CBCK Newsletter

 CBCK Newsletter



_ From the Editor:
_ Address of the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea to 2020 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK (Summary)
_ Results of the 2020 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK
_ Holy Mass for the 7th Anniversary of Pope’s Election to the Petrine Ministy <1> Homily of the President of the CBCK (Summary)
_ Holy Mass for the 7th Anniversary of Pope’s Election to the Petrine Ministy <2> Message of the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea (Summary)
_ Message from the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Korea to the Korean People and Faithful Concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19)
_ Message for Overseas Aid Sunday 2020
_ Catholic Church in Korea Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
_ Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2019
_ The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea

From the Editor:

Overcoming Adversity and Drawing Closer to God

Korea is in an exceedingly difficult situation because of the fast-spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has caused citizens to become anxious and confused. The virus has caused the cancellation of many meetings and gatherings, which might well lead to an increase in individualism and a growing distrust of others.

Throughout this crisis, the Catholic Church in Korea has actively cooperated with government policies to help stem the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time the Church continues to send messages of hope to the people by practicing charity and compassion. The Church in Korea has provided retreat houses to be used as COVID-19 treatment facilities for patients with symptoms and continuously strives to accompany the underprivileged and those not supported by the welfare safety net during these days.

Various measures have been taken to facilitate Catholics to continue in their faith during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this painful situation, where all public Masses have been suspended, the diocesan bishops took the lead by celebrating Masses through various forms of media and inviting the faithful to join in Spiritual Communion. They also encouraged the faithful to participate in the Lord’s sufferings through prayers and sacrifices.

Through this time of adversity and suspension of Masses, many believers take the opportunity to strengthen their faith and become more aware of the importance of the Eucharist in their lives and faith. “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish or distress?” (Rm 8,35)

In addition, the Catholic Church in Korea should continue to read the signs of the times and act responsibly during this COVID-19 pandemic. God’s people are called to show compassion towards their neighbors who suffer and to make every effort to overcome this calamity with generosity. More than anything, precious values such as the sacredness of life and the importance of the environment should be recognized widely. Although we are afraid of being contaminated, we should try our best not to offend or discriminate against those diagnosed with COVID-19. Instead, we must nurture the attitude of participating in the passion and death of Christ, and develop attitudes of charity and mercy by regarding the suffering of our neighbors as our own. In particular, there is a moral imperative to share love with those affected by the drastic decline in economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “For in a severe test of affliction, the abundance of their joy overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2Cor 8,2).

Since modern society increasingly emphasizes the social role of religion, we should examine the role the Catholic Church in Korea is playing for the common good and community in Korea during these difficult times. Furthermore, we as Catholics should help our fellow citizens to develop their ability to discern the true values of religion.

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

2020 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK

Address of the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea (Summary)

We gather together for the first time this new year, on the occasion of the General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK). I am honored to offer you and the Church in this beloved nation, the best wishes of the His Holiness Pope Francis for this year. I thank the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the CBCK, who, on behalf of Your Excellencies and members of the CBCK, invited me to your assembly.

The recent seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the Throne of Peter invites the community of believers to ask Christ, who chose him, to bestow wisdom and health on His Vicar, for the good of the Church and of the whole of humanity. We are also grateful to him for the gift of his latest Apostolic Exhortation, Querida Amazonia, which spurs us on to make a renewed commitment to evangelization, seeking new ways to bring men and women closer to Christ. This exhortation can also be of great pastoral impulse for the Church in Korea, called to face in her own ways the great and pressing challenges of developed societies, particularly that of people who have fallen away from the faith, especially among the younger generations.

Dear brother bishops, in renewing a keen appreciation for your apostolic zeal by showing pastoral leadership in the local Churches, I wish to mention three themes which might be worthy of reflection.

A. Ongoing formation of clergy and lay people

The ongoing formation of clergy and lay people is one of the most lively and constant concerns in the life of the Church, especially since the Second Vatican Council.

The Pontifical Magisterium offers multiple documents to help bishops guarantee that priests receive adequate ongoing human, spiritual and intellectual formation. First, we should remember the new Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, a guiding document for the formation of future priests, edited by the Congregation for the Clergy. The Ratio states that the integral and ongoing formation of the priest is understood as “one unbroken missionary journey of discipleship” (n.55). Challenges which come along with social changes require priests to make credible testimony, based on a mature faith and continuous growth in the spiritual and human life.

In addition to the ongoing formation of clergy, I would like to mention the formation of the lay faithful. According to a report recently published by the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea: over the last twenty years, while the number of Catholics has steadily increased, lately the pace has slowed considerably and attendance of the faithful at Sunday Masses has recorded a significant drop, from 29.5% to 18.3%. I join with you, the bishops, in suggesting that we look carefully at the need for catechetical meetings for adults. Catholic generations in the past committed themselves to transmitting the Christian faith to their children, but today they are unable to do this because they lack adequate training. With a systematic and permanent catechesis, the faithful rediscover the richness of the Christian faith and become active collaborators with priests in pastoral and liturgical actions. The programs of the Church in Korea, aimed at theological formation and timely pastoral activity for the lay faithful, are appreciated, and you, dear pastors, are called to ensure that these catechetical courses are operational in each of your parishes.

Animated by the desire to consolidate and transmit the faith to future generations, I ask the Holy Spirit to support your discernment and encourage you to draw upon your proven experience of service gained over years of episcopal ministry.

B. Political life

We hope for a revival of the economy and dialogue with North Korea together with an ever greater internal stability based on justice, solidarity and peace.

The Social Doctrine of the Church ensures that teaching ethics of social and political life is not an undue extension of the Church’s functions. Rather they are a form of charity through which moral principles are transmitted and, in turn, make society solid and developed. Such a path is an integral part of the Church’s mission to participate in citizens’ anxieties and contribute to the growth of national society, while avoiding partisan positions and, all the time, pursuing the way of synodality, as desired by Pope Francis. As you know, this will be the theme of the Synod of Bishops in 2022.

Dear brothers, some may perceive different attitudes towards the theme of reconciliation on this peninsula. In the concluding Mass of his apostolic journey to Korea, the Supreme Pontiff Francis implored God for the grace of peace and reconciliation, which has a particular resonance on the Korean Peninsula. During his homily he said: “Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people. They speak the same language” (Homily, Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral, Archdiocese of Seoul, August 18, 2014).

C. Approaching the Church in China

I sincerely welcome the commitment shown towards the beloved Chinese Catholic community with the commendable initiatives carried out by some of you; the results have been edifying. In a spirit of deep communion with the Holy Father and in accordance with the instructions sent to you by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, you will be sure to communicate about activities and individual initiatives to the said Dicastery by sending reports on these matters. The Apostolic Nunciature is happy to be your correspondent in these matters. The Holy See appreciates the diligence shown so far in your approach to this important work. While encouraging perseverance in building bridges of dialogue and friendship, the Holy See hopes that the pastors of those communities together with their faithful will be able to experience collegial affection and the effective proximity of the Catholic Church so as to achieve full ecclesial unity.

In the emergency situation of the coronavirus epidemic, which has already caused the death of thousands of people around the world, the thoughts of the Holy Father go out to the affected populations. The timely precautionary measures that you have adopted, in full collaboration with the civil authorities in charge of dealing with this situation of national health crisis, are to be commended.

Through the maternal intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, patroness of the Church in Korea, may the Lord bless you and guide your work in this General Assembly. Thanks for your kind attention.

March 17, 2020

+ Alfred Xuereb

Archbishop Apostolic Nuncio in Korea

2020 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK

The CBCK held its 2020 Spring General Assembly at the Conference Hall of the Catholic Conference of Korea from March 16 to 19, 2020. At the assembly the following decisions were made:

1. The bishops decided to issue a message from the bishops of the Catholic Church in Korea to the Korean people and faithful concerning the COVID-19.

2. The resumption of public Masses was discussed because the continued presence of COVID-19 has prolonged their suspension in all dioceses. Although it is necessary, for the spiritual benefit of the faithful, to resume public Masses as soon as possible, the bishops decided that diocesan bishops have discretion in setting specific dates for restarting public Masses. Such decision should be in accordance with local circumstances, respect the government’s guidelines for quarantine management, and take into consideration the opening dates of kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools nationwide, which have been postponed until April 6, 2020. In addition, it was decided to prepare preventive measures for the resumption of public Masses depending on the spread of COVID-19.

3. The worldwide celebration of Laudato Si’ Week (from May 16 until 24, 2020) was established to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Encyclical Laudato Si’. The bishops decided to issue a ‘Statement on the Climate Change Emergency’ in the name of all the Korean bishops on May 8, 2020. They also decided to concelebrate Holy Mass for the 5th anniversary of the promulgation of Laudato Si’ at Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral, Archdiocese of Seoul, on May 16, 2020. The CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment will distribute to all dioceses related materials for homilies and daily prayers during the Week. They will also publish a Korean version of Nostra Madre Terra: Una lettura Cristiana della sfida dell’ambiente, a compilation of the addresses and messages of Pope Francis on the environment.

4. The bishops listened to a report from the Meeting of Diocesan Directors in Charge of Social Welfare・Social Pastoral Care, held on January 14, 2020. As the authority to coordinate social welfare affairs for this meeting has been transferred to the ‘CBCK Committee for Caritas Coreana,’ the relevant diocesan directors discussed the necessity of changing the name of this meeting into the ‘Meeting of Diocesan Directors in Charge of Social Pastoral Care.’ They also decided to request that each diocese send its diocesan director or a representative priest in charge of social pastoral care (pastoral ministry for prisoners, immigrants, the police, or the environment) to this meeting. After listening to the report, the bishops approved the proposed name change, ‘the Meeting of Diocesan Directors in Charge of Social Pastoral Care.’

5. The bishops unanimously agreed to announce a Jubilee Year in 2021 for the Catholic Church in Korea on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Patron Saint of Korean Priests. This suggestion was originally made by the CBCK Special Episcopal Commission to Promote Beatification and Canonization. The Jubilee period will run from November 29, 2020 (the first Sunday of Advent) to November 27, 2021 (the day before the first Sunday of Advent). Accordingly, the bishops decided to request, through an official letter to the Apostolic Penitentiary, a plenary indulgence for the Catholic Church in Korea to celebrate the Jubilee Year.

Holy Mass for the 7th Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Election to the Petrine Ministry

Homily of the President of the CBCK (Summary)

+ Praised be Jesus!

Today, we are celebrating Holy Mass to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the Petrine ministry. His Holiness was elected as the 266th Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. More than anything, during this Holy Mass we give thanks to God for sending us such an excellent Church leader. In the time of division, when Europe was divided politically into East and West due to ideological differences, St. Pope John Paul II led Europe towards unity by stressing Christian values. When there was a tendency to misunderstand the Christian faith, as if faith had nothing to do with Church doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the importance of orthodoxy for both faith and doctrine. In turn, God sent us another supreme pastor, Pope Francis. He is a down-to-earth pope well suited for our times. For such unceasing work by the Holy Spirit, we are most grateful to the Lord.

Pope Francis chose his papal name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the poor. Following in the Saint’s footsteps, the Holy Father continues to denounce inequality between rich and poor. He also condemns hypocrisy shown both inside and outside of the Church by some of the powerful and faithful. Pope Francis lives an exemplary life of humility and poverty. In these chaotic times, he is a beacon illuminating the way not only for the faithful, but for all humanity, pointing beyond the barriers of religions and ideologies. During interreligious dialogue meetings which take place in our country, I am pleased to hear leaders of diverse religious communities unanimously praised Pope Francis as a great teacher of humanity. His every action reflects his lifestyle of poverty and humility. For instance, Pope Francis’ refusal to use the papal residence in the Apostolic Palace; instead, choosing to live in St. Martha’s house, accommodation used for clergy who are traveling or working in the Roman Curia.

A couple of years ago, some of my diocesan priests and I stayed in St. Martha’s house during our pilgrimage to Rome. At breakfast we found that our table was short of bread and so we took some loaves from an other table. While we were having our meal, to our great surprise, Pope Francis came into the dinning room having finished morning Mass. He proceeded to have breakfast at the very table which we had previously taken the bread from. Because all the refectory tables looked exactly the same we had failed to noticed that it was the table set aside for the Pope. As seen in this example, Pope Francis, successor to Peter the Apostle, simply desires to stay close to us as an elder brother in the Christian family.

Today’s reading (Is 61,1-3) and Gospel (Mt 16,13-19) help us to understand the mission entrusted by Christ to the Supreme Pontiff. The reading from the book of Isaiah illustrates our mission to share in Christ’s priesthood. The prophet Isaiah sums up his own vocation by saying, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” From then onwards, the prophet had to commit himself to his vocation “to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn.”

The Gospel according to St. Luke recounts an episode when Jesus, in the synagogue one day, unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read the same passage that we have just heard. Jesus said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” It means that Jesus himself is the One who fulfilled this prophecy. His words continue to be fulfilled today through our own priestly ministry. By virtue of the words of Christ, we as pastors undertake the task of announcing the Good News first to the poor. It is also a pastors’ mission to bring hope and comfort to the poor, unfortunate and marginalized not only materially, but in other ways, too. In addition, such a mission includes pastoral care for those who, for many reasons, are heartbroken and discouraged; pastors should encourage such people to regain their strength so as to live fully. We pastors are entrusted with the mission to accompany those who suffer at the hands of unjust and unfair treatment, so that they can live happily and enjoy authentic freedom.

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This means that Jesus is God who always abides in us and the Savior who will lead us to eternal life. The Lord is intangible and invisible. However, the more faithfully we conform ourselves to Him, the closer we can approach Him and the more clearly we can see Him with enlightened eyes and hearts. Indeed, we believe in the living God who cares for us and is concerned with every aspect of our lives. We place at the center of our faith Peter’s confession about Jesus. Likewise, the Gospel according to Mark begins with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God]” (Mk 1,1). It reveals to us that Jesus is the living God, who is always with us and cares for each one of us even to the extent of counting the hairs of our heads. He is the Messiah, the Savior who will lead us to eternal life. As the successor of Peter the Apostle, Pope Francis guides us in the way towards Jesus Christ, the Son of living God. We, the bishops, thank the Lord for giving us the joy of participating in the college of apostles in communion with our elder brother, Pope Francis, the 266th Pope and the 265th successor to Peter the Apostle.

We thank the Holy Spirit for inspiring and allowing the Church to elect Jorge Bergoglio to be the 266th Pope. O Lord, who chose Peter the first of the apostles, grant Pope Francis, the 265th successor to Peter the Apostle, the grace to maintain both a healthy body and mind, so that he can successfully carry out the mission entrusted to him according to Thou will. Amen.

March 18, 2020

+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
President of the CBCK

Holy Mass for the 7th Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Election to the Petrine Ministry

Message of the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea (Summary)

I am happy to extend my greetings to you at the end of this Eucharist, celebrated as a special thanksgiving to God, in commemoration of the seventh anniversary of the election of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Throne of St. Peter. The health emergency caused by the coronavirus has impelled us to hold a moment of prayer restricted to only a few.

I wish to express my deep gratitude to Korean bishops who, despite the present difficulties, wanted to renew their collegial affection for the Holy Father. I also wish to ensure my prayerful support for your pastoral ministry in solidarity with the Universal Church.

“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16,18). These words of Jesus give the certainty that, despite the storms, the Lord is present and active in the person of His Vicar. Experiencing our powerlessness in the face of a force of evil that seems to want to wreck the Church and destroy all humanity, we, like the disciples who were afraid of the waves in the near sinking boat, turn to the Lord: “Master, you don’t care that we perish?” But He reassures us and asks us to have faith in Him.

On the Second Sunday of Lent we meditated on the mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Despite the paschal vision of Christ, the human nature of Peter, James and John did not allow them to understand the salvific mission of the Son of God: that He had to pass from suffering and death to the glory of the resurrection. Through those three fearful and hesitant disciples, Jesus wants to bring all of us with him, including our fragile condition and sufferings, to encourage us to put our trust in Him. With certainty, let us go forward in a spirit of faith and invite the faithful to raise supplications to “God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction” (2Cor 1,3-4). In this way, we can strengthen our adherence to the Lord, who never abandons us and does not let evil prevail over good.

Let us pray together with the eternal Pastor, saying: “You who built your Church on the rock of Peter, continually assist the Pope to be the living and visible sign, the promoter of the unity of your Church in truth and love. Grant us O Lord, an ardent desire for communion with him and docility to his teachings. Amen.”

March 18, 2020

+ Alfred Xuereb
Archbishop Apostolic Nuncio in Korea

Message from the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Korea
to the Korean People and Faithful Concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Dear respectable people of Korea,

The unexpected outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing not only fear and anxiety, but also social isolation. It affects not only our physical and mental health, but also society and the economy. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses and people, especially the self-employed, are suffering severe monetary difficulties. Thus we feel obliged to deliver a message of comfort and encouragement to the people who work tirelessly to get through these troubled times. We are truly grateful to healthcare workers, volunteers, the government and those involved in overcoming this crisis. All involved are committed to managing this challenging situation efficiently and in a transparent and organized manner.

Recently, a particular group of people has been targeted and blamed, by some, for the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is crucial for us to work together in one accord in order to halt the spread of coronavirus. Throughout history we have faced many crises, but we overcame them through collective wisdom and intelligence. Most importantly, we can combat this current crisis by taking simple but virtuous actions for the sake of others, and by showing solidarity and love, which gives strength to those around us.

The way we have actively engaged and cooperated with each other has become a good model for other nations that are struggling to cope with the pandemic. In fact, many countries are praising our response to the crisis. We, Korean people, refrained from panic shopping, got involved in voluntary works and followed faithfully the emergency measures proposed by the government. To the world, we have demonstrated how prioritizing those in need is the best way to save an entire community. We believe that together we will overcome this crisis.

Dear Korean faithful in Christ,

We are living the Season of Lent as if we are pilgrims wandering through the desert. The Catholic Church in Korea has temporarily suspended public Masses because of this COVID-19 pandemic. And, as a result, it is regrettable that the majority of the faithful cannot receive Holy Communion. However, we would like to extend our gratitude and consolation to the believers who, in the midst of this scourge, persevere in faith by reading the words of God, attending online Masses, and practicing charity. Such a period of disaster and trial can also serve as a time for reflection and maturity. God allows us to experience trials, but at the same time, He gives us the power to bear them: “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out” (1Cor 10,13).

This Lenten season allows us to contemplate the cross of Jesus. In this way, let us all commit ourselves to joyfully enduring our present afflictions and encourage one another to stay firm in hope without losing faith. Let us pray with all our heart and soul: May God grant His healing grace to all the sick and their families. May the Lord fill all of us, Korean people and all the peoples of the world, with the strength to overcome this crisis.

Let us ask God for grace so as to realize the providence of His love and mercy that brings good out of evil. Let us also implore God for the wisdom to seek a way out of this crisis. Let all the faithful prepare for the Paschal Feast. The Only Son of God, who has conquered the darkness of sin and death and opened the door to eternal life for us, will come again and invite us to His banquet.

“‘Do not be afraid!’ ... He has been raised just as he said” (Mt 28,5-6).

March 19, 2020
Solemnity of Saint Joseph

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea

Message for Overseas Aid Sunday 2020

One Human Family, One Common Home

For last two years, the Catholic Church in Korea, through Caritas Korea International, has striven to make a safe and comfortable ‘home’ for migrants and refugees who were forced to flee their own homes and lands. This year, 2020, the Catholic Church in Korea, promoting the theme ‘One Human Family, One Common Home,’ is committed to responding to the cry of the poor who suffer as a consequence of our human-made ecological crisis.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ issued in 2015, called the earth ‘our common home’ which sustains our lives. He appealed to all to pay attention to what is happening to our common home: the destruction of the natural environment (cf. chapter one). He also urged us not to ignore the poor who groan in pain on the brink of ecological devastation. He affirmed that the ecological crisis evokes “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (n.49).

The lives of the poor, especially their children, are threatened by climate change which, in turn, causes frequent floods, droughts, and extreme temperature fluctuations. The poor have no financial resources to defend themselves from the impact of climate change. People are recklessly dumping highly toxic waste onto the land in underdeveloped countries and exploiting natural resources in an unsustainable manner. Consequently, forests are razed and rivers pollute; lands which once produced abundant harvests are barren now. In such a situation it is also increasingly difficult for the poor to find clean water. In this environmental crisis, the poor are forced to leave their homes, losing everything, and as migrants and refugees they are forced to endure the extreme hardships of life.

The worst impact of ecological crisis is felt by the poor, although they are the least responsible for causing it. The poor who live in underdeveloped countries in Aisa, Africa, and Latin America cry out for help ever more loudly.

Dear Catholic faithful of Korea, I ask you to respond to the cry of the afflicted who dwell in our ‘common home,’ and to participate in the mission which spreads the love of Christ who heals our wounds.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11,28). I hope that this blissful message of Christ can be delivered to the poor who, on a daily basis, struggle to survive the many threats caused by our ecological crisis.

January 26, 2020

+ Lucas Kim Woon-hoe
Bishop of Chunchon
Chairperson Caritas Korea International

Catholic Church in Korea Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the government guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the CBCK informed all the 16 dioceses of ‘Guideline for Parish to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19’ on March 26, 2020, and each diocese issued its own detailed guidelines.

As the Korean government raised COVID-19 alert level to ‘serious’, its highest level on February 23, 2020, all dioceses in Korea decided to suspend public Masses for the first time in 236 year history of the Catholic Church in Korea. Accordingly the Catholic Church in Korea has been streaming Masses through television and radio channels of Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC), encouraging the faithful to attend Masses in spirit. Masses presided by the Diocesan Bishops on the Paschal Triduum and Easter Sunday were broadcasted live. The Moment of Prayer of His Holiness Pope Francis on March 27, 2020 as well as Paschal Triduum and Easter Sunday Mass were also broadcasted live.

Each diocese has also been providing appropriate pastoral materials to the faithful through media whereas parish priests have been providing sermons and lectures through social network service. A large number of the faithful and priests have participated in raising funds to help those who are suffering from COVID-19 and donated masks and vitamin supplements to medical institutions. When masks were in shortage during the initial period of COVID-19 pandemic, some sisters made masks for the people who are less mobile. The seminaries in Korea have launched online courses for 2020 spring semester.

As the government announced to ease the preventive measures by changing ‘social distancing’ into ‘everyday distancing,’ most of the dioceses decided to resume public Mass between the end of April and the beginning of May. However, the Military Ordinariate of Korea has not decided the date yet. Parishes that resumed public Masses have carefully conformed with the following guidelines: limiting the number of Mass attendees, verifying the identity of the faithful, checking temperature before entering the church, using hand sanitizers, wearing masks, and keeping the distance between the faithful during Masses.

Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2019

On April 15, 2020, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (President: Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong) published the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2019.

Based on compiled data from 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, 7 Catholic universities, and about 169 religious institutes of men and women in Korea, the Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2019 presents annual statistics for the Catholic Church as of December 31, 2019. These statistics are helpful in better understanding the present situation of the Catholic Church in Korea and provide a useful point of reference for future pastoral ministry planning.

The following is a summary of the main statistical results:

According to the Statistics, the number of Catholics in Korea is 5,914,669, an increase of 0.8% (48,159) over the previous year. The Catholic population amounts to 11.1% of the total population of Korea, 53,121,668.

By gender, male faithful numbered 2,529,255 and female faithful 3,385,414, 42.8% and 57.2% respectively of Catholics in Korea. In the 20-29 age bracket, the ratio of male faithful was higher than that of female faithful, but the percentage of female faithful was higher for those over 30 years of age.

By age group, the number of faithful aged 55-59 accounted for 559,214 or 9.5% of the total (a decrease of 12,801 or 2.2% over the previous year); faithful aged 50-54 accounted for 510,907 or 8.6% (an increase of 3,838 or 0.8% over the previous year); those aged 45-49 represented 501,405 or 8.5% (a decrease of 8,344 or 1.6% over the previous year). The number of faithful aged 10-19 accounted for 346,884 or 5.9% (a decrease of 16,449 or 1.6% over the previous year). The number of faithful over 65 years of age accounted for 1,133,768 or 19.2% of the total, which marked an increase of 6.8% over the previous year.

Of the 15 dioceses, the Archdiocese of Seoul is the most populous with 1,528,876 or 25.8% of the total number of Catholics in Korea. According to population, the Archdiocese of Seoul is followed by the Diocese of Suwon (928,650 or 15.7%), the Diocese of Incheon (521,690 or 8.8%), the Archdiocese of Daegu (511,757 or 8.7%), the Diocese of Busan (460,003 or 7.8%), the Archdiocese of Gwangju (365,649 or 6.2%), the Diocese of Daejeon (335,152 or 5.7%), and the Diocese of Uijeongbu (315,620 or 5.3%). The number of Catholic faithful in Seoul and the surrounding urban areas (Suwon, Uijeongbu, Incheon) amounts to 3,294,836 or 55.7% of the total Catholic population of Korea.

Dioceses exhibiting an increase in numbers are: leading the way is the Diocese of Uijeongbu with an increase of 1.9%, followed by the Diocese of Daejeon (1.5%), the Dioceses of Cheju and Suwon (1.4%).

In terms of the percentage of Catholic population in relation to the local population, the Archdiocese of Seoul was ahead of others with a rate of 15.2%, followed by the Diocese of Cheju (12.1%), the Diocese of Cheongju (12%), the Diocese of Inchon (11.9%), and the Archdiocese of Daegu (11.4%).

The number of parishes was 1,756 and the number of secondary stations was 709: an increase in parishes of 9 and a decrease in secondary stations of 20 over the previous year.

The Statistics indicate that the number of clergy in Korea totaled 5,522; this was made-up of 42 bishops (including 2 Cardinals), 5,333 priests, and 147 foreign missionary priests. Among the priests, 4,537 were diocesan priests, 797 religious priests, and 146 missionary priests. The number of seminarians was 1,209, a decrease of 64 or 5% from the previous year.

There were 1,594 men religious, excluding novices, and there were 10,159 women religious. The number of novices in total was 352.

According to the Statistics, the number of newly baptized in 2019 was 81,039. This indicates a decrease of 134 or 0.2% over the previous year. By gender, there were 43,184 newly baptized men and 37,855 women; when compared to the previous year, there was an increase in male baptisms of 2.9% (1,212) and a decrease of 2.8% (1,078) in female baptisms. The number of children baptized amounted to 17,806 or 22% of the total number of baptisms, adult baptisms amounted to 58,198 or 71.8%, and baptisms in danger of death numbered 5,035 or 6.2%.

The Sacrament of Matrimony was celebrated on 13,878 occasions in 2019, indicating a decrease of 2% from the previous year. Of this number, 8,718 cases were marriages involving a dispensation.

Over the year, the average number of Sunday Mass attendees was 1,080,687, 18.3% of the total Catholic population of Korea. The number of faithful who received First Communion was 18,581. The number of faithful who received the Sacrament of Reconciliation was 3,804,796, and the number who received the Sacrament of Confirmation was 41,329.

The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea

Marcellinus Choe Chang-ju(1749-1801)

Marcellinus Choe Chang-ju, also called ‘Yeojong,’ was born in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do to a noble family. In his early forties he accepted Catholicism, became a devout Catholic, and dedicated himself to leading his entire family to God. He was arrested when the Sinhae Persecution broke out in 1791 and was taken to Gwangju. There, under severe torture, Marcellinus Choe gave up his religion and, as a result, was set free.

However, as soon as he returned home he regretted having renounced his religion. He repented his great sin and tried to find a way of washing away his guilt through martyrdom. He tried to encourage his family and other believers to stay faithful to their religion. He gave his two daughters in marriage to devout Catholic men. One of them became the wife of John Won Gyeong-do who was martyred in Yeoju in 1801. The other, Barbara Choe, became the daughter-in-law of Peter Sin Tae-bo who was martyred in Jeonju in 1839. In turn, Barbara Choe was martyred in Jeonju in 1840.

Persecution broke out again on Easter Sunday in the Yeoju area in 1800. Upon hearing the news that their son-in-law, John Won Gyeong-do, had been arrested, Marcellinus Choe’s wife pleaded with him to take refuge. His mother also advised him to escape. Therefore, he decided to leave home and escape to Seoul. However, soon after this he renewed his resolve to die a martyr and returned home. He was arrested that same night and was imprisoned in Yeoju.

The magistrate immediately began to interrogate and torture Marcellinus Choe and tried to force him to reveal the names of the faithful. He firmly refused to do this, saying, “It is impossible to report on even a single believer because the Catholic Church forbids all acts that would do harm to others” (St. A. Daveluy, Notices des Principaux Martyrs de Corée, 1858, Vol. 5, pp. 111-112). Upon this declaration Marcellinus Choe was imprisoned together with John Won and Martin Yi Jung-bae.

On this occasion, Marcellinus Choe was detained in prison for six months and in October was taken to the governor’s office in Gyeonggi-do. There he was severely tortured in an attempt to force him to deny God, but his faith remained unshakable.

When the Shinyu Persecution broke out in 1801, the governor exposed all the Catholics in prison to torture in an attempt to force them to betray their religion. Marcellinus Choe bravely responded on behalf of all his fellow Christians: “We cannot betray the Lord, because He granted us the happiness to know God, ‘our King and Father of all humankind’ and to serve Him” (St. A. Daveluy, Notes pour l’Histoire des Martyrs de Corée, 1860, Vol. 4, pp. 91-92).

On hearing this statement the governor increased the severity of punishment, but Marcellinus Choe and his fellow Catholics overcame all this by encouraging one another. The governor, on realizing that there was no way to change their minds, asked them to write their final statements and reported them to the royal court. The royal court ordered that they be executed in their hometowns so as to turn people against the Catholic religion. Thus, Marcellinus Choe and other Catholics were taken to Yeoju where they were beheaded and died martyrs on April 25, 1801 (March 13 by the lunar calendar). Marcellinus Choe was fifty-two years old.

The following is an excerpt from the statement on Marcellinus Choe submitted by the Gyeonggi governor to the royal court:

“Choe Chang-ju did not consider his father as a real father (saying the Lord is his father). He is such an evil person that he even had forgotten his father’s name. Despite severe punishment he did not confess the place where the Church books were. He said that he could not change his mind (his faith in the Catholic religion). Such acts destroy the moral law. Besides, he said he would willingly welcome death for his faith” (Sahak-jingui, Vol. 1, p. 168).

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