CBCK Newsletter

 CBCK Newsletter


From the Editor :

Is a Religious Era Coming Closer?

    There was a time when the whole world looked at the dazzling economic development of Asia. However, Korea which was one of these countries is now facing an economic crisis resulting in the collapse of many industries, high unemployment, high interest rates, a reduced export trade and a slump in the stock market. Some may say that this crisis was the inevitable side effect of the glorification of a high economic growth in such a short time.
    However, it can rather be seen as a consequence of erroneous judgments by the government, business companies and individuals, and also as a consequence of their irrational consumer lifestyles. About 25 percent of the population are suffering from unemployment either directly or indirectly and apart from certain classes almost all of the people are very frustrated and feel helpless.
    In such a situation it is very natural for people to seek an escape from their daily stresses. This is probably why so many people are turning their attention to the World Cup Championships in France, to Park Chan-ho who plays major league baseball in the U.S. and to Pak Seri who won an LPGA golf tournament.
    There is another trend appearing as people seek means to alleviate their stresses. Even though it is not very widespread more people are showing an interest in Ki(energy) exercises. The Ki exercises can be said to be an oriental form of spiritual and physical exercises. The Ki movement is based on the Ki theory which says that all phenomena that exist in the universe are constituted of Ri and Ki and emerge from them. The Ki mentioned here means forms and nature that are necessary elements to produce things. However the Ki movement that is being recently practiced, unlike its original form, seems to be more a form of health exercises, of physical therapy or spiritual exercises, or a development of some preternatural power and furthermore it can be seen to have a religious meaning. In fact some religious groups are behind these Ki movements. Therefore, if people interpret the 'Ki experience' as an experience of the Holy Spirit or if they consider it an object of faith by considering it as the source of the universe they will do harm to the Christian faith. It is certainly desirable to see an increasing interest in the spiritual but when we recall the fact that new religious sects that emerged at various times have caused considerable troubles in society, thus, we cannot fail to worry about this phenomenon.
    As we approach the last years of the 2nd millennium we the Korean people are having a hard time more than ever. But can't we take the economic crisis positively as something that God has allowed to happen to Korea in order to prepare us for the best, for example the Great Jubilee Year of 2000 and to welcome the 3rd millennium as Pope John Paul II has encouraged it? In the face of such challenges we wish for a true spiritual growth among the Korean people so that they may enjoy the grace of the Great Jubilee, and pray that the Church in Korea will share in the people's trials and sufferings and together overcome the difficulties that face us.

Fr. John Kim Jong-su
Secretary General
Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea



The 1998 Spring General Assembly

The 1998 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK Focuses on Pastoral Care

    The 1998 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK which was held from March 16th to 19th published Directives for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for the Church in Korea and re-examined questions concerning Julia of Naju.
    The Bishops' directives for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion state that "The rights of the laity to become extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are supplementary and extraordinary." About questions concerning the 'private revelations' of Julia of Naju they decided to continue to educate the faithful and to supervise what is happening so that there is no confusion resulting from the curiosity and interest in questionable private revelations. The Bishops expressed concern over the fact that some people had objected to the Declaration of Archbishop Victorius Youn "Concerning the Phenomena which Happened to Julia Youn of Naju and Her Statue of the Blessed Mother and the Messages which She Received" published on January 1st of this year(See CBCK Newsletter No.22, pp 4-5).
    The Bishops once again stressed the importance of the education of children and agreed to strengthen kindergarten education and child care centers and they asked the superiors of religious institutes to train professionals who will understand the importance of child education and who will be committed to it.





Seoul Welcomes New Archbishop

Seoul Welcomes New Archbishop

    On Saturday May 22th, the Holy Father appointed Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Chongju, the president of the CBCK, as the metropolitan archbishop of Seoul Korea(Area 3,678 square km; population 12,230,053; Catholic population 1,216,567; parishes 197; mission stations 6; priests 805 of whom 712 are Korean and 93 are foreign; religious men number 497 in 27 orders; religious women number 2,256 in 63 orders). He succeeds Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan whose resignation was accepted by the Holy Father on his having reached the age limit in accordance of CIC can. 401. The new Archbishop Cheong has served as the ordinary bishop of Chongju since 1970. He is the author of 9 books including 12 volumes on the Interpretation of Canon Law and he has translated 13 religious books.

Profile of Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong

1931: Born in Seoul
1961: Graduated from Songshin Major Seminary and ordained Priest
1961-1967: Taught at Songshin High School
1965-1967: Chancellor and as Secretary to the Archbishop of Seoul
1968-1970: Studied Canon Law at the Pontifical University Urbaniana and obtained a licentiate.
1970 Oct. 3: Consecrated as Bishop of Chongju
1993-1996: Vice President of the CBCK
1996-present: President of the CBCK
1998, May 22: Archbishop of Seoul





Brief Comments and Views of Participants to the Asian Synod

Brief Comments and Views of Participants to the Asian Synod

    Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, the President Delegate for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia, said that for him the Asian Synod was first of all an occasion of frank dialogue between all Church leaders in Asia crossing borders of nationality and race. "The synod was a time of common reflection and concern about how to evangelize Asia, an immense continent with a huge population, the birth place of the great religions of the world with rich traditions and cultural and spiritual heritages but now experiencing turmoil and confusion because of rapid social changes," the Cardinal remarked. For the question of inculturation which was one of the important points of the Synod the Cardinal said that "True and ultimate inculturation means that the Word of God becomes so deeply rooted in us that His life becomes our life. From this starting point the inculturation of liturgy, theology and culture should come."
   Most Rev. Nicholas Cheong of Chongju, president of the CBCK and an ex officio member to the Synod, said that for him the synod was a unique occasion to meet many of the Church leaders of Asia and to hear their rich inputs and their Church's history. He regretted the fact that in certain Islamic countries religious freedom is still controlled by the government. He said that during the Synod he felt a deep sense of the universal Church, especially the role of the Church in Korea for its mission to other Asian countries. "There is much room for the Church in Korea to contribute in this continent." he emphasized.
    Most Rev. Paul Ri Moun-hi of the archdiocese of Teagu insisted on the importance of the study of Asian spirituality in the formation of priests. He said that "It is important that priests, at least those in a common cultural region, make an effort to live in a climate of deep mutual understanding, and to accomplish this an exchange among seminaries could facilitate such unity and would be an excellent witness of the Catholicity of the Church which the Asian continent certainly needs at this moment."
    Most Rev. Vincent Ri Byong-ho of Chonju speaking of the unique role of the Korean lay faithful in evangelization from the earliest years of the Church's history in Korea reaffirmed the need to assure them in a more concrete way respect for their charisma within the Church. "We need to give greater consideration not only to the unity, but also to the significance of the diversity that exists within this unity," he said.
    Most Rev. John Chang Yik Ch'unch'on, in his input focused on the adequate biblical study in the formation of priests, seminarians, religious and lay leaders. "The fact still remains that, especially in theological and pastoral formation, the Bible continues to be an object of archaic study, cut off from life. As a result of this even those supposedly trained for years in biblical 'studies' are quite unable to bring the Bible as a living Word into people's lives. To help remedy this failing, a serious apostolic formation based on the Bible ought to be integrated into the seminary and religious curriculum." he said.
    Most Rev. Peter Kang of Seoulwho spoke on the lay people's role in the Church said that the question of the lay people was one of the most important issues brought to the Synod. "In terms of the integral communion of the Church the role of the laity and their active participation are essential in many aspects. This points to the necessity of the education of lay leaders." he said.



Retiring Cardinal Kim Thanks...

Retiring Cardinal Kim Thanks All Faithful for
Their Support and Love

    The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, who at 76 has reached retirement age. He will retire from the ordinary office of the Archdiocese of Seoul and from the pastoral care of the Archdiocese on June 29th. This was published on May 29th, the 30th anniversary of his ordination as Archbishop of Seoul and the centennial celebration day of construction of the Myongdong Cathedral.
    "I thank you all for your continued support despite my personal limitations and I wish to ask forgiveness if I have caused pain to anyone because of my shortcomings," the Cardinal said to his clergy, religious and faithful gathered to for the occasion.
    "When I reflect on my long years as Archbishop of Seoul and as an instrument of God I find many areas of neglect and many shortcomings but you helped me with your love, prayers and sacrifices," he said and asked them to assist the new Archbishop, his successor in the same way.
    During his 30 years as Bishop, Cardinal Kim gave much hope both to the Church in Korea and to Korean society. For the three decades since he was ordained as the 12th diocesan Bishop of Seoul on May 29th 1968 he has played a prominent role as spiritual leader of Korean society by being a spokesman in matters of conscience, a voice for the voiceless people and a guardian of the poor and those suffering from human rights abuses and injustice.
    Particularly during the dark decades of the 70's and 80s when military dictatorship reigned, the Korean people were able to march with the torch of democracy thanks to the spiritual support of Cardinal Kim who was a strong advocate of justice and human rights and of human conscience. His 30 years as Archbishop and as an instrument of God working for His kingdom has been in contemporary Korean history a rudder which opened the path to democratization and the reconciliation of the Korean people.
    Even though he retires he will remain as a beacon that shines out in the darkness to the 3.7 million Korean Catholics and all the Korean people.




Cong.Message for Myongdong Cath.

Your Eminence,

    The Holy Father was pleased to learn that on May 29th 1998, Myongdong Cathedral, under the patronage of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, is celebrating the One Hundredth Anniversary of its Consecration.

    On this significant occasion, he gives thanks to God for the many graces He has bestowed upon the faithful of the Archdiocese of Seoul since Catholics first gathered to pray in what was then the house of Thomas Kim Bum-woo. The courageous witness of the first followers of Christ in your land, even to the point of giving their lives, has borne rich fruits in the flowering of the Church in Korea today. The Cathedral stands at the center of the spiritual and liturgical life of the Archdiocese. The material building which is now a hundred years old is the symbol of the Church, the edifice of God(1Cor 3,9), made of living stones(1Pt 2,5).
    It is His Holiness's fervent hope that the anniversary celebrations will be an occasion of renewed commitment to the Church's mission of evangelization. He encourages the priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese to strive to grow in holiness and in their understanding of the faith, that they may be joyful messengers of the Good News of salvation. He is confident that, through generous service to those in spiritual or material need, the faithful will continue to manifest the authenticity of their Christian faith and love.
    Commending the faithful of the Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, His Holiness cordially imparts the requested Apostolic Blessing.
    I am also happy to have an occasion to express my own prayerful good wishes.

May 14th, 1998
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Angelo Card. Sodano
Secretary of State





Message on the Forth 'Day for Life'

Message on the Fourth 'Day for Life':

"Life is always good"
(Humanae Vitae, no 34)

On the occasion of the fourth Day for Life, Most Rev. Alexander Sye, president of the committee for family pastoral ministry, issued a message and pointed out the critical situation of widespread anti-life trends in Korean society. Such trends include the practice of euthanasia, suicide and gene manipulation. He called on Korean Catholics to respond to the invitation of the God of life by having a respect and love for life. The following is the full text of the message.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    The Day for Life which we celebrate on the last Sunday of May is an invitation from the "God who loves every living thing"(Ws 11,26) at this moment of critical threat to life. Our response to this invitation is pressing when we consider the sad fact of the widespread abuse of freedom, way of thinking centered on technology and science and rampant materialism which separates us from God "who gives life to all things"(1 Tim 6,13) and which puts people to death by distorting their true image of human being.

1. Euthanasia - a Wrong Freedom

    Today, in some countries of the world euthanasia has been legalized and has become a subject of vigorous discussion. Many people have come to consider a life of extreme suffering as worthless and assert that one has the right to choose his or her death by means of euthanasia which is becoming more widespread because of the legal support it gets. However both choosing death as a way to escape from persistent painful sufferings and considering euthanasia as a way of preserving human dignity are based on mistaken ideas of freedom and are acts that deceive human nature. Accepting euthanasia is giving to some people the power to take over the lives of others and to rule over them. This is nothing but the death of true freedom(cf. Humanae Vitae, no. 20). "No one can make an attempt on the life of an innocent person without opposing God's love for the person ... No one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly" (Declaration on Euthanasia, Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith).

2. Increase of Suicide

    Another facet of the anti-life trends we observe in our society which is undergoing a severe economic crisis is the striking increase in the number of suicides. It is really sad to see the fact that many people are not able to overcome the temptation to commit suicide because of desperation, isolation, doubt, fear or economic reasons. Even though certain psychological, cultural and social conditions may induce a person to carry out an action which radically contradicts our innate inclination to life and thus lessen or remove personal responsibility, suicide, if viewed objectively, is a gravely immoral act. In its deepest reality, suicide represents a rejection of God's absolute sovereignty over life and death. In fact, suicide involves the rejection of the love of self which is part of human nature(cf. Humanae Vitae, no. 66). God alone is the Master who has power over life and death, and humans are only its administrators. At this particular time when many people are suffering we need to learn from Jesus Christ a respect and love for life. This will transform desperation into hope and death into life.

3. Interference and Manipulation of Gene

    The progress of technology today has made possible the cloning of humans through the manipulation of genes. It is reported that the cloned sheep, Dolly, was "created" by an asexual reproduction carried out through cloning technology, and that people can now possibly produce animals with human genes and even "create" a tadpole without a head. On the one hand such progress in technology can be seen as bringing about something new in the field of medical science but on the other hand it has raised new and grave moral questions about the manipulation of the make-up of the human gene which transforms it for experimental reasons. The moral criteria of the Catholic Church's teaching on the manipulation of the human gene is based on the respect for the dignity of the human being, his integrity and identity. Therefore such experimentation can in no way be justified on the pretext that it will produce some beneficial results for humanity in the future. It has no social or scientific usefulness and no ideological purpose could ever justify interference in the human gene unless it happens to be therapeutic. There can be no place for such interference in the natural development of human beings(cf. Charter for Health Care Workers, no. 13). All progress in medical technology should be for the service of human life and the inalienable rights of human beings who are created in the image of God.

4. Moral Order and State Power

    The Bible teaches us about a human's inalienable rights to life and the Magisterium has repeated this constantly as a moral truth. Neither changes in one's situation nor the change of time can alter this truth. The protection of the inalienable right to life of human beings is very much related to state laws also. The legal recognition of and protection from such acts against human life as euthanasia, abortion and suicide are serious injustices that disregard the right to life, the source of all rights(cf. Pacem in Terris, no. 51).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    I hope that the words of St. Paul will be helpful to you in responding to the invitation of the God of love. "Let no one deceive you with worthless arguments. These are the sins that bring down the wrath of God on the disobedient... For once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light - for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true"(Eph 5, 6-9).

May 31, 1998
Bishop Alexander Sye
President Committee for Family Past. Ministry




Message on 'Prayer Day for Reconciliation of Korean People'

Message for 'Prayer Day for Reconciliation of Korean People':

"Create One New Humanity in Place of the Two"

(Eph. 2, 15)

On the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the Korean War, Rt Rev. Placid Ri, President of the Committee for the Evangelization of North Korea issued a message for the prayer day for the reconciliation of South and North Korea. Along with this message he also made available Novena prayers and preaching materials. The following is the full text of his message.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    Today we are in a state of extreme confusion politically, economically and socially as we live under the "cold spell" that has come as a result of the IMF intervention in our country. Millions of people have lost their jobs and are wandering about aimlessly not knowing where to go, while the gap of mistrust between people deepens more and more adding to the desperate situation which doesn't seem to have an end. Korea had to face ceaseless upheavals and confusions in its history. However the current economic situation is the worst since the 1970s. People are worried as to whether they will be able to escape this horrible state rather than trying to accept it humbly as a cross.
    However this cross that so many fear can be a path of grace that offers us new light and new hope in Jesus who said "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly"(Jn 10,10). We are called to reflect sincerely on the root causes in our society which led us on the destructive path to materialism. We need to know where we can find the authentic way of peace which can revitalize our society. In a genuine spirit of life and love, we need to embrace our neighbors' sufferings as our own and make them bear fruit.
    Let us for a moment examine the situation in North Korea. The people there are in a situation that is much worse than ours. Their food situation was very serious even before the flood that occurred in the Summer of 1995. Not only South Korea but the international community is helping them but no permanent solution appears to be imminent. It has been reported for years that every year one million people die of starvation. The North Korean system may have some responsibility for this but lack of assistance from the outside world is also partly to blame for the situation. The food crisis is of such a scale that only large amount of aid will make any difference.
    On April 25th, we proclaimed along with world religious leaders an international day of fast for the hungry North Koreans and also introduced a campaign to collect money. Internationally known people joined in the fast and Pope John Paul II encouraged it. We also asked for the special concern and support of the Asian Bishops who were attending a Synod in Rome during that time.
    Since 1995, the Church in South Korea - dioceses, clergy, religious institutes, apostolic organizations and groups - has led a relief aid campaign for NK and recently they sent 3,000 tons of corns and 1,000 tons of fertilizers. Even though we are in economic difficulties we can't ignore our brothers and sisters who are on the verge of starvation and trying to survive on herb roots.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    As you well know this year is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the two governments of South and North Korea. This means that the Korean people in South and North have their own governments for 50 years after getting rid of the two powerful military governments of the United States and the Soviet Union. However the Korean people have not yet succeed in forming one united government. Not only has reunification not come about but we even failed to engage in any dialogue of meaning. This is the sad reality. Even the Agreement on basic relations between South and North Korea dealing with non-aggression, peaceful reunification and mutual exchange and collaboration which came into effect in 1992 has largely been ignored. It is true that since the new government of President Kim Dae-jung came to power some changes in our policy towards the North have been introduced but so far we have failed to achieve national reconciliation.
    Genuine reconciliation must not be based simply on the principle of reciprocity or on certain conditions. Those who seek true reconciliation will forgive each other and embrace each other in love. The politicians may have difficulty in accepting this but authentic change is possible only if it is accepted. Both the South and the North since the establishment of their own governments, have made no changes at all in their stances but have just indulged in quarrels and conflicts.
    If the new government wants to find a true path for the reconciliation of the Korean people it should make positive efforts to help the North Korean society open itself to the rest of the world rather than insisting on the principle of reciprocity. It is time for the South and the North, both of whom are experiencing difficulties, to meet each other as brothers and sisters and together seek a way to achieve national unity. Fortunately the new government is in favor of mutual exchanges and collaboration at a civilian level. If the South and North are serious in their efforts to overcome their present difficulties in collaboration with one another then the way for national reconciliation will be opened.
    In two years from now, our Church will celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The Great Jubilee Year means a celebration of salvation. Therefore we have to prepare for national reconciliation which will be the salvation of our people. Despite all the conflicts and differences of ideology we must realize our national salvation. "For he is our peace and in his flesh he has made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart"(Eph 2, 14). After the example of Jesus Christ we should pray without ceasing so that the Koreans of South and North can be reborn into "one new humanity"(Eph 2,15).
    Imploring God's merciful love to show us the way to unity and reconciliation we impart our greeting of love and peace to our brothers and sisters in the North.

June 21, 1998
Rt. Rev. Placid Ri, O.S.B.
Committee for Evangelization of NK




News form the Church in Korea
News from the Church in Korea :

* First Pastoral Oriented Visit of South Korean Bishop to the North

    Most Rev. Andrew Choi Chang-mou, the president of the Korea National Reunification Committee of Seoul(KNRCS) archdiocese, and four of his associates made a 8-day visit to North Korea from May 15th to the 23rd.
    Most Rev. Choi making the first pastoral oriented visit to North Korea since it came under communist rule resulting in five decades of division, celebrated two Masses for national reconciliation at Changchung Church in Pyongyang with 130 local Catholics. He heard a report from the president of the North Korean Catholics' Association on distribution of 3,000 tons of corns and the 2,000 tons of fertilizers that were sent by the KNRCS. In his arrival statement, Bishop Choi conveyed to the North Korean catholics the special love and warm greetings of Cardinal Kim, the Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, and asked them to pray for national reconciliaton in mutual trust and love.
    During the visit the team had various exchanges of opinions with relevant personnel and dealt with various questions of pastoral concern and the restoration of churches in North Korea as well as the possibility of agricultural developments. They also made a pilgrimage to the birth place of St. Peter Ryu Chung-ryul(1836-1866), one of the 103 Korean martyrs, and the place where Thomas Ahn Chung-keun lived as well as other places related to the history of the Catholic Church in Korea.
    In his return Bishops Choi reaffirmed the seriousness of the famine in North Korea and asked South Korean Catholics to double their generous efforts to help brothers and sisters in NK. The KNRCS stated that since March 1995 they had received 6 billion won through collections and of this 5.4 billion won has been sent to North Korea. Cardinal Kim said that the purpose of the KNRCS's visit to the North was not merely to help out with food shortages but also to console our brothers and sisters in need over there.

* Myongdong Cathedral Fetes Centennial of Its Construction

    Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul, the 100-year-old silent witness of the history of the Catholic Church in Korea, celebrated the centennial commemoration of its construction on May 29th. The fact that this coincided with the 30th anniversary of Cardinal Kim's installation as Archbishop and with his retirement made it more significant. Myongdong Cathedral, the first parish in Korea, has remained the symbol and the heart of the Catholic Church in Korea throughout its 100-year history. In 1784 the first faith community gathered on this spot which was then known as Myong-rye-bang, the house Kim Bum-woo who was one of the first Korean martyrs. The construction of the French gothic style church was initiated by Rev. Eugene Coste and completed by Rev. Poisnel on the 29th of May, 1898 and it was consecrated having the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception as its patron saint. In 1942 the first Korean Bishop, Most Rev. Rho Ki-nam, was ordained as its Ordinary. Since 1831 when it was established as an Apostolic Vicariate in Korea, twelve diocesan bishops including Cardinal Kim held office there. Three of these were canonized: the second Vicar Apostolic, St. Laurent M. J. Imbert(1796-1839), the third Vicar Apostolic, St. Jean J. Ferreol(1808-1853) and the forth Vicar Apostolic, St. Simon F. Berneux(1814-1866). During the democratization struggles in the 1970s and 1980s Myongdong Cathedral became a 'sanctuary' for students, workers and all those struggling for democracy and freedom, and the urban poor who needed protection and it is still so today. In this way Myongdong Cathedral has become a symbol of freedom and justice and a sanctuary for the weak and poor who struggle for their rights and dignity. Holy Father sent a congratulatory message with his special blessings.(see p.3)

* Cheju Diocese Welcome 3,172 Catechumens

    Cheju Diocese has launched a campaign to increase the number of its faithful as part of the preparation program for its centennial celebration in 1999. Last April the diocese set up a pastoral plan to bring in to the Church 7,000 new members, and all the faithful participated in it with much prayer and dedication. As a result, in May, the diocese welcomed 3,172 new catechumens in 21 parishes. The diocese has started doctrine classes for the faithful and the catechumens. As well as this the formation of lay catechists and missionaries has been pushed by all means at their disposal. At the end of 1997 the number of Catholics in the diocese reached 44,196 or 8.4 percent of the total population of the Island. The diocesan plan is to raise the number of Catholics to 10% of the population before the centennial celebration in 1999.

* NK Still Suffers from Serious Food and Medicine Shortages

   Kathie Zellweger, director of the International Aid Program of Caritas Hong Kong, visited Korea at the invitation of the One Heart One Body Movement of Seoul to discuss the dramatic food and medicine shortages in North Korea. Kathie who has been working with food aid programs for North Koreans for the past three years said that the people are suffering and that the serious food situation. She visited the Priests Association for Justice(PAJ) and met with some members to discuss ways of providing assistance of food and medicine to the North.
    Some 7.5 million North Koreans, or about a third of the population, are said to need assistance for their very survival for the next year, according to the UN's World Food Program. On May 30th 1998, the PAJ sent to North Korea via the South Korean Red Cross 300 million won worth of medicines and food and has launched a pan national campaign to collect 500 million won to send 500 tons of Korean wheat to NK via Panmunjom on coming Aug. 15th. The PAJ said that since 1995 they raised about US $1,300,000 in relief funds for NK and sent them through Hong Kong Caritas on six different occasions.

* Interreligious Efforts for National Economic Crisis Active

    On the occasion of the 2542th anniversary of Buddha's birth, the leaders of the major religions met at Chogye Temple in Seoul, on Apr. 28th, to exchange opinions and concerns about the current situation of the country. The meeting was arranged by the national Buddhist monks' association having as its theme "The role of Religions in overcoming the IMF crisis and in the realization of national reconciliation". Leaders from Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant organizations have on occasion taken common action in matters of social justice but this was the first time they met on Buddha's birthday.
    On June 3rd, delegates from six major religions issued a joint statement and appealed for unity and courage to overcome the IMF crisis. The joint statement which was read by Cardinal Kim outlined four points of action for the people and the government; 1) the making of a master plan for reform by taking account of people's initiatives; 2) the fair sharing of all burdens; 3) that leaders of society and the better off sections of society lead the way; 4) the search for a social consensus based on compromise and concession. They called on the government to implement reform programs consistently and called on business companies to carry out immediate restructuring. "Unless the government and big companies show an example of reform, the people and workers will not follow," they stressed.

* Korean Priests Exceed 3000

    According to a report by Rev. Lee Ki-myoung the total number of Korean priests exceeded 3000 as of Feb. 27th of this year. "It is 154 years since the ordination of the first Korean priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon on Aug. 17th, 1845 in Shanghai, China," the report stated. These statistics of Rev. Lee were published on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 3rd. As of May 1998, 3,034 Korean men(including those who left their priesthood) were ordained to the priesthood. Fr. Kim Byong-hui from Chonju diocese who was ordained last February had the honor of being the 3000th Korean priest. The 1000th Korean priest, Rev. Hong Hyong-pyo of Pusan diocese, was ordained in 1976 (131 years after Kim Tae-gon): the 2000th in 1992 (16 years later) and the 3000th priest in 1998 (8 years later). "We hope to have 4000th Korean priest within 5-6 years" Rev. Lee said. According to the report, the Cardinal Kim is the 276th Korean priest and was ordained on Sept. 15th, 1951.

* Statistics Show Lowest Increase Rate in Six Years

    According to the statistics published by the CBCK, Korean Catholics number 3,676,211 or 9.7 percent of the Korean population as of the end of 1997. This shows an increase of 113,445 or a 3.18% increase over the previous year. The increase rate for 1991 was recorded at 6.28 percent but since then the increase rate has dropped every year and stayed at a mere 3% for three years in row.
    The increasing number of the tepid Catholics which amounted to 1,091,271 or 29.68% of the total Catholic population indicates the seriousness of the situation. In one year 89,278 became tepid. Statistics show that the number of tepid has been increasing since 1989 with an average increase of 22.9% every year. Those attending Sunday Mass amounted to 1,101,501 or 29.96%. The overall situation shows that about 30% are practicing, another 30% are tepid and the other 40% are somewhere in between.
    As of the end of 1997, the Catholic Church in Korea has 22 bishops including 1 cardinal; 2,662 priests; 1,097 parishes and 1,189 mission stations. There are 1,072 religious men in 42 religious institutes; 7,854 religious women in 91 religious institutes; 239 qualified lay catechists and the average number of catholics per parish is 3,351;

* Rev. Alexander Lee, 'Damian in Korea' Dead

    Rev. Alexander Lee Kyong-jae(72), known as Damian in Korea and godfather of lepers died on May 11th from cancer at St. Mary Hospital in Youido, Seoul. The late Rev. Lee dedicated his entire priestly life to those suffering from Hansen's disease whom he called 'dear brothers and friends in Jesus'. Since he was appointed to St. Lazarus Village as its director in 1952 he did not leave it except for a period of 10 years which he spent in the US for health reasons. 25 years ago he established the "International Lazarus Village Aid Society" which now has 50,000 members in Korea and 3,500 in overseas. Thanks to the Society he was able to realize his dream for the St. Lazarus Village which now has 27 buildings including a chapel, hospital and laboratory on beautiful Mount Morab, in Anyang.
    In 1975 he founded the research institute for Hansen's disease and some 700,000 lepers have benefited from it. 16 years ago he organized a charity concert "Because you exist..." and with its benefit he helped not only lepers in Korea but also those in Vietnam, Mongolia, China and the Philippines. "People say to me that I am the godfather of lepers but, on the contrary, they are my godfathers. I learn from them the beauty and joy of a pure heart and I am infinitely thankful to them for this..." he said frequently. Apart from the work he did for lepers he founded the "Priests Village" out of his concern for older priests in the country.

* "Peace House" in Myongdong Inaugurated

    The Peace House in Myondong for jobless people was officially opened on Apr.11th and was blessed by Bishop Paul O. Kim. Also present were Cardinal Kim and the Apostolic Nuncio to Korea, Archbishop Giovanni Battista Morandini. The Peace House was designed as part of a special project by Seoul archdiocese to help out those who have lost their jobs in the wake of the austerity measures set out by the IMF. "Myongdong parish has many projects but we thought that helping people who are in difficulties at this particular time is a most pressing duty for the Church," Cardinal Kim said and hoped that this Peace House would serve as model and that many other parishes would do something similar. Located in the basement of the Myongdong Cultural Center the Peace House has six rooms and a chapel. The program provides job information, rehabilitation education, medical assistance, family/spiritual/legal counselling and free lunch etc. On the first, day about 100 jobless people showed up.

News in Brief

    St. Mary's Hospital in Kangnam is offering six months of free medical treatment to unemployed and their family members who have been affected by the IMF cutbacks. The hospital official said that the decision was made as part of a burden sharing program for those experiencing difficulties because of the IMF.


    An Interreligious Journalists' Conference was formed on Apr. 25th after a meeting of Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist journalists. The goal of the new Conference is the promotion of matters of common concern, as well as the solidarity and friendship of journalists of different religions.


    Rev. Paul Moon Kyu-hyon received "The Late Spring Prize" donated by the Memorial Society of Moon Ik-hwan. It was donated in appreciation of his outstanding efforts in promoting the national cause. Rev. Moon Kyu-hyon was sent to Pyongyang twice in 1989 by the Priests Association for Justice. The first visit was to offer a Mass in Changchung church for national unity and the second visit was to accompany Susanna Im Soo-kyong, who was South Korean college students' delegate to the 1989 Pyongyang World Youth Festival, on her return from Pyongyang to Seoul. Both of them spent several years in prison after returning.


    The Catholic Human Rights Committee of Seoul presented a report to the Ministry of Justice concerning unexplained deaths in prisons and asked for the cessation of human rights abuses, beatings, ill-treatments and illegal containment. The committee expressed its regrets that such brutality is being practiced even now.


    On March 30th, Bishop Paul Choi of Suwon blessed four Korean missionaries, Frs. Lee Jin-hoo, Kim Ji-han, Chong Jae-gon and Kim Kwang-soong who have been assigned to Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and China. After spending 6 months in New Zealand for language study they will go to their respective mission countries.


    On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the UN declaration of Human Rights the Committee for Justice and Peace of the CBCK held a forum having as its theme, "Human dignity and prisoners of conscience". The panelists urged President Kim Dae-jung, who experienced imprisonment several times in his life, to release all prisoners of conscience. The panelists pointed out that the demand of an ideological conversion as a condition of their liberation is an abuse of the freedom of the human conscience.





A Brief History of Catholicism in Korea

A Brief History of Catholicism in Korea - 23

by Cho, Kwang, Ph.D.
Prof. of Korean History
Korea University

The Korean Church Growing and Rejuvenating(2)

3. Growth and Development of the Church

    In the 1980s, the annual growth rate of Catholics was 7.54% which was a twentyfold increase compared to the 1960s and 1970s and much greater than that of the Protestant Churches or other religions. In 1989, Catholics numbered 2,610,000 or 6 percent of the population. However from the 1990s the increase rate of Catholics has been relatively slowdowned and increase rate in 1997 recorded only 3.2 percent with total 3,676,211 or 7.9 percent of the population. The major impetus for this rapid growth was the general situation of the Korean society at the time when human rights abuses were rampant and when the process of industrialization and urbanization led to the alienation of many people. In such a context people looked to faith to establish their self-identity and to find an explanation for the conditions prevailing at the time. Another reason why many sought out the Catholic Church was because it showed a greater determination than other religions in its efforts to realize social justice and to improve the human rights. We also have to note that Korean society is a multi-religious society and that half of the population practically have no religion. Therefore the majority of new comers were able to become Catholics without having to go through a process of religious conversion. This can be seen as a cultural element that is different from that of other countries.

4. Characteristics of Korean Laity

    The Korean laity of today has been firmly committed to voluntary service within the Church. Thanks to their dedication many great ecclesial events were realized among which was the 44th Seoul International Eucharistic Congress. They have even gladly accepted the financial responsibility for most events and commit themselves in various activities for evangelization. However since the 1980s the Church in Korea has gradually become a Church of the middle class. The intellectual level of Catholics in general was much higher than that of the average Korean people. The majority of them lived in large cities and adjoining areas. Many Catholics could be found in administrative or professional occupations. It emerged that the average monthly income of Catholics was higher than that of the average Korean family.
    On the one hand this meant that the Church in Korea had become rich in human and material resources, but by being transformed into a church of the middle class there was a distinct possibility that those of the poorer strata would distance themselves from it. Nonetheless if the Church is led by a specific class of people, universal salvation which is the goal of the Church's existence cannot be realized. Because of this thoughtful people within the Church began to voice their concerns.
    Statistics also indicated that it was time for the Church to be concerned about the re-evangelization of the baptized people. According to the statistics of the Catholic Church at that time the number of those who stopped coming to Church or who became "lost" amounted to as many as 600,000 or 22.93% in 1989 and in 1997 this number reached 1,091,271 or 29.68% of the total Catholic population. It was found that the majority of these people were those who left their home towns and went to other places during the rapid social changes. Because of this the question of the "pastoral care of out-migrants" emerged and systematic efforts to re-evangelize the faithful were strengthened.
    One of the characteristics of the Church in Korea has been its diocese centered pastoral care. As result of this the number of parishes paralleled the number of Catholics. In the 1980s there were 589 parishes and this increased to 776 in 1989 and to 1,079 in 1997. The average number of Catholics per parish was 2,237 in 1989 and this increased to 3,351 in 1997. There was a big difference however between city and farming communities. In the large cities, there are many Churches that have 10,000 parishioners. This number is quite good when compared to the Church in Latin America and Africa. However since Korean parishes were small traditionally this rapid growth of the Church into large communities raised quite a number of problems in the field of pastoral care.

5. Clergy and Religious in the 1980s

    In 1945, by the time Korea gained its independence from Japanese colonial rule, there were 238 priests in Korea and this number increased to 1,626 by the end of the 1980s. In fact the number of Korean priests showed a rapid increase from the 1980s. At the time of independence only 57.7% of the clergy were native Koreans, but by 1989 their number reached 1,385 or 86.22% and in 1997 reached 2,453 or 92% out of total number of priests in the country. In 1997 the number of dioceses were 14 and only one Ordinary is non Korean.This fact clearly tells us that the Koreanization of the Church in Korea has really been strengthened in terms of clerical numbers and structures.
    One striking characteristic of the clergy in Korea is that among the priests the vast majority or 93.35% are diocesan priests. Compared to other local Churches in Asia or Europe the diocesan priest rate in the Church in Korea is very high. In seven Catholic major seminaries there are 1,539 seminarians and most of them are diocesan. These abundant priestly vocations are a very encouraging sign for the future of the Church in Korea.
    The role of the religious has also been strengthened during the recent modern development. There were 20 institutes for religious men in the 1980s and this doubled in 1997 to 42 while the number of institutes for religious women increased from 37 in 1980 to 91 in 1997. The increase in the members followed from the increase of the number of the institutes. The number of religious men increased from 343 in the 1980s to 943 in 1997 and the number of religious women increased from 3,169 in the 1980s to 7,860 in 1997. The majority of religious women are engaged in parish ministry. As well as this quite a number of them are working in the field of education and social welfare. Some have also gone abroad on mission to help the Churches in other countries.

List of Articles
No. Subject Datesort
35 CBCK Newsletter No.35 (Summer 2001) Aug 27, 2009
34 CBCK Newsletter No.34 (Spring 2001) Aug 27, 2009
33 CBCK Newsletter No.33 (Winter 2000) Aug 27, 2009
32 CBCK Newsletter No.32 (Fall 2000) Aug 27, 2009
31 CBCK Newsletter No.31 (Summer 2000) Aug 27, 2009
30 CBCK Newsletter No.30 (Spring 2000) Aug 27, 2009
29 CBCK Newsletter No.29 (Winter 1999) Aug 27, 2009
28 CBCK Newsletter No.28 (Fall 1999) Aug 27, 2009
27 CBCK Newsletter No.27 (Summer 1999) Aug 27, 2009
26 CBCK Newsletter No.26 (Spring 1999) Aug 27, 2009
25 CBCK Newsletter No.25 (Winter 1998) Aug 27, 2009
24 CBCK Newsletter No.24 (Fall 1998) Aug 27, 2009
» CBCK Newsletter No.23 (Summer 1998) Aug 27, 2009
22 CBCK Newsletter No.22 (Spring 1998) Aug 27, 2009
21 CBCK Newsletter No.21 (Winter 1997) Aug 27, 2009

CBCK Newsletter

XE Login