CBCK Newsletter

 CBCK Newsletter



_ From the Editor:
_ Against the Constitutional Court’s Decision on Abortion
_ Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2018
_ Regarding the SK-US Summit and the NK-US Summit
_ Holy Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula <1> Homily of the President of the CBCK
_ Holy Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula <2> Message of the Apostolic Nuncio to Korea
_ Holy Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula <3> Plea for Peace on the Korean Peninsula
_ Message for the 2019 Day for the Environment (Summary)
_ Message for 2019 Labour Day (Summary)
_ Message on the 14th Week for Catholic Education
_ Message for World Youth Day 2019
_ Message for the 9th Sunday for Life
_ The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea

From the Editor:

Missionary Activities in Korean Society

Pope Francis announced the ‘Extraordinary Missionary Month’ for October 2019 to celebrate the centenary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud. For the month of October 2019, the Pope has invited the whole Church to express her missionary spirit and zeal. In preparation for the Extraordinary Missionary Month, the Catholic Church in Korea should strive to refresh the missionary awareness and commitment of all believers.

Pope Francis in his message for World Mission Day 2019 affirmed that every Christian is a missionary: “As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love.”

Our reason for proclaiming the Gospel is to realize Jesus’ dream for all peoples to live in the Kingdom of God, filled with love, peace and hope. Certainly, the Kingdom of God which Jesus wanted is not simply a place we go to after death. In reality, the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, although not yet fully realized, in our daily lives. “The Kingdom of God is among you” (Lk 17,21).

The Kingdom of God, which Jesus taught about, is a society in which God’s justice, peace and love prevail and guide all things in the world. Therefore, authentic missionary activity is to communicate our Lord’s will to all peoples and bring them into the fullness of His love, peace and justice.

There are still many people in society who do not know Jesus nor understand His will. We must actively proclaim the words of Jesus Christ and make every effort to let His will and love permeate every corner of our society.

Today, as Korean society grows more chaotic, Christian values, more than ever, need to be communicated. We, Korean Catholics, must guide the Korean people towards a profound interior conversion by virtue of the Gospel. If we do not practice love, peace and justice for the sake of society, our faith will be meaningless.

In the meantime, we Korean Catholics, with a firm faith, have made a major contribution towards the democratization of Korean society and the promotion of human rights. However, this is not the time for us to become self-satisfied, rather we ought to strive for spiritual growth.

Just as Jesus showed his preferential love for the poor, the marginalized, and the least of society, we too should bring His love to all corners of society by continuously showing concern for the most marginalized. Through these missionary activities, the words of Jesus will spread widely to the very ends of the earth.

Fr. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul
Secretary General of the CBCK

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea:

Against the Constitutional Court’s Decision
that the Anti-Abortion Law Is Unconformable to Constitution

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea expresses its deep regret over the recent decision made by the Constitutional Court of Korea regarding a petition to repeal the anti-abortion law. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the ban on the abortion is unconformable to constitution (cf. Criminal Acts Art. 269 §1 and Art. 270 §1).

The Constitutional Court’s decision denies the fundamental right to life of a fetus, who is a dignified human being from the moment of conception but lacks the ability of self-defense. Furthermore, this decision demonstrates a strong bias against women as it imposes upon women alone the responsibility for unwanted pregnancies while exempting men from responsibility. The Catholic Church affirms her teaching that abortion is a sin because it involves the killing of an innocent life in the mother’s womb. Hence such an act can never be justified.

Even though the anti-abortion law is to be either amended or repealed, the Catholic Church in Korea will, as always, exert herself to offer support and assistance to both women and men who, even in times of distress, decide to give birth to their babies and bring them up without yielding to the temptation of abortion. The Church in Korea also opens her door to women who are suffering from the physical, spiritual and emotional wounds of abortion and who desire reconciliation and healing.

On March 22, 2018, the Catholic Church in Korea submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court containing the signatures of one million Catholics voicing their opposition to the possible abolition of the anti-abortion law. The Church also appealed to the Korean government, requesting that institutions be set-up to actively support all pregnant women and educate men on their responsibilities to protect children and pregnant women.

Women and men are both equally responsible for pregnancy and the care of children. All members of society should share in the responsibility to protect every life from the moment of conception. The Catholic Church in Korea strongly urges the legislative and executive powers of the Republic of Korea to introduce laws and institutions that encourage women and men in difficult circumstances to choose life rather than death.

April 11, 2019

+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
Archbishop of Gwangju
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea

Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2018

In April 2019, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea published the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2018.

On the basis of the compiled data from 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, 7 Catholic universities, and about 160 religious institutes of men and women in Korea, the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2018 presents annual statistics for the Catholic Church as of December 31, 2018. These statistics will be helpful in better understanding the present situation of the Catholic Church in Korea and will provide a useful point of reference for future pastoral ministries.

The following is a summary of the main statistical results:

According to the Statistics, as of December 31, 2018, the number of Catholics in Korea was 5,866,510, an increase of 0.9% (52,740) over the previous year. The Catholic population amounted to 11.1% of the total population of Korea, 53,072,685: 51,826,059 Korean national based on resident registration and 1,246,626 foreigners. The number of Catholics in Korea increased to over 10% in 2009 and reached 11% in 2017.

By gender, male faithful numbered 2,499,632 and female faithful 3,366,878, respectively 42.6% and 57.4% of Catholics in Korea. The ratio of male faithful was slightly higher than that of female faithful in the 0-29 year age bracket, but the percentage of female faithful was higher from 30 years of age onwards.

By age group, the percentage of faithful aged 55-59 accounted for 9.8% of the total, faithful aged 45-49 represented 8.7%, and those aged 50-54 made-up 8.7%. The number of faithful aged 10-19 accounted for 363,333, or 6.2% of the total number of Catholics in Korea. The number of people over 65 years of age accounted for 1,133,768 or 19.4% of the total, which marked an increase over the 18.4% of the previous year.

Of the 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, the Archdiocese of Seoul was the most populous with the number of faithful standing at 1,529,835 or 26.1% of the total number of Catholics in Korea. The Archdiocese of Seoul was followed by the Diocese of Suwon (916,085 or 15.6%), the Diocese of Incheon (517,105 or 8.8%), the Archdiocese of Daegu (507,833 or 8.7%), the Diocese of Busan (457,622 or 7.8%), the Archdiocese of Gwangju (363,697 or 6.2%), the Diocese of Daejeon (330,324 or 5.6%), and the Diocese of Uijeongbu (309,591 or 5.3%). The number of Catholic faithful in Seoul and surrounding urban areas (Suwon, Uijeongbu, Incheon), amounted to 3,272,616 or 55.8% of the total Catholic population of Korea.

Dioceses exhibiting an increase in numbers were: the Diocese of Uijeongbu led the way with an increase of 1.8%, followed by the Diocese of Cheju (1.7%), the Diocese of Suwon (1.7%), and the Diocese of Daejeon (1.6%).

In terms of percentage of Catholic population in comparison with the local population, the Archdiocese of Seoul was ahead of others with a rate of 15.6%, followed by the Diocese of Cheongju (11.9%), the Diocese of Inchon (11.7%), the Dioceses of Cheju (11.6%), and the Archdiocese of Daegu (11.3%).

The number of parishes in 2018 was 1,747, an increase of 13, and the number of secondary stations was 729, a decrease of 8 from the previous year.

The Statistics also indicate that the number of clergy in Korea in 2018 totaled 5,430; this was made-up of 42 bishops, including 2 Cardinals, and 5,233 priests, 155 foreign missionary priests. Among the priests, 4,456 were diocesan priests, 786 religious priests, and 146 missionary priests. The number of seminarians was 1,273, a decrease of 3.5% from the previous year.

There were 1,592 men religious, excluding novices, while there were 10,145 women religious. The number of novices in total was 377.

According to the Statistics, the number of newly baptized in 2018 was 80,905. This indicates a decrease of 16.4% (15,889 baptisms) from the previous year. By gender, there were 41,972 newly baptized men and 38,933 women; when compared to the previous year, there was a decrease in male baptisms of 18.3% (9,424 in number) and a decrease of 14.2% (6,465 in number) in female baptisms. The number of children baptized amounted to 18,942 or 23.4% of the total number of baptisms, adult baptisms amounted to 56,856 or 70.3%, and baptism in danger of death amounted to 5,107 or 6.3%.

The number of celebrations of the Sacrament of Matrimony amounted to 14,167 in 2018, indicating a decrease of 10.6% from the previous year. Of this number, 8,606 cases were marriages involving a dispensation.

The average number of Sunday Mass attendees was 1,075,089, 18.3% of the total Catholic population of Korea. The number of the faithful who received First Communion was 17,832. The number of faithful who celebrated the Sacrament of Confession was 3,789,949, and the number of those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation was 42,455.

Message from the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea

Regarding the South Korea-United States Summit
and the North Korea-United States Summit on June 30, 2019

Today two leaders, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and United States President Donald Trump met in Seoul. Subsequently, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the NK State Affairs Commission, together with President Moon, met and shook hands in a show of peace at Panmunjeom, a place which symbolizes the division of the Korean Peninsula: this was a first since the armistice was declared 66 years ago. Today’s meeting took place four months after the breakdown of the NK-US summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February. This meeting marks a historic milestone on the road to peace on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia, and the world. Such progress aims at achieving complete denuclearization and the building of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue. Together with all the Korean Catholic bishops and believers, I appreciate the courageous determination of President Moon, President Trump, and Chairman Kim in their efforts to restart talks for peace.

The 25th of June marked the 69th anniversary of the outbreak of the fratricidal war of Korea. On the anniversary, the Catholic Church in Korea celebrated a ‘Day of Prayer for the Reconciliation and Unity of the Korean People’ with the ‘Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula.’ The Mass was offered with the theme, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5,9), in Imjingak, a village bordering the DMZ in South Korea. In the Old Testament, the Israelites welcomed a new grace-filled era when they were liberated from their 70 years of Babylonian exile (cf. 2Chr 36,21). Inspired by this history, we, during the Mass, prayed that 2020, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, may become a new beginning for a blissful era. An era of peace and unity which will overcome the tragedy of national division through the ending of the Korean War and the declaration of a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, the Catholic Church in Korea calls for the continuation of inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges, and also asks the international community for its support and encouragement. We sincerely desire that the SK-US Summit in Seoul and the NK-US Summit at Panmunjeom may result in good news, which will lessen anxiety and simultaneously increase hope, and ultimately strengthen trust in inter-Korean relations and the wider international situation.

Despite all the difficulties on the journey towards a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula and the development of international cooperation, we should continue to meet frequently and talk together with open minds. Then, the day of reconciliation and the unity of the Korean people will eventually come. The Catholic Church in Korea, in solidarity with the universal Church, continues to pray for those who work for peace on the Korea Peninsula. May God abundantly bestow blessings of courage and strength upon them, the peacemakers.

June 30, 2019

+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea

Holy Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula <1>
(Imjingak Pyeonghwa-Nuri Park, Paju, June 25, 2019)

Homily of the President of the CBCK

Peace be with you!

The traditional period for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is from 18 to 25 January. During this time, Christians around the world pray together so as to become one in Christ, overcoming divisions and conflicts among them.

The preparatory work for this year’s Week of Prayer material was undertaken by a group of representatives of different Christian communities in Indonesia. With a population of 265 million, 86% of Indonesians are Muslim and 10% are Christian. Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, 1,340 different ethnic groups, and more than 740 local languages. Since the foundation of the nation in 1945, Indonesians have lived by the principle of gotong royong, which is to live life beyond diversity and in solidarity through collaboration.

However, economic growth, driven by competition, jeopardizes cooperation among Indonesians. Corruption infects politics and businesses with devastating effects on the environment. Keeping in mind God’s will that “they may all be one” (Jn 17,21), Christians in Indonesia unite to confront injustice; they, in the spirit of unity, extend the hand of solidarity to neighbouring religions.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites celebrated their own traditional feasts and festivals in search of justice. Likewise, Christians who are invited to the banquet in the Kingdom of God are called to overcome divisions and injustice and so to affirm justice in society. This is also the case for Korean Christians.

This year we are celebrating the centenary of the March 1st Independence Movement, also known as the Sam-il (3.1) Movement. This peaceful movement displayed the Korean people’s desire for national independence. At that time, our people, acting with great determination, took a step towards liberty by establishing the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Such actions were protests against foreign intervention and violation of our national sovereignty. One hundred years later, once again we are called to pool our strength and act with one accord in the building of reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Justice involves offering to God what we are obliged to offer and sharing with our neighbor what they are in need of. Because our society is infected with distrust, indifference, inequality and injustice, unfortunately we often forget who our neighbor truly is. Distrust and indifference result from seventyyears of national division; inequality and injustice are the results of indiscriminate economic growth.

On this occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019, all Christians in this land ought to acknowledge injustice and division in our society, recognize our neighbors, and practice justice with and towards them. Furthermore, Christians on the Korean Peninsula are called to be bearers of reconciliation and unity. May the Lord grant us the courage, strength and wisdom to respond to this calling.

January 18, 2019

+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea

Holy Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula <2>

Message of the Apostolic Nuncio to Korea

Your Eminence,

Your Excellency, the President of the CBCK,

Your Excellencies, members of the CBCK,

Dear brothers in Priesthood,

Dear Women and Men Religious,

Dear Deacons and Seminarians,

Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am delighted to send my greetings to you all at this solemn Eucharistic celebration, organized by the Episcopal Conference, to invoke the gift of peace on the Korean Peninsula. I wish to express my deep appreciation to the bishops for preparing this precious initiative, and thank them for inviting me to this significant moment of prayer.

Dear brothers, our presence here today is an evident sign of our common desire to commit ourselves tenaciously to the defense and consolidation of peace in our country. Reflecting upon the recent history of Korea, we strongly feel the aspiration to re-establish fraternal coexistence. As a community of believers we cannot remain helpless in the face of what is still happening in different countries of the world because of wars. Those desperate outcries of broken men, women, and many children touch our hearts and also raise a question about our responsibility for them. Any act of violence against human dignity cannot be justified or motivated by any party or political interest. The absolute defense of the person is a sacred and inviolable right.

“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13,34). Following the will of her Master, the Church in every age has been assiduous in promoting fraternal dialogue among nations in respect of diversity, in order to visibly realize special harmony among peoples for whom Christ offered himself out of love. It is precisely Jesus’ love that transfigures us, makes us a holy people capable of changing the world, of comforting those in distress, of healing the sick, of supporting the poor, of giving hope to the discouraged, of welcoming those who are rejected, of giving peace to those in conflict. The new commandment of Jesus still resonates today. In this world where many people are suffering, we should observe the new commandment which shows us the way toward fraternity and lasting peace.

It is our task, therefore, to pray that our long-awaited peace may warm the hearts of those who have experienced the tragedy of war, that families may find again unity, that the barriers of hatred and resentment may be broken down, that the Prince of Peace may dwell on this land blessed and irrigated with the blood of the Martyrs.

It is my wish to send to you, God’s beloved children of Korea, a special message in this very significant place. Animated by hope in Christ, let us work together for a better future on the Korean Peninsula, by building a ‘Civilization of Love,’ a favorite expression of the Holy Father Paul VI.

Pope Francis in his video message on April 27, 2019, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Panmunjoem Declaration, encouraged us: “May this celebration offer hope to all that a future based on unity, dialogue and fraternal solidarity is indeed possible. Through patient and persistent efforts, the pursuit of harmony and concord can overcome division and confrontation.”

I invoke the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and willingly extend to each one my paternal blessing.

June 25, 2019

+ Alfred Xuereb
Apostolic Nuncio to Korea

Holy Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula <3>

Plea for Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Recently, as the North Korea-United States talks have stalled, tensions on the Korean Peninsula are once again escalating. I hope the progress in the inter-Korean reconciliation process, which has been difficult, will advance so that peace on the Korean Peninsula will finally flourish. My appeal to the two Korean authorities, the international community, our fellow Korean citizens and the Catholic faithful is as follows:

First of all, my desperate plea to the South and North Korean authorities.

Last year, we witnessed the leaders of South and North Korea sitting on the Panmunjeom footbridge discussing the future of the Korean Peninsula. We confirmed that the quickest path to peace on the Korean Peninsula is by the South and North Korea directly solving the issue of division. However, this year, dialogue between the two Koreas is not going smoothly. The Panmunjeom Declaration of April 27 confirmed the advantages of discussing the important matters of both nations through regular meetings and direct telephone calls. If South and North Korean parties do not take the initiative, the international community will not act. In other words, we have to resolve our own problems first. I hope that South and North Korean government authorities will resume dialogue as soon as possible.

Grand agendas such as large-scale non-governmental exchanges and economic cooperation begin with small actions such as dialogue and interpersonal contact. Civilian interaction and humanitarian aid should be possible even under the sanctions. I appeal that necessary humanitarian aid to the North be permitted. We also ask for the possibility of encounters and support, especially civilian exchange and humanitarian aid. The North Korean authorities should accept humanitarian aid, allowing exchange and support in the areas which are not subject to sanctions. We must not squander this opportunity for peace that has come to us. I hope we can keep our promises for the sake of our nation’s future.

Secondly, my plea to the international community including our neighboring nations.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the risk of war have great impact not only on South and North Korea, but also on the entire Northeast Asian region and on the world. However, the realization of peace on the Korean Peninsula is in our own hands and is a priority for us. We are aware of the frustrating realities of international relations between nations that primarily seek to protect their own interests. However, when the international community considers the Korean Peninsula solely as a buffer zone for the balance of power in the region the result will be one of great disappointment and frustration to all those who love peace. Such self-interest initially led to the division of the peninsula, the Korean War itself, and the aftermath of the Korean War. The Korean Peninsula has suffered from hatred and hostility for 69 years and no one knows how long this pain will last.

It is my hope that the Korean Peninsula will eventually coexist peacefully with its neighboring countries and become an epicenter of world peace by endeavoring to become a model for peace in Northeast Asia. I urge the international community to support and encourage our journey toward peace. In particular, I ask that North Korea and the United States make efforts to overcome their different perspectives on denuclearization in North Korea and the establishment of a peaceful regime on the Korean Peninsula. I also call for active cooperation so that negotiations can be concluded as soon as possible.

Thirdly, my plea to fellow South Korean citizens.

Recently, our society has become deeply divided. We must stop the hatred and hostility now. We should refrain from groundless accusations and meaningless attacks.

History teaches us that armed force leads only to a vicious cycle of violence, which can never be a means of realizing peace. “Relying on violence brings with it tremendous material and spiritual risks, including destruction and death” (Gaudium et Spes, n.78). Peace is not simply the absence of war, and not the guarantee of a balance between hostile forces. Peace is the “result of justice” (At 32,17) and “fruit of love” (Gaudium et Spes, n.78). We must not go back to the ‘time of annihilation’ that we experienced 69 years ago. We need to gather our strength so that inter-Korean dialogue can be actively pursued.

Last but not least, my plea to the Catholic faithful.

In this year’s World Day of Peace speech, Pope Francis called on all the faithful to be ‘apostles of peace,’ saying: “to bring peace, this is the core of the mission of the disciples of Christ” (Message of the 52nd World Day of Peace, n.1). This is a desperate need of our time.

True peace is only possible through forgiveness and reconciliation. On the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the Korean War, our first task is ‘forgiveness and reconciliation.’ The suffering experienced as a result of fratricidal warfare must be overcome through courageous reflection, repentance and forgiveness on the part of all parties. Only then can we move forward.

We must also continue to pray. The prayer at 9pm every evening - Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be - which the Catholic Church in Korea began in 2015 should continue in preparation for the 70th anniversary of the division of the Peninsula. Once again, I invite you to pray at 9pm with me for the intention that Pope Francis will visit North Korea as an apostle of peace.

We pray that the Lord’s will be done on earth so that all of his beloved people be united. May God bless you all with His gift of peace.

June 25, 2019

+ Peter Lee Ki-heon
Bishop of Uijenongbu
CBCK Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People

Message for the 2019 Day for the Environment (Summary)

Clean Air and Stable Climate are Requisites for our Survival

In 2017 the Korean government announced the ‘Comprehensive Plan on Fine Dust Management.’ This plan aimed at reducing the domestic emissions rate by 30% by 2022 through tightening restrictions on the causes of fine dust, as many other developed countries already do. However, since this plan has brought about no significant change, last year the government set forth new measures to tackle air pollution and, if necessary, to take emergency action to limit power generation through coal. In February, 2019, the Special Countermeasure Committee against Fine Dust was established and the ‘Special Act on Fine Dust Reduction and Management’ came into effect. However, despite all these efforts, fine dust levels remain high and as a consequence a newly revised law declared this problem a social disaster. The government is doing its best, but with few positive results evident.

It is said that between 30 to 80% of ultrafine dust particles [PM-2.5] come from China and other neighboring countries, depending on the climatic conditions. However, a considerable amount is caused by domestic factors such as energy production through the use of fossil fuels such as coal, diesel and natural gas. For example, ultrafine dust emitted from vehicles accounts for one-third of total domestic emissions.

In fact, half of the fine dust is the result of our daily lives and lifestyles. Therefore, we are not only victims of, but also contributors to the problem of fine dust pollution. An awareness of this reality is a starting point for solving the problem. At the same time, the government has to take steps towards the progressive replacement of fossil fuels without delay (cf. Laudato Si’, n.165).

At both personal and communal levels, Christians need to take an active role in using natural energy such as solar and wind power. An attitude focusing on co-responsibility is ever more important in overcoming today’s ecological crisis. To this end, it requires more capable citizens taking ever more concrete actions and constantly asking important questions: what is the origin of the fine dust blanketing the Korean peninsula? how will the future be for children and ourselves? what can we do here and now?

The climate crisis facing us is not a coincidence nor a temporary phenomenon. Abnormal changes in seasons - longer summers without a spring, abnormal winters with flowers in full bloom - have brought about natural disasters year after year, threatening the survival of humanity. Nevertheless, we keep ignoring climate change warnings, thinking of it as a temporary glitch while constantly seeking material abundance and riches in our lives. The naive optimism that innovative technology will prevent fine dust and climate change is no less than the present generations’ vanity, all the time risking the survival of future generations. If we do not take action now, we will not only be irresponsible for ecological disaster, but will also be the cause of suffering for future generations.

Beloved brothers and sisters!

Clean air and stable climate are basic conditions for survival. It is time for all of us to turn towards ecological conversion. Let us take courage and walk together to restore the beauty and order of the earth, our ‘common home’ entrusted to us.

June 5, 2019

World Environment Day

Peter Kang U-il
Bishop of Cheju
CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment

Message for 2019 Labour Day (Summary)

“Not by bread alone does man live” (Dt 8,3)

On the occasion of the 129th Labour Day, may God bless you all and those who work hard for a living. Because this year the International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrates its centenary, it is with a joy doubled that I send my congratulations to all workers. The ILO has played a major role in improving the poor working conditions of many by establishing international conventions and recommendations. According to the Catholic liturgical calendar, the 1st of May is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. St. Joseph was a humble worker who, throughout his life, faithfully carried out his daily tasks, but he also played a definitive role in the divine work of Salvation. We ardently pray that through the intercession of St. Joseph, our work will serve as a means of personal sanctification.

The teachings of the Bible and of various Popes throughout history remind us of the value of labour. God invites us to participate in His work of creation through our own labours. God created every kind of plant, tree and soil, and entrusted them to us, hoping that we will take good care of His creation through our work. This is precisely the Church’s teaching on the authentic value of human labour; however, there are various other perspectives on labour.

Nowadays the issue of labour is much spoken of and is often addressed in parliament, government, and courts. There are different points of view concerning the issue of minimum wage in relation to the dignity of work. As for issues surrounding health and safety policies at work, opinions here too differ. The challenge of ensuring job stability is still controversial. However, any proper understanding of the value of labour and our commitment to preserving it should be aimed at establishing legal and institutional provisions for proper wages, industrial safety, and stable employment.

Often our arguments in the above mentioned areas reflect our greed for a bigger portion of bread, rather than our appreciation of work itself as a divine gift. For humans it can be natural to desire more bread and to strive constantly to produce bigger portions of bread. However, if we value only efficiency and productivity, we may damage creation, even to the extent of destroying its very existence. There is also a great risk in undermining the core values of humanity, which includes our responsibility to care for creation. Reflecting on the issue of labour, we should bear in mind God’s words: “Not by bread alone does man live” (Dt 8,3).

Capitalists are often faced with the temptation to strive after ‘bread’ alone. It is difficult to overcome these temptations. Such people are often tempted to maximize their immediate profits by use of power and money. Not only capitalists but politicians and civil authorities also can be exposed to such temptations. For them, ‘bread’ represents their power to influence and bring about a comfortable life for themselves. As a result, they can easily become indifferent to the poor and the weak. Workers also face the temptation of ‘bread’, when they pursue only the interests of their own groups, ignoring other workers in difficult circumstances. Workers too can yield to the temptation of ‘bread.’

Provisions are needed to secure the value of work, to ensure the rights of vulnerable workers, and to regulate the amount of ‘bread’ that one may possess. For a century, the ILO has set international labour standards, and monitored those standards to ensure that they were being observed around the globe. Our country joined the ILO in 1991. Our government, however, has not yet ratified some parts of eight fundamental conventions drawn up by the ILO. In order to ensure universal rights for labourers, we urgently need to collectively pool our wisdom and solve the problem.

Lastly, I would like briefly to address the issue of youth labour. An increasing number of young people are struggling with wage problems, employment issues, and lack of job-security, while all the time their cries for help are ignored and their influence in society is zero. I am appreciative of activists who work for the good of young workers in various ways, including the promotion of on-the-job training schemes. Much attention is needed in order to solve the problems of youth labour.

On this occasion of Labour Day, we remember many people who are still suffering as a result of work related problems. We hope and pray that they may escape their difficult work predicaments in the near future, and that many people may recognize their mission as entrusted to them by God. We also wish that more fruitful discussions around labour issues take place in different areas of society, including work places, the financial world, and government. The Catholic Church in Korea, sharing the concerns of the contemporary world, partakes actively in such discussions by offering its perspective and wisdom. We, with united hearts, pray that through the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker the Kingdom of God will come closer.

May 1, 2019

+ Constantine Bae Ki Hyen
Bishop of Masan
CBCK Committee for Justice & Peace

Message on the 14th Week for Catholic Education (May 20-26, 2019)

Let Us Be ‘Guardians of Ecology’!

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden,
to cultivate and care for it” (Gn 2,15).

Dear educators, parents and young people,

On the occasion of the 2019 Week for Catholic Education, I would like to recall our responsibility as ‘guardians of ecology’, who contribute to overcoming today’s ecological crisis. In addition, I want all of us to put into practice an ‘ecological spirituality’ at home, school, in the workplace and in the Church.

Encyclical Laudato Si’

In 2015, Pope Francis issued his encyclical Laudato Si’. This encyclical is considered the first papal document on ecology. In it, the Holy Father describes the environmental degradation taking place on the earth and analyzes its root causes. In order to overcome this crisis, he stresses that we must create concrete countermeasures as well as develop deep theological reflections. This invitation awakens our responsibility to take care of the Earth which is ‘our common home’ and ‘our sister and mother.’ 

Man-made Ecological Crisis

Today, the quality of soil, water, air, and all forms of life on the earth are deteriorating. Our common home, the earth, is gravely polluted by such things as transport and industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general, and residual and dangerous waste produced mainly by big cities (cf. Laudato Si’, n.21). For consecutive days, we have heard the news about high levels of fine dust and how the air quality in our country has deteriorated so badly. 

In fact, global warming, sea level rise, and deforestation are, to a great degree, caused by the abuse of fossil fuels. Often the lack of access to drinking water and degradation of water quality is caused by the inflow of detergents and chemicals into rivers, lakes and oceans. Thousands of species of animals, plants and microbes are disappearing each year due to the construction of highways, water-storage dams, construction of fences in certain areas, and the use of synthetic pesticides.

Today, we live in cities full of cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and we are unable to enjoy the peace and healing offered by nature because of the privatization of natural spaces such as forests. As stated, “the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together” (ibid, n.48). For example, the depletion of fishing reserves hurts small fishing communities, while water pollution affects the poor who cannot afford to buy bottled water. And sea level rise affects impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go.

The earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her” (ibid, n.2). The environmental crisis that we face is something that we humans have brought about (cf. ibid, n.82).

Recovery of Ecological Spirituality

We have already lost a lot due to the environmental crisis. Yet all is not lost. We are capable of choosing again what is right and good, and making a new start (cf. ibid, n.205). Above all, we need to foster ecological spirituality.

Ecological spirituality includes ecological conversion and practice. Ecological conversion demands an integrated approach: both human society and the natural ecosystem depend on and develop from each other (cf. ibid, n.139). This also demands ecological repentance for our sins against the ecosystem, caused by our unbridled greed. Ecological practice entails the reduction of overbuying and unnecessary spending, a break from our consumption-oriented habits (ibid, n.218), and the eradication of the ‘throwaway culture’ (ibid, n.22).

Role of the Guardian of Ecology

The term ‘guardian of ecology’ refers to a person who practices ecological spirituality. Such people devote themselves to saving the earth, our common home. Therefore, protection of ecology should develop into a community movement rather than it being the task of an individual (cf. ibid, n.219). Hoping that all of us will become guardians of ecology, I encourage you to put the following suggestions into practice at home, school, in the workplace and in the Church:

⦁ Ecological Conversion: Let us repent of our indiscriminate abuse and looting of the natural environment. And let us never forget we are part of nature, and we develop and perish along with nature.

⦁ Ecological Practice: Let us transform our throwaway culture of disposing of garbage too easily, minimize our use of natural resources, moderate consumption, and always nurture the habit of reusing and recycling.

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is my hope that all of us continue to joyfully and happily play the role of guardians of ecology in the Lord’s providence. With this hope, I would like to send you the blessings of the Risen Christ.

Week for Catholic Education in May 2019

+ Pius Moon Chang-woo
Coadjutor Bishop of Cheju
CBCK Committee on Education

Message for World Youth Day 2019

“Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6,68)

Dear young people!

I would like to extend my sincere wishes for peace to all of you who are under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate One. It is my hope that all of you receive loving care at home, learn to embrace true values, and together keep walking on the journey of friendship through sharing and communion.

Also, I ardently pray for you to abide in the Word of eternal life and to live in peace and hope.

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mk 6,50)

The fear of ‘being alone’ is one of the greatest fears in society, where we are called to live together. To overcome such fear we make efforts to gather in groups and to belong to something or someone else, but it is difficult to conquer a fear which is inherent to human nature.

We are afraid as we face uncertainties; false information creates fear and anxiety; the deluding words of false prophecies and negative assumptions about the future also make us afraid. Keeping serenity in the face of such fear is easier said than done.

However, “preserving in our hearts a peace... is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy” (Pope Francis, Homily during the 34th World Youth Day, April 14, 2019). Because the word of the Lord is a promise which is firmly alive and active today: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28,20).

Do not try to attain goals through false compromises. Everything will be revealed on that day and hour when the Last Judgement arrives. In the end, those who are not convinced, enthusiastic, certain, nor in love will remain unfulfilled and gain nothing, they will simply remain with the empty pleasures of complacency and self-indulgence (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, nn.95.266).

“Do not be ashamed to show your enthusiasm for Jesus, to shout out that he is alive and that he is your life. Yet at the same time, do not be afraid to follow him on the way of the cross. When you hear that he is asking you to renounce yourselves, to let yourselves be stripped of every security, and to entrust yourselves completely to our Father in heaven, then rejoice and exult! You are on the path of the kingdom of God” (Homily during the 34th World Youth Day).

“Take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16,33)

For us, one of the most serious problems in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the tide of excessive secularization. Preference for selfish comforts and material riches close us within ‘ourselves’ with no place for God. Such behavior will steadily lead us towards temptations and tragic consequences.

We may feel burdened when we try to persevere our faith in the midst of the trials and tribulations of life (cf. Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n.17). However, the responsibility to correct disorder is not a task entrusted to only a few, but a mission entrusted to all.

Prayer is the best way to convert us from spiritual disorder to spiritual order. When we practice the word of Jesus: “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test” (Mt 26,41) just as Jesus “would withdraw to deserted places to pray” (Lk 5,16), just as He “prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground” (Lk 22,44), we can reach spiritual fullness, defying secularization.

Those who pray are not carried away by the culture of death, but create the culture of life. Those who pray do not feel ashamed of their imperfections and instead acknowledge diversity, eradicate all kinds of discrimination, and walk the path towards evangelization through communicating with others. Such actions fly in the face of secularization.

“Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back or keep her at a standstill. But let us also ask him to free her from another temptation: that of thinking she is young because she accepts everything the world offers her, thinking that she is renewed because she sets her message aside and acts like everybody else. No! The Church is young when she is herself, when she receives ever anew the strength born of God’s word, the Eucharist, and the daily presence of Christ and the power of his Spirit in our lives” (Christus Vivit, n.35).

Dear young people!

May all of you encounter the loving God, believe in Christ as our Savior, and walk the journey of friendship with the living Jesus Christ.

Surrender yourselves to the Holy Spirit by whom you will be guided in all that is good.

Do not hesitate to search for your own ways of discovering yourselves and finding ways toward holiness.

“God loves the joy of young people. He wants them especially to share in the joy of fraternal communion” (ibid, n.167).

Entrusting all of us to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I impart my paternal blessings to all of you.

May 26, 2019

+ Peter Chung Soon-Taick
Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul
CBCK Committee for Youth Ministry

Message for the 9th Sunday for Life

Science and Technology at the Service of Humanity

Dear brothers and sisters,

1. On this occasion of the 9th Sunday for Life, we reflect on the meaning and value of human life. In other words, we remind ourselves of the importance of human life from conception until death. All “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties” (Gaudium et Spes, n.1) of this world belong to living people, and we grow closer to God through all of our life experiences. Jesus once talked about His mission: “I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it up” (Jn 6,39). It is also the Church’s mission to build a world where every person is cherished and respected.

2. On this Sunday for Life we also examine modern science and technology, especially those which directly deal with human beings; such disciplines are inseparably linked with the issues of human life and human dignity. “Science and technology are valuable resources for man when placed at his service and when they promote his integral development for the benefit of all” (Donum Vitae, n.2). Science and technology can demonstrate their true meaning and value, only when they benefit humanity. Hence “they must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights and his true and integral good” (ibid, n.2). It is unacceptable to use science and technology for the destruction of humanity or to exploit human lives as mere instruments of scientific experimentation.

3. Most of all, research on human embryos requires discretion. Although some scientists demand an easing of restrictions on such research, the human embryo deserves to be protected and respected as a human person at the earliest stage of development. No objective can, in any way, justify experimentation carried out on living human embryos. Such an act “constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings having a right to the same respect that is due to the child already born and to every human person” (ibid, n.4). Therefore, instead of seeking permission to carry out experiments on human embryos, the scientific community should use its creativity to bring about equally positive outcomes by employing different means.

4. Next, we consider in vitro fertilization. This procedure degrades the human body to the point of merely being biological material, functioning only for reproductive purposes. In this procedure for successful conception to take place, a large number of embryos produced in vitro are sacrificed, as if they were “simply a mass of cells to be used, selected and discarded” (Dignitas Personae, n.14). In vitro fertilization overlooks the personal meaning of conjugal union between a husband and a wife. Further, it reduces the birth of human life to a product of biological and genetic manipulation. It may appear to give hope to couples who suffer from fertility problems; however, it can never be a legitimate way to have children and foster intimacy between a couple. On the other hand, Napro technology (Natural Procreative Technology) is proven to be effective, protecting a couple’s health and personal integrity.

5. We also need to take seriously the issue of genetic modification. Interfering with the human genome by using ‘Genome editing’ technology generates both expectations and concerns for its outcomes. Last year, news about the world’s first genetically edited twin babies born in China created outrage and shock around the world. Like this case, when science and technology ignore ethical issues, it may result in fear and disaster. Modern genetics is still at an experimental stage. Therefore, it is highly precarious to meddle with the human genome without first having evidence of the procedure’s safety. To manipulate human genes in favor of desired human characteristics is unacceptable because “the prospect of such an intervention would end sooner or later by harming the common good” (ibid, n.27).

6. Lastly, let us take into consideration the new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Such technologies are used in various areas, including those of industry, health, academic, and military, and they open new possibilities, but also arouse anxieties. Concerning new technologies, an essential question is raised: do they serve humanity or undermine the fundamental meaning of being human? Now we stand at the crossroads.

Once again, I would like to stress the prime purpose of science and technology. Science and technology belong to humanity and should always serve humanity. Therefore, those who are responsible for the development and use of technology should not only consider functionality and efficiency, but should also deliberate on ways to truly protect and promote what is human.

“Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in immortality” (Eph 6,24).

May 5, 2019

+ Matthias Ri Iong-hoon
Bishop of Suwon
CBCK Committee for Bioethics

The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea

Francis Xavier Hong Gyo-man (1738-1801)

Francis Xavier Hong Gyo-man was born in Seoul, and later he moved to Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do. His family served as high-ranking officials in the royal court for generations. When he was young he studied diligently with his elder brother who was a top official and, subsequently, he passed the first state examination. Leo Hong In, who was martyred in 1801, was his son and Charles Jeong Cheol-sang, martyred in May 1801, was his son-in-law.

When Francis Xavier Hong moved to Pocheon, he frequently visited his cousin Francis Xavier Kwon Il-sin who lived in Yanggeun. It was there he came to know about the Catholic religion, but he did not accept it immediately. Eventually, on hearing from his son Leo Hong, already a Catholic, a detailed explanation of the doctrine, he accepted and began to practice it fully with the realization that Catholicism was the true religion he had been seeking.

When Father James Zhou Wen-mo came to Korea in 1794, Francis Xavier Hong went to visit him. He received the Sacrament of Baptism from Father James Zhou and attended Mass. From that time on, he distanced himself from his non-Catholic acquaintances and concentrated on studying Catholic doctrine in a deeper way. So as to spread the faith, he would invite illiterate Catholics to his home and teach them. He brought believers, who had given up their religion, back to the Church and he welcomed with open arms all who visited him in search of the truth. It was thanks to his ardent devotion that the Gospel was spread around the Pocheon region.

When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801 Francis Xavier Hong hid a box of Catholic books that belonged to Augustine Jeong Yak-jong, a relative by marriage, in his house. But one of the faithful who was moving the books was discovered by the police, and eventually Francis Xavier Hong’s name was revealed to the persecutors. When he heard the bad news, he escaped quickly with his son. However, realizing that he could not stay in hiding for long, he returned home and was soon arrested by the police.

On February 14, Francis Xavier Hong was sent to the Supreme Court for interrogation and punishment. He did not surrender to any threats and never ceased in his efforts to explain to the persecutors that “the Catholic doctrine is the truth.” In fact, the persecutors were surprised by his courage and heroism. He said to them:

“God is the Great Father of heaven and earth, thus, how can I neglect to serve Him? And how can I say that the Catholic religion that worships God, ‘our Great Father,’ is an evil religion? This is the truth under heaven, thus we cannot say Jesus Christ is evil.”

After this confession of faith, those interrogating him continuously tried to force Francis Xavier Hong to betray God, but he stayed firm. The persecutors, realizing that they could not change his mind, pronounced the death sentence on him. He was taken, along with Augustine Jeong and Luke Hong Nak-min, outside the Small West Gate in Seoul, beheaded and thus died a martyr. His execution took place on April 8, 1801 (February 26 by the Lunar calendar). Francis Xavier Hong was 63 years old.

List of Articles
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5 CBCK Newsletter No.106 (Spring 2019) Apr 25, 2019
» CBCK Newsletter No.107 (Summer 2019) Aug 05, 2019
3 CBCK Newsletter No.108 (Autumn 2019) Feb 13, 2020
2 CBCK Newsletter No.109 (Winter 2019) Feb 13, 2020
1 CBCK Newsletter No.110 (Spring 2020) May 20, 2020

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