_ From the Editor:
_ 2019 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK
_ Address of the Apostolic Nuncio in Kore to 2019 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK (Summary)
_ Message in Commemoration of August 15, 1945 (Summary)
_ Message for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Summary)
_ Message for 2019 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
_ Message for the 52nd Military Mission Sunday (Summary)
_ The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
From the Editor:
We Are Called to Protect the Environment
Environmental pollution affects Korean society greatly. Thus the CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment has presented action plans for preventing various forms of environmental pollution on the Korean Peninsula, including fine dust, and has asked all dioceses and parishes to put these plans into practice in a concrete manner.
Forgoing greed is the first step we should take to protect the environment. Animals seek food simply for survival, but when they feel full they do not hoard extra food. In contrast, human beings desire an excess over and above what is needed. We have become accustomed to a culture of accumulation in which we possess things unnecessary for our own needs but which others may need. Our gluttony has generated a lot of food waste.
Our ancestors were careful to save even drops of water; leftover food was fed to livestock; the waste of both livestock and humans was used to cultivate the soil. Crops were grown in that very soil and, in turn, filled their tables. Water used for washing and bathing was reused to irrigate small vegetable and flower gardens. Because of this recycling of natural resources there was no need for sewage and refuse systems to deal with food waste, dirty water, animal and human waste. Reservoirs were a form of recycling to supply water. Our ancestors practised the law of nature in order to protect land and water from pollution.
Our standard of life today is wealthier and more convenient than ever before, but, at the same time, such convenience is accompanied by various forms of pollution. There is a price to pay for our comfortable lifestyle, which has been obtained at the cost of damaging nature and its ability to purify and reproduce itself. It seems to be impossible for us to forgo the convenience of contemporary life in order to return to a more natural past; paradoxically, a convenient life itself can be the cause of inconvenience.
“LORD, what is man that you take notice of him”(Ps 144,3). All human beings are precious and nature is their common home. All other living things are also precious because they have been created by God. Thus we have a responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence in accordance with the purpose of God’s creation.
To this end, we should care for all of creation. First and foremost, we should remember that we can be destroyed in the same manner as we ourselves destroy the others, and that the human beings can be destroyed so much as we destroy the environment in which we live.
As a faithful steward, the Catholic Church in Korea should take the lead in caring of all of creation, the gift which God has entrusted to humankind. Furthermore, in her protection of this beautiful world she ought to present concrete measures in which all men and women of good will can actively participate.
Fr. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul
Secretary General of the CBCK
2019 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (President: Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong) held its 2019 Autumn General Assembly from October 14 to 17, 2019. At the assembly the following decisions were made:
1. The bishops decided that each diocese may voluntarily practice the following suggestions to develop a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula:
1) The year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. All members of each diocese are encouraged to join in reciting ‘Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for peace on the Korean Peninsula every evening at 9 p.m.’ from the first day of Advent, December 1, 2019, until November 28, 2020. Notice will be given every month through diocesan bulletins and other publications. It is desirable that this prayer campaign continues even after the mentioned dates.
2) On June 25, 2020, the Day of Prayer for the Reconciliation and Unity of Korean People, at 10:30 a.m., each parish will simultaneously celebrate Mass for Peace on the Korean Peninsula in a place arranged by each diocese.
2. The bishops listened to an explanation as to why Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio”, Aperuit Illis, instituting Sunday of the Word of God on September 30, 2019. The bishops designated the Sunday as ‘하느님의 말씀 주일’ (Haneunim-ui Malsseum Juil) in Korean.
Pope Francis aimed to help the faithful pray and meditate on the Word of God, and, furthermore, embody and bear witness to its teachings. He emphasized that pastors are primarily responsible for explaining sacred Scripture and helping others to understand it. The Holy Father, in particular, urged pastors to take sufficient time to prepare homilies, for they possess “a quasi-sacramental character.”
3. The bishops discussed appropriate ways to celebrate ‘The Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and Companions’ and ‘St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Patron of Korean Priests’ in the Liturgical Calendar of Korea. In this regard, the bishops decided as follows:
1) The Votive Mass for ‘St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Patron of Korean Priests’ (July 5) is to be solemnly celebrated as determined by the CBCK as a ‘first grade votive Mass’ (or as a Mass for Various Needs and Occasions).
2) The Memorial of ‘The Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and Companions’ (May 29) is to be solemnly celebrated as a commemoration of the Blessed Korean Martyrs. However, this memorial falls on the same day as the ‘Optional Memorial of Saint Paul VI, Pope’ (May 29) and, moreover, both of these memorials are optional. Thus, each diocese, at the discretion of its diocesan bishop, may choose which of these optional memorials to celebrate.
4. The bishops approved the revised draft of the Common Faculties of Diocesan Priests in Korea. This draft had already been modified by the CBCK Committee for Canonical Affairs and the CBCK General Secretariate in line with the contents of the new Korean version of Missale Romanum published in 2017, the revised Korean ritual books of Rituale Romanum, and the revised ‘matrimonial document forms.’
5. The bishops deliberated on the following suggestions put forward by the CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment, and decided to recommend dioceses to practice:
- an action plan for environmental protection on diocesan, parish and individual levels;
- a diocesan plan to animate the parish based ecological lay apostolate, entitled ‘Friends of Heaven, Earth and Water’;
- a plan for better use of catechetical material on the environment entitled “Act” for the Earth at Sunday Schools.
6. The bishops listened to a report stating that the CBCK Committee for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Foreign Residents Living in Korea will host a symposium at the St. J. Ha-sang Education Centre, Diocese of Daejeon, from March 25 to 27, 2020. The theme of the symposium will be “Who are Refugees?” and it will be led by the national committees under the direction of the Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs.
7. The bishops approved the revised drafts “Rules of the CBCK Committee on Education” and the “Rules of the CBCK Caritas Committee.” They also approved the revised drafts of “Regulations of the Catholic Professors Association of Korea,” “Regulations of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea,” “Regulations of the Work of Mary (Focolare),” “Regulations of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul National Council of Korea,” and “Regulations of the Legion of Mary of Korea (Gwangju, Daegu and Seoul).”
2019 Autumn General Assembly of the CBCK
Address of the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea (Summary)
(October 15, 2019)
Most Reverend Eminence, Dear Brother Bishops of Korea,
I greet His Eminence Cardinal Andrew Yeom with respect and deep gratitude for his concern and his kind collaboration with the Pontifical Representation in Seoul. I am pleased to see your pastoral vigor and your paternal love towards the bishops, the clergy and the lay faithful.
I also address a cordial greeting to the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim, President of this worthy Episcopal Conference, to whom I express my heartfelt thanks for his kind invitation.
I have the honor to pass on to each of you, dear Bishops of Korea, the deep appreciation of Pope Francis for your unconditional fidelity towards the Petrine Magisterium and for the zeal you show in fulfilling your pastoral ministry.
This is my third time to address to Your Excellencies since I arrived in this beloved land. I express good wishes to the Most Rev. Joseph Son, who took canonical possession of the Diocese of Busan as its Ordinary on May 26. I thank the Bishops who offered me a warm welcome when I visited their dioceses, and I hope to have opportunities to visit the dioceses that I have not yet visited. I want to avail myself of these opportunities to reiterate my full availability to assist each of you.
I am happy to know that during this Assembly the Bishops will discuss an agenda of great importance concerning the life of the Church and society in Korea. I now wish to present for your consideration the following themes which I hope will be of help in your pastoral practice.
- The value of the priestly and episcopal ministries;
- The Korean Catholic Church and the social problems of the country.
1. The Value of the Priestly and Episcopal Ministries
Pope Francis continually highlights the inestimable value of the ordained priesthood whose character remains indelible. The fulfillment of retirement age is not included in the possible reasons for total suspension of one’s ministerial service. The Holy Father urges us to persevere in the precious ministry that Christ the Good Shepherd entrusted to His chosen ones, even if in a reduced way. Those responsible for the formation of the clergy are obliged to educate seminarians in the culture of continuous service even after withdrawal from official duties. The Bishops should certainly not fail to propose to elderly presbyters suitable forms of ministry for them, so that they can continue the ministry in permitted forms in suitable environments for their health.
During his meeting with the clergy of Rome in February 2018, Pope Francis extolled the unique contribution that elderly priests can make. Referring to the Sacrament of Penance, he said that, at their age, “elderly fathers, who have experience and knowledge of life, are close to human misery and pain.” Subsequently, emphasizing the art of listening, he affirmed that it “is the time to do the ministry of listening, the pastoral care of the ear, because at their age they can give testimony to the generous and joyful ‘good wine’ of one who can relativize things in God, with the wisdom of God.”
Furthermore, spiritual, intellectual and disciplinary formation should be directed towards this end and, with a faithful respect for the authority of the bishop, formators should educate future priests in the pastoral office that represents Christ among men and women while they participate in His kingly and priestly ministry.
2. The Catholic Church in Korea and the Social Problems of the Country
Among the problems of modern society, which the Church in Korea has already directed its attention towards are those of abortion, euthanasia, suicide, demographic decline, renunciation of the married state, the production and proliferation of pornography, the passive role of women in the Church and in society, unemployment, economic supremacy over a fair distribution of goods, the natural environment, etc. All that is against life and offends human dignity, all that spoils human civilization, all that which dishonors both those who perpetrate it and those who suffer from it greatly tarnishes the glory of the Creator. These problems seriously threaten the solidity of society and bring about dangerous cracks that could cause conflicts and instability.
At the beginning of these discussions on the topics listed in the agenda of this Autumn General Assembly, I want to assure Your Excellencies of accompaniment and support with esteem and fraternal affection for each of its members. May the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and of the Korean Martyr Saints, enlighten you in the search for the most appropriate ways to proclaim the Kingdom of God among the people of our times.
Thank you for your kind attention.
+ Alfred Xuereb
Apostolic Nuncio in Korea
Message in Commemoration of August 15, 1945 (Summary)
Towards a New Order, Peace
On August 15, 1945, two neighboring countries, Korea and Japan, entered a new phase of history. While the light of liberation shone upon one, the darkness of defeat overshadowed the other. Every historical event is rooted in background events that cause far-reaching and long-lasting effects. So was the historical event of August 15, 1945, with ‘joy and hope’ on one side and ‘sorrow and agony’ on the other.
815 Korean Liberation was directly linked with the end of World War II. During the war, tens of millions of people around the world were killed and society was destroyed as a result of the reckless and dangerous expansion of imperialism. The historical event which occurred on August 15, 1945 has since had a profound and long-standing impact on many individual and collective lives as well as on international and national order.
After the World War II, international order was reorganized and soon led to the so-called ‘Cold War,’ a confrontation between East and West. Japan, a defeated nation, became an ally of the United States on the battlefield of the Cold War. In this way, Japan occupied the frontline of Northeast Asia in preventing diplomatic and military expansion of socialist states, the Soviet Union and China. During this period, Japan experienced an economic revival.
Meanwhile, South Korea got caught in the conflict between East and West during the Cold War, which eventually led to national division and the Korean War. Together with the US and Japan, South Korea stood on the frontline against the expansionism of socialist countries, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. Thus South Korea started out on a rugged path toward ‘national revival and reunification.’ Since then, we have witnessed changes in the world order. In international relations, the Cold War’s polarized order has been dismantled and world order has assumed a multipolar aspect, following the model of globalization.
Every revolution is accompanied by a shadow side. The shadow sides of multipolarism and globalization increasingly undermines the peace of the world. Not only military tensions and conflicts, but economic imbalances have also been ‘globalized.’ In the process, each country’s government internally brings forth the banner of ‘nationalism,’ while externally fighting for ‘hegemony.’ These include the ‘great’ USA, ‘Brexit’, ‘strong’ Russia, ‘rising star’ China, Japan’s quest for ‘normal state status’, etc. It is certainly a ‘new situation’ or ‘new order.’
This year marks the 74th anniversary of Korea’s Liberation from Japan and also the 100th anniversary of both the March 1st Independence Movement and the founding of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. However, the tensions between South Korea and Japan have unfortunately been escalating. Last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that a Japanese company should compensate ‘victims of forced labor’ during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
Recently, the Japanese government also imposed restrictions on some exports to South Korea. The South Korean-Japanese trade dispute affects all people, even those of good will.
In pursuit of reconciliation, “the Korean and Japanese political leaders, rather than increasing tensions, should face the past and solve the problems that they have left unresolved. Let us pray in one heart to God that such efforts towards reconciliation may result in the development of trust and friendly relations between South Korea and Japan, and between the entire Korean Peninsula and Japan, leading to the realization of a peaceful regime in East Asia” (Message of the Chairman of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, 2019.8.15.). In line with this invitation to prayer, the Church in Korea, with fraternal love, stands in solidarity with the Church in Japan.
At the same time, the Church in Korea never forgets the difficulties encountered in realizing her vocation “to decipher authentic signs of God’s presence and purpose” within the new worldly order and “in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other men of our age,” continuously finding “solutions which are fully human” (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n.11). The Church must not spare its support for the citizens of good will in both countries so as to overcome these difficulties ‘together.’ Today, human history calls for a path of coexistence through dialogue and cooperation, not confrontation.
Let us reflect on ‘today’s Korea,’ ‘today’s Japan,’ and today’s ‘KoreanJapanese relations.’ We Korean Catholics have the task of ‘peaceful unification’ and the ‘realization of universal human values.’ In the relationship between Korea and Japan, we must find the right way towards ‘an new order,’ a way of ‘truth and freedom, justice and love.’ Of course, we believe that the prerequisite for finding this new order is repentance and purification. In particular, celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary today, the Church should reflect on Mary’s confession of faith (cf. Lk 1,46-55) as an example of such ‘repentance and purification.’
August 15, 2019
Solemnity of the Assumption of
the Blessed Virgin Mary
+ Constantine Bae Ki Hyen
Bishop of Masan
CBCK Committee for Justice & Peace
Message for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Summary)
Responsibility, Solidarity and Compassion
towards Migrants and Refugees for the Life Together
Dear brothers and sisters!
On the occasion of the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, I would like to invite you to think over how to live in the light of faith and discernment.
In Korea, during 2019 matters related to ‘refugees’ became hot issues. The public voiced serious concerns about Yemeni refugees in Korea and this caused much confusion for all. In fact, the majority of us gave no thought to living with refugees, viewing it as a problem found in other countries. However, Korea is now becoming a ‘multicultural society.’ Each day we readily meet foreigners and talk with them, but we seldom take seriously their reality unless it is connected directly with our own lives. In spite of the sharp increase in the numbers of multicultural families and migrants, there are few places to discuss their living conditions in Korea, not to mention the issue of refugees, whose numbers have been on the rise since the 1990s up until last year when the Yemeni refugee issue first emerged.
South Korea is now undergoing a change in its approach to integrating migrants and foreign residents into society. However, it was said that accepting refugees would cause confusion and other problems for Korean society. Moreover, some people tried to exploit the refugees using them as opportunities for ideological and political gain.
Dear brothers and sisters!
Who do we believers think ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ are? What do we do to welcome them? How does the Gospel teach us to live?
Pope Francis said that, in migrants and refugees, “we are called to recognize the suffering Christ, even if this appears to bring us no tangible and immediate benefits... Migrants present a particular challenge for me” (Evangelii Gaudium, n.210). He also said that “Jesus, the evangelizer par excellence and the Gospel in person, identifies especially with the little ones. This reminds us Christians that we are called to care for the vulnerable of the earth” (Ibid, n.209). It is because Jesus himself was a migrant who fled to Egypt with His parents, Joseph and Mary, in order to escape Herod’s persecution. By keeping the image of the Holy Family in mind, we can better understand and love migrants and refugees who are in need of our help. This is the love that God Himself revealed to us.
Soon after his papal inauguration, Pope Francis visited Lampedusa to meet shipwrecked migrants. There he reminded us of the question that God asked to Cain: “where is your brother?” Such a rebuke from God can also be addressed to us who turn away from those who need our help. Such people deserve to be loved and supported. We, as beloved children of God, are obliged to share His gratuitous love with all who are in need. All believers are called to give witness to their faith by showing forth the fundamental attitude of love in our lives. To this end, in accordance with Pope Francis’ teaching, we should keep in mind four practical points: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate migrants and refugees.
In 2018, the UN adopted the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” endorsed by 164 countries. In this regard, the Holy Father emphasized how the faithful should practice true love in solidarity with the entire world: “I thus hope that thanks to this instrument [the Global Compact] too, the international community will be able to work with responsibility, solidarity and compassion toward those who, for various reasons, have left their own country, and I entrust this intention to your prayers” (Angelus, Dec. 16, 2018).
The issue of migrants and refugees no longer concerns just a few countries or societies. As the Global Compact affirms, this is a common issue affecting all of humanity. It also offers an opportunity to fulfill our vocation to love, as entrusted to us by God. We must always have a sense of responsibility and bear witness to the ‘compassion’ of Christ that culminated in His death on the cross, especially in ‘solidarity’ with migrants and refugees. I would like to invite you to draw closer to those who are suffering from injustice towards them and take concrete actions on their behalf.
September 29, 2019
+ John Baptist Jung Shin-chul
Bishop of Incheon
CBCK Committee for the Pastoral
Care of Migrants & Foreign Residents
Living in Korea
Message for 2019 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
Brothers and Sisters of Creationa
Dear brothers and sisters,
The ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation’ falls on September 1. Pope Francis, in his letter establishing the ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation’ in 2015, invited the entire Christian community to “an ecological conversion” (cf. Laudato Si’, nn. 216- 221). He also appealed to make this annual occasion a meaningful time not only for prayers and reflection, but also for profound changes in our lifestyles through ecological conversion.
The earth, our common home, is collapsing.
Thanks to the unprecedented development of science and technology, we are enjoying more comfortable lifestyles and longer life expectancy. We can freely exchange enormous amounts of information and knowledge, and easily purchase and throw away a variety of products all available in our local market. However, our reckless production and consumption has led to an accelerated destruction of our livelihood and our common home, an inheritance which ought to be handed down. At this rate, it is inevitable that the whole of creation will one day face a tragic end.
As industrialization has progressed, greenhouse gas emissions have increased to the extent of causing irreparable damage to ecology. We are also witnessing previously unimaginable phenomena. For instance, glaciers and iceberg in the North and South poles are melting; as a consequence, areas covered with perpetual snow turn into hostile rocky landscapes. Sudden changes to the local environment have caused a growth in the numbers of socially disadvantaged people, so-called ‘climate refugees’ or ‘environmental migrants.’ As sea-levels continue to rise, some cities might disappear underwater and some islanders are being forced to give up on their home nations, desperately asking international society to allow them to migrate to other countries. And in contemporary Korea, checking the level of fine dust has sadly become part of our daily routine.
We should listen to the cries of the earth and the poor.
We face a global ecological crisis. To overcome the current crisis, we need to reflect on our lifestyles from their roots upwards. First and foremost, we should hear the cries of the earth and the poor, then respond to them in accordance with divine justice and righteousness.
The climate crisis is fundamentally an ethical and religious problem. We ourselves have created this devastating crisis out of our human greed and irresponsibility, and the consequences will impact the following generations. In this sense, we can call this state of affairs an inexcusable injustice committed by one generation against another. The climate crisis is also an example of regional injustice. Driven by our unbridled desire, we compete recklessly with each other for ownership of more natural resources, which, in turn, create conflicts leading to violence and war at local, national and international levels.
Let us partake in the Climate Action for Peace.
The United Nations designated the ‘Climate Action for Peace’ as the theme for the International Day of Peace held on September 21, 2019. On September 23, the UN is convening a Climate Action Summit. From 20 to 27 September there will be a range of global events for climate action in which millions of people around the world are expected to take part. On September 21, citizens and religious people in South Korea are coming together to take part in a large-scale campaign, holding government and companies to account for their massive carbon emissions, and to tackle the climate crisis. The political, social and economic power structures which involve the oil, coal, nuclear and electric power industries are also responsible for climate change. We can no longer tolerate such environmentally hazardous systems and should take action to change them.
Pope Francis, in his letter for the establishment of the ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation,’ asked Christians to make a commitment to overcome our present ecological crisis. At the same time, he emphasized, in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, that there is still hope for us: “all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning” (n.205).
On this occasion, may we, like the Good Samaritan, become true brothers and sisters to all of creation. With this prayer, we should strive to overcome ecological crisis and to live faithfully following the will of God who allows all creation to live harmoniously in ‘the common home.’
September 1, 2019
The World Day of Prayer
for the Care of Creation
+ Peter Kang U-il
Bishop of Cheju
for Ecology & Environment
Message for the 52nd Military Mission Sunday (Summary)
A Life of Service to All
Dear brothers and sisters,
On the occasion of the 52nd Military Mission Sunday, may God bless all soldiers and all the faithful who are at the service of evangelization in the military: military chaplains, religious, lay missionaries, and all members of the Korean Catholic Chaplain Support Association.
The Military Ordinariate of Korea in the Present
The Military Ordinariate of Korea is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its establishment. It has been committed to the evangelization of soldiers and their families, especially the baptism of young soldiers. According to the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2018, among twenties the percentage of male believers is 10% higher than that of female believers, while the proportion of male to female faithful is approximately 4 to 6 in all other age groups.
I would like to give my wholehearted thanks to our gracious God who guides us in planting the seeds of faith in the Military Ordinariate of Korea. I appreciate the passionate dedication of military chaplains who, despite difficult circumstances, work hard to evangelize: military chaplains account for only 2.2% of the total number of priests in Korea. I would also like to thank all the members of the Korean Catholic Chaplain Support Association as well as all the parish communities who support us.
Time of Uncertainty
Today, we are living through ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution.’ Although this expression is no longer new, its definition still remains vague. As a consequence, it is difficult to prepare for the associated changes. In other words, the future is uncertain.
Not only is civil society expecting changes, but so too is the military. As has been made known through media reports, both the military system and its human resources are going through enormous changes at the moment. And the living conditions of soldiers continues to change.
Certainty of Mission
The Mission of the Church is unchangeable. Jesus, in the beginning of His ministry, proclaimed: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1,15). At the end of his ministry, Jesus said to his disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28,19-20). As the Synoptic Gospels and the Acts of Apostles testify, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel’ or ‘mission’ are keywords which sum up Christ’s ministry from beginning to end. Following the example of Jesus, whose entire life was dedicated to mission, the Military Ordinariate of Korea places evangelization of soldiers as its primary mission.
Alter Christus, the Church which goes forth
As the Second Vatican Council teaches, priests are Alter Christus and wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. Therefore, wherever a priest, a representative of Christ, is, there too is the Catholic Church.
Philip, obedient to the Lord’s command, approached an Ethiopian eunuch on the road where Philip proclaimed the Good News to him and then baptized the eunuch (cf. Act 8,26- 40). Just like Jesus’ disciples and St. Paul, the Venerable Servant of God Father Thomas Choe Yang-eop, a “martyr of sweat,” in spite of the persecution, walked around to visit the Catholics who were scattered throughout the whole country. Likewise, our military chaplains travel around barracks and training areas in search of soldiers. Their sweat signifies a life of service to all, in other words, Omnibus Omnia. Military chaplains represent the Catholic Church which always draws near to soldiers, showing Jesus Christ’s love to them.
Fruits of Peace, Peacekeepers
I recall the time when I paid a pastoral visit to the Hanbit Unit, a contingent of South Korean peacekeeping troops deployed to South Sudan; the South Sudanese, devastated by the ongoing civil war, are loosing hope for a better future.
Our country suffered much from civil war; however, it made an astonishing economic recovery, and we continue to strive to become an influential country in the world. Undoubtfully, ‘peace’ is fundamental to growth. When, as occasionally happen, tensions between the two Koreas escalate, they lead to confusion among people, significant economic loss, and an increased risk to the credit rating of our country. However, overall our nation remains peaceful thanks to the sacrifices of the many young soldiers who serve. Thanks to those peacekeepers, we are able to enjoy freedom. Therefore, I implore you, the faithful, to continue in your love and prayer for our military, soldiers, military chaplains, and religious. I thank you for your support.
October 6, 2019
+ Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, O.F.M.
Bishop of Military Ordinariate
The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
Thomas Choe Pil-gong (1744-1801)
Thomas Choe Pil-gong was born in 1744 into a family who practiced Chinese medicine in Seoul. He learned the catechism in 1790 along with his cousin Peter Choe Pil-je and both of them became Catholics. He was 47 years old at that time. Some of his ancestors had served as medical officers to the royal court, but Thomas Choe did not hold any official position. On top of that, he was so poor that he had to remain single until he could afford to marry. He was also frank and generous by nature.
When Thomas Choe became a Catholic, he practiced his religion earnestly. He openly preached about Catholic teachings and, as a result, was wanted by the police.
When the Sinhae Persecution broke out in 1791, Thomas Choe was arrested along with other leading members of the Church. Most of the others betrayed their religion and were released, however, Thomas Choe adhered firmly to his beliefs by explaining Catholic teaching to his interrogators. The officers reported this to the royal court, which led King Jeong-jo to order them ‘to use every means to make Choe Pil-gong renounce’ the Catholic religion.
One day Thomas Choe’s uncle and his younger brothers visited him in prison, and in tears, implored him to give up his religion. It was to no avail. After this, his cousin Peter Choe wrote a false statement of confession on behalf of Thomas Choe and presented it to his persecutors. King Jeong-jo ordered the officers ‘to imprison Choe Pil-gong but to treat him in a special way.’ With all these stories floating about, Thomas Choe lost courage and ended up surrendering to the temptation to renounce his faith.
Released from prison Thomas Choe was appointed as a special pharmacist in Pyeongan-do, where his role was to inspect the medicinal herbs used in the royal court. He even got married with the king’s help.
However, deep in his heart, Thomas Choe kept his faith in God. Three years later he resigned his position and returned to Seoul and, once again, began to practice his religion with fervor. When Father James Zhou Wen-mo came to Korea in late 1794 Thomas Choe visited him and received the Sacraments. Thereafter, he played an active part in Church activities.
In August 1799 Thomas Choe was again arrested and interrogated. Regretting deeply that his faith had been shaken in 1791, he confessed that, ‘What I said was not my real intention.’ King Jeong-jo tried to win his heart again, but it was in vain. Thomas Choe refused to betray God and continued to bravely explain the major points of Catholic teaching. The officers requested the king to behead Thomas Choe, but the king refused and instead ordered his release.
On December 17, 1800 (by the Lunar calendar), just before the Shinyu Persecution broke out, the Justice Ministry arrested Thomas Choe again. Two days later, his brother Peter Choe was also arrested and imprisoned.
On this occasion, Thomas Choe was subjected to much more severe punishments than anyone else because of his involvement in Church activities. Despite such punishments, his faith in God remained steadfast and he did not reveal the names of any Catholics. From the beginning he declared, “I have no intention of abandoning my faith in God.”
Finally, Thomas Choe was sentenced to death. Because of his advanced age and the severe treatment he had gone through he almost lost consciousness when he got on the cart to go to the execution ground. But when he arrived at the execution ground his face became filled with light, radiating happiness. At the first stroke of the knife his throat was cut and blood came pouring out. Thomas Choe shouted, “Oh, precious blood” and died. It was on April 8, 1801 (February 26, by the Lunar calendar). Thomas Choe was 57 years old.