazar on October 30 for the elderly having no family. Priests offered all sorts of treasured items including their clothes, religious objects, books and even living necessities. Bishop Choi thanked them for their great initiative and hoped the bazar would serve for their personal spiritual benefits and would raise concern for the elderly among the faithful.
- The Headquarters of the Life 31 Movement of the CBCK held pro-life street campaign at Marronnier Park, Seoul, November 8 with theme “Save One More Life.” It was animated by various cultural performances such as a parade, dances, music and a photo exhibition. “Life is the most precious thing in the world, containing even eternal life, because people are made in the image of God,” Cardinal Kim said.
- The Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il, President of the Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants of the CBCK and priests in charge of the pastoral care of migrant workers in each diocese gathered on November 7 and discussed concrete ways to help undocumented migrant workers who are the target of police control. Out of the 130,000 migrant workers who face deportation, only 10 percent or some 10,700 left the country voluntarily by November 15, the deadline set by the government.
- On November 20, 2003 Catholic and Anglican seminarians had an exchange meeting at the Catholic University of Incheon and heard a lecture on the Anglican Church from Rev. Lee Jeong-gu, Dean of the Anglican Graduate School of Theology in Seoul. The Catholic and Protestant Seminarians’ Exchange Program was initiated by the CBCK Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue and the Korean National Council of Churches in 2002.
The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints Saint Yi So-sa Agatha (1784-1839) Among the seventy-nine martyrs of the persecution of 1839, the first to be captured and spend the longest time in prison were the sister and brother, Yi So-sa Agatha and Yi Ho-yong Peter.
In 1784, the year when the first Korean Catholic, Yi Sung-hun was baptized in Peking, Yi Agatha was born in Kuwul, near Inchon, Kyonggi Province.
She was warm-hearted and well mannered and always brought light and cheer to the household. However in her youth she did not receive adequate religious instruction. Her father was not a Catholic, and though her mother had been a catechumen, she did not understand much about the catechism.
At the age of seventeen Yi Agatha married into a non-Catholic family, so her life was devoid of religion. However, as she could not have children, Yi Agatha searched for some way to fill the void in her life.
Two years after Agatha's marriage her younger brother, Ho-yong, was born. Nineteen years younger than Agatha, he was a source of great joy to her. A year after his birth, her young husband died leaving Yi Agatha a widow after only three years of marriage, without even one child. This tragedy made Yi Agatha uncertain and mistrusting in her future. She felt a need to discover value and stability in life. This desire was fanned further by watching the death of her father shortly after that of her husband.
Yi Agatha strengthened her resolve and left her husband's house to go back to her parents' house. She did this to return to the source of her faith and also because she felt responsible for her younger brother Ho-yong.
Yi Agatha was most grateful that her mother had baptized her father before his death, enabling him to die peacefully. However life at home was extremely difficult. She had to take care of her mother and brother but the little inheritance her father left soon disappeared. She was forced to take in sewing to support the family.
In the midst of this Agatha never lost her serenity. She continued to study Catholic doctrine and to teach it to her brother. Together they put up with poverty and lived a life of loving God and obeying the Commandments. The example of the martyrs of the 1801 persecution and their eternal victory through death were always kept alive in their hearts. As they modeled their lives on those of the martyrs, other Catholics regarded them as a model Catholic family.
In the famous “Gihae Diary” written by Hyon Song-mun the following is recorded of Yi Agatha:
”After her father died, Agatha lost all her property. She was living with her old mother and her younger brother in extreme poverty. The difficulties that she had to endure were beyond description. Despite her poverty, she appeared always peaceful with a happy smile. It is impossible to record all her good and beautiful words and deeds. She was humble and courteous so everyone praised, loved and admired her for the beauty of her actions.”
Yi Agatha was arrested by the police with her younger brother Ho-yong in February, 1835 and they both were put in prison. (See the story of Yi Ho-yong Peter in CBCK Newsletter No.30). The interrogation was conducted under torture. The police commissioner forced them to give up their faith and report the names of other believers, but they replied, ”God is our Father and we cannot betray him. If we give you the names of other believers harm will befall them, so we cannot do that either.”
The commissioner commanded the torture to begin. The form of torture used was so brutal that it had been banned by royal decree in 1732 but was reintroduced especially for the interrogation of Catholics. Yi Agatha was beaten until her flesh hung loose and her legs were painfully twisted, but she remained steadfast. Since she wouldn't deny God and her faith, the executors stripped her naked, suspended her with her arms tied behind her back, and beat her all over her body with a club.
A few days later she was again brought out and beaten until her body was a bloody mess. The only words she said to the interrogator were, ”I cannot betray the Church.”
The commissioner, realizing that he was not going to succeed, turned the sister and brother over to the court. The court judged the case and passed sentence. They spent the next four years in prison because the sentence was not confirmed by the king. Six months after the death of Yi Ho-yong, the order from the king to carry out the execution was handed down. On May 24, 1839 Agatha was led out, together with eight other Catholic women who had been arrested after her. They were taken to the execution site outside the Small West Gate and were beheaded. Yi Agatha was fifty-six years of age. It is said that Agatha made a sign of the cross reverently just before her head was cut off. Yi Agatha was canonized on May 6, 1984 at Yoido Plaza, Seoul, by His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
The Lives of the 103 Korean Martyr Saints
Saint Yi So-sa Agatha (1784-1839)
Among the seventy-nine martyrs of the persecution of 1839, the first to be captured and spend the longest time in prison were the sister and brother, Yi So-sa Agatha and Yi Ho-yong Peter.