- 2016 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK
- Message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016
- The Church in Korea Welcomes
- Message for the 15th Week for the Sanctification of the Family
- Message for Overseas Aid Sunday 2016
- On the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Martyrdom during the Byeong-in Persecution
- Appeal for Peace on the Korean Peninsula
- The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
From the Editor:
People Called by God
The word, vocation, means a call from God. In other words, it means that God calls men and women to use them as His instruments for His plan. Jesus Christ called two dif- ferent groups of people. One consisted of those who followed Jesus Christ, maintaining their own individual life whereas the other included those who decided to choose an entirely different kind of life for the Lord, leaving their own stable life and even their own family behind.
These two distinctive kinds of modus vivendi of following Jesus Christ are still valid today. Some as lay people and others as priests and religious are fulfilling their own par- ticular mission given by God.
Although we all have responsibility to take care of our own specific vocation, a spe- cial care and attention is needed for those who have already embraced their vocation of special dedication to the Gospel or who are resolutely devoting themselves to God. Hence, the Catholic Church has designated the Fourth Sunday of Easter as World Day of Prayer for Vocations in order to encourage many young people willingly to embrace God's call to be priests or religious. On this occasion, all the faithful are asked not only to pray for the priests and religious to be sanctified in depth, but also to understand and share their challenges and hardships.
These days, it is often said that vocations are at stake due to the shortage of candidates for the ordained ministry and for the consecrated life. At the root of this crisis, however, there is a more serious issue, that is, the noticeable change of the general perspective towards priesthood and religious life. The current lack of positive support makes it more difficult for priests and religious to carry out their ministry than before.
Therefore it is more love and prayers that are required for priests and religious in this ever more secularized world. When their holy discipleship is appreciated, nurtured and sustained by the Christian community, it may inspire more young people willingly to con- secrate their lives to the service of the Church and the people of God.
In order to foster more young candidates for the vocation, it is also necessary to help them recognize priests and religious as those who are called to a special task within the Church. When they are cherished as the servants of God, and their special mission is appreciated as one entrusted by God, the beauty of their vocation will shine forth brightly. This may attract other youths to follow their footsteps.
Love and prayers are needed for the further sanctification of priests and religious to evoke the beauty of their vocation. In addition, let us pray ardently that many young peo- ple will dedicate their whole lives to God.
Fr. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul
Executive Secretary of the CBCK
2016 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) held its 2016 Spring General Assembly at the Conference Hall of the Catholic Conference of Korea (CCK) from March 14 to 17, 2016 and made the following decisions:
1. The bishops decided to submit to the Apostolic See for its confirmation, the draft Korean Version of the liturgical texts, submitted by the CBCK Commit- tee for Liturgy. The original Latin texts are Ordo Consecrationis Virginum (1978), Ordo Benedictionis Abbatis et Abbatissae (1978), Ordo Coronandi Imaginem Beatae Mariae Virginis (1981), De Exorcismis et Supplication- ibus Quibusdam (2004), and Ordo Exse- quiarum (1969).
2. The bishops listened to a report that all dioceses and religious communi- ties in Korea were informed of the new Korean version of 'the washing of feet' in the rubrics of Missale Romanum (n.11), approved by the Permanent Council of the CBCK according to the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on the rite of 'the washing of feet' during the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
3. The bishops approved the final Korean version of the revised declaration of the nullity of marriage, submitted by the CBCK Committee for Canonical Affairs.
4. The bishops heard a report that the CBCK Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People has suggested the establishment of a division for the recon- ciliation of the Korean people within each parish. Accordingly each diocesan bishop agreed on this proposal, giving their support.
5. The bishops decided to publish the pastoral letter to commemorate the mar- tyrs on the 150th anniversary of the Byeong-in Persecution, submitted by the CBCK Special Episcopal Commission to Promote Beatification and Canonization.
6. In regard to the request of the Gen- eral Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to propose three themes of the 15th Ordi- nary General Assembly of Synod of Bishops, the bishops chose 3 topics: 1) Migrants and Refugees, 2) Ecology, 3) Renewal of Priestly Life and Formation
7. The diocesan ordinaries decided to establish the 'CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment', which reflects the spirit of Encyclical Letter Laudato Si' as it intends not only to draw more atten- tion to the ecological crisis in the Catholic Church in Korea, but also to strengthen environmental education on the level of the CBCK.
8. In regard to the appointment of new presidents of the CBCK National Committees, the bishops listened to a report that the Permanent Council of the CBCK at its meeting of March 14, 2016 approved the following appointments unanimously after deliberation.
- Committee on Education: Most Rev. John Baptist Jung Shin-chul
- Committee for Ecology & Environment (New): Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il
- Committee for the Doctrine of the Faith: Most Rev. Benedictus Son Hee- Song
- Committee for the Lay Apostolate (Sub-Committee for Women): Most Rev. Basil Cho Kyu-man
- Committee for Foreign Mission Work and the Pastoral Care of Koreans Liv- ing Abroad: Most Rev. John Moon Hee Jong
9. The bishops elected three Korean delegates who, with the Most Rev. Hygi- nus Kim Hee-joong and H.E. Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, ex officio dele- gates, will participate in the 11th Plenary Assembly of the FABC, Colombo, Sri Lanka, with the theme, 'Joy of the Gospel and the Family in Asia in the Light of the Synod.' The elected dele- gates are Most Rev. Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil, Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il (Member of the FABC Office of Human Development), and Most Rev. Peter Vin- cent Ri Pyung-ho (Member of the FABC Office of Evangelization).
10. The bishops decided to appoint Rev. Damasus Jeong Ui-chul, the newly appointed Rector of the Pontifical Kore- an College in Rome, as postulator in Rome for the cause of beatification and canonization of Korean martyrs.
11. The bishops listened to a report of the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea that it was preparing a standard- ized criterion for parishes to evaluate their own current pastoral situation. They also listened to a report on "the Research on the Current Situation of Religious Women in Korea and Their Renewal", jointly prepared by the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea and the Association of Major Superiors of Religious Women in Korea on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015. It aims at: evaluation of the current situation of reli- gious women in Korea; suggestions for the renewal of religious women in Korea as well as the Catholic Church in Korea; promotion of vision and practice which satisfy the evangelical desire of the reli- gious. The materials will be distributed to each diocese for their proper local adaptation.
Message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016 (Summary)
Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord (cf. 1Pt 2,9)
The draft of the material for the Week of Prayers for Christian Unity in 2016 was prepared by representatives of the Latvian Christian Churches. Latvian Christians believe they are called to pro- claim the mighty acts of the Lord (cf. 1 Pt 2,9). Reflecting on the past when they were indifferent to the Lord in the midst of totalitarian darkness of the 20th centu- ry, they pray and work together to heal their historical, ethnic and idealogical wounds which disfigure the society. Like the Latvian people, Koreans also have 'fear' for the unfamiliar, which is affected by the Korean War, idealogical disputes and other social issues. Korean Chris- tians are not exceptions in this regard.
Baptism of water and the Holy Spirit allow us to be freed from sin and reborn as children of God. According to the Scriptures, God led his people out of slavery in Egypt and opened a new life to all of us by raising Jesus from the dead. Therefore Christians recognize the mighty acts of the Lord that are fulfilled in their own lives and in history.
Early Christians were persecuted by the prevailing power of the existing reli- gion because Christianity was in conflict with the prevalent traditional culture and belief. However, they actively responded to the Lord's invitation by healing their wounds through forgiveness and mercy, by accompanying the journey of truth and unity, and by trying to restore the dignity of the poor and the needy.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity helps us realize the meaning of the divine invitation to unity. We should not consider either economic or any survival means as the absolute yardstick for mea- suring the value of human life. Instead, we should learn to appreciate the virtue of community life where people help each other, and the beauty of harmony in the diversity of life. We also should be com- mitted to unity, reconciliation, and coop- eration among the Churches and Chris- tians in both South and North Korea.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins with an acknowledgment of the purpose of the unity and reconcilia- tion of different Christian traditions according to God's will. Diversity is a grace which offers richness of life rather than a source of fear. Unity includes all creation and is not limited just to human beings. Christians are called to partic- ipate in such a universal unity.
On the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I pray that all the Christians on earth may recognize their being called to unity and take one step closer to God's will to heal our groaning world.
+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong Archbishop of Gwangju
President CBCK Committee for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue
The Church in Korea Welcomes
● New Bishop of the Diocese of Wonju
On March 31, 2016, the Apostolic Nunciature in Korea announced that Pope Francis appointed Most Rev. Basil Cho Kyu-man, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Seoul, Korea, as bish- op of Wonju. He succeeds the Most Rev. Jacobus Kim Ji-seok and holds the office of the third Bishop of Wonju.
The resignation of Bishop Kim as a diocesan bishop was accepted by the Holy Father, according to canon law (cf. Can. 401 §1). He had recently completed his seventy-fifth year of age.
Bishop Cho was appointed as auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Seoul on January 3, 2006. He was ordained a priest in 1982, and earned a doctor's degree in dogmatic theology at the Ponti- ficia Universit· Urbaniana in Rome. He taught seminarians at the Catholic University of Korea from 1991 to 2004. He is the President of the CBCK Committee for the Lay Apostolate.
● New Bishop of the Diocese of Masan
On April 19, 2016, the Apostolic Nunciature in Korea announced that Pope Francis appointed Rev. Constan- tine Bae Ki Hyen as bishop of Masan. He succeeds the Most Rev. Francis Xavier Ahn Myeong-ok.
The resignation of Bishop Ahn from the pastoral care of the same diocese was accepted by the Holy Father in accordance with canon law (cf. Can. 401 §2).
The newly elected Bishop was ordained in 1985. He fin- ished a doctoral course at the department of philosophy in the University of Munich from 1994 to 1996. He served as a lectur- er at the major seminary of Busan from 1996 to 1998, and as a pastoral minister for the local Korean community in Denver and in Los Angeles, U.S.A. He also served as a pastor of sever- al parishes in the same diocese. He is currently vicar general and chancellor of the diocese of Masan.
Message for the 15th Week for the Sanctification of the Family
The Family and Marriage
At the peak of God's love, His only Son has finally come to the earth. Sharing the joy and love of the sacred nativity of Jesus, I wish that God's abundant grace and blessing may be with your families. The Catholic Church established the Sunday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord as the Feast of the Holy Family in 1921. However, in accordance with the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969, it has been celebrated during the Sunday of the Octave of Christ- mas. Since 2001, the Catholic Church in Korea has celebrated the week for the Sanctification of the Family, open- ing with the Feast of the Holy Family, in order to pray for families and all the members of families, especially cher- ishing the meaning of family.
Following the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held on October in 2014 on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, the XIV Ordinary General Assembly was held on October in 2015 with the theme, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Con- temporary World. It was unprecedent- ed in the history of the Catholic Church that two Synods of Bishops were consecutively held on the same issue. This reflects the fact that the Catholic Church is more than ever clearly aware of the importance of families as well as their crises.
In fact, today the grave crisis of marriage is posing a challenge to us. There are many factors prevalent in our society to threaten the indissolu- bility and uniqueness of marriage. They are, for example, skepticism about religious ethic and moral val- ues, widespread individualism and hedonism, and acceleration of the sexual commercialization and con- tempt of human life, which allow people to practice marital infidelity, abortion and contraception without any hesitation. In addition, young people are hesitating to get married because of the dog-eat-dog situation in our society and the instability of the labor market. More than half of unmarried Korean young men and women have a tendency to regard marriage as an option for their life. There is a growing trend for young people to prefer cohabitation. In addi- tion while the average age of marriage is getting higher, the birth rate is getting lower.
Even the divorce rate, causing fami- ly break-ups, keeps on the rise quickly. The period of time from marriage to divorce gets shorter. Married couples are tempted to get a divorce by mass media which openly promote liberal life. Even the advertisement of the divorce law and the development of reasonable division of assets precipitate them into divorce. As, without excep- tion, influenced by such current phe- nomenon, Christians become insensi- tive to the teaching of Church. Howev- er, the current crisis of marriage and family should be regarded as a problem of the entire society, not just that of an individual or a concerned family. That is because problems caused by individ- uals and families generate disorder and confusion in society, and such negative consequences manifested in society have, in turn, an effect on individuals and families.
Creating a man and a woman in His image (cf. Gen 1,27), our Trinitar- ian God made them form a family. When Jesus became Man and a mem- ber of the family with Joseph and Mary, he wanted to be called their son. Jesus grew up in obedience to them and gave an example of a holy family (cf. Lk 2,51). He performed his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana (cf. Jn 2,1-12) and established the sacrament of marriage between the faithful (cf. Mk 10,1-12). As the apostle Paul taught, the holiness of conjugal love with God's blessing is a great mystery (cf. Eph 5,21-33) that reveals the relationship between Christ and the Church. Therefore, a family is not an imposed restraint upon human beings, but a home of grace where the great mystery can be enhanced and completed. This is our belief, and the treasure of the belief, like a lamp on a lampstand, illuminates the world as a source of joy and hope (cf. Mt 5,15).
A married couple should reveal God's love in concrete ways through their matrimonial life. God respects and loves us who are significantly dif- ferent from Him. Therefore, Christian couples should be willing to accept their mutual differences and distinc- tions. They need to realize that two different persons are called to be in 'the communion of love', the plan of God. When the mutual differences and distinctions are accepted, deeper com- munion can be realized between two persons. Today, at the heart of the problem that we are facing in our soci- ety, there is the absence of true dia- logue, which makes it difficult for people to acknowledge their differ- ences and to accept each other. The virtue of every social act is to discover the dignity of a person other than one- self, deserving to be loved. A family is like a guard who fundamentally defends and protects such a social virtue.
On the occasion of the Week for the Sanctification of the Family, let us, once again, deeply reflect upon who a true person is and what true love is. The true person is Jesus who came to us as an infant. The true per- son is one that the Word became flesh, in other words, incarnated God, Jesus. He is 'love'. We must learn the love. His love is never con- ditional. His love is never selfish and greedy to take advantage of others as a means to earn one's own benefit.
True love is unconditional and self- giving. Such love revealed through Jesus tells us what the most important value is. Namely, the self-giving love is the only way for married couples and families to overcome every difficulty and bear the fruit of happiness. Let us continue to carry out our mission of love, following the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I sincerely hope that the holiness of Christmas will shed light on every couple and family community.
December 27, 2015
On the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
+ Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil Archbishop of Daegu
President CBCK Committee for Family Pastoral Ministry
Message for Overseas Aid Sunday 2016
One Human Family, Caring for Creation
Pope Francis has proclaimed the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, with the theme "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6,36). In Misericordiae Vultus, he wrote: "At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's action in our lives" (n.3); "Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinful- ness" (Ibid., n.2).
The number of people living in extreme poverty with less than $1.25 a day is about 1.2 billion out of a world population of over 7 billion, and around 8 million people are suffering from chronic hunger. Roughly 100 million children in developing countries are underweight for their age. The number of refugees caused by the conflicts in Syria, the Middle East, and Africa has been exponentially increasing, and a huge number of men, women and children are suffering from various natural disasters and infectious diseases.
The Father of Mercy wants us to become a sign of Christ's love to many of our suffering brothers and sisters in the world. He also urges us: "if someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Chil- dren, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth" (1Jn 3,17-18).
With the ambitious goal of eradicat- ing global hunger by 2025, 165 Caritas Internationalis member organizations working in about 200 countries around the world have carried out the campaign, "One Human Family, Food for All" for the last two years. Reflecting upon the current situation in which so many peo- ple are starving, Caritas Korea Interna- tional also launched a campaign to change our perception and attitude toward food waste, and many people par- ticipated in it. This will continue to be carried out as a part of the effort made by the Catholic Church to eradicate hunger.
In the meantime, we face a more challenging situation in trying to end hunger. The more serious climate change gets, the more unbearable becomes the resulting pain of the extreme poor and the marginalized. This situation is expected to become aggravated. The var- ious symptoms of climate change, including global warming, energy and food crises, severe droughts, lack of water, an increase of natural disasters and diseases, are not just a matter of the environment. In fact, they raise funda- mental questions about justice and equal- ity in our world. Although both devel- oped and developing countries without exception have been affected by climate change, the poor and the weak find it much harder to deal with the problem. This can be proven by the fact that impoverished places, such as Africa, Middle America, and South Asia, suffer most intensively from ongoing climate change. These two issues of climate change and poverty are like two sides of one coin.
In his encyclical letter, Laudato Si', Pope Francis stresses that the whole human family should protect our com- mon home and seek sustainable and integral development (cf. n.13). Warning about the global crisis, he also urges all humanity, including Catholics, to renew their lives in order to overcome this crisis. It is our responsibility to appreciate, protect and preserve the earth created by God as a gift for us so that we can pass it on to the next gener- ation without damage. Our endeavor and action to protect life and eradicate poverty requires international solidarity and cooperation.
I sincerely appreciate all the people who put into practice the true meaning of love according to the teaching of Jesus, the exemplar of true love. With your care and support, Caritas Korea International is able to share love and hope with many other brothers and sisters in Asia and Africa who suffer because of poverty and disaster.
Now, Caritas Korea International embarks on the second stage of the campaign to eradicate hunger, with the slogan, "One Family, Caring for Cre- ation". Christians, living in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, should spend less and share more in our daily lives in solidari- ty with our poor neighbors and the world in crisis.
On the occasion of Overseas Aid Sunday, we implore the Lord to bless especially those who live in the darkest corners of society, enduring most excru- ciating pain. May the mercy and grace of our Lord help us open our hearts to them.
January 31, 2016
+ Lucas Kim Woon-hoe Bishop of Chunchon
President Caritas Korea International
On the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Martyrdom
during the Byeong-in Persecution
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom during the Byeongin Persecution in 1966, the late Most Rev. Paul Marie Ro Ki-nam, then Archbishop of Seoul and Leader of Korean Bishops (an equal to the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea), suggested that "the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom during the Byeong-in Persecution should be celebrated as a sacred feast not only for Korean Catholics but also for all Koreans. For a century, many Catholics shed their blood in silence to bear witness to truth not just in Seoul but everywhere throughout our country. Now is the time to initiate an epoch-making commitment, so that the cry of their blood can echo loudly in our nation and resound throughout the whole world."
Since this proposal was made by Archbishop Ro 50 years ago, it has led the Catholic Church in Korea to an astonishing growth of her status. We can also be assured that this achievement is nothing but the fruit of the precious blood shed by the martyrs. In 1925, 79 martyrs were beatified by Pope Pius XI. In addition, 24 martyrs were beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1968 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. All together 103 martyrs were canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 6, 1984 at Yeouido, Seoul. The number of Catholics in Korea was around 750,000 in 1968; about 2,468,000 in 1998; and around 5,560,000 in 2014.
Attending the Holy Mass for the Beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 martyr companions presided over by Pope Francis on August 16, 2014 at Gwanghwamun, we resolved to succeed at what the newly beatified 124 martyrs manifested: faith, courage and love. In his homily at the beatification Mass, Pope Francis stressed their virtuous acts of charity for us to follow, saying, "Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded."
With a hope to participate in the victory and joy of eternal life that the martyrs witnessed to, we cannot help but carry out Christ's prophetic office to fight against injustices and inequalities in our contemporary world. The meaning of beatification and canonization can be truly manifested when we put our obligation to evangelize into practice here and now by imitating the martyrs' heroic confession of faith and act of love and by renewing ourselves.
Along with the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom during the Byeong-in Persecution, we are also celebrating the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In his proclamation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis tells priests, "Mercy is the very foundation of the Church's life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers" (n.10).
During this Jubilee year of Mercy, all of us should endeavor to be holy, bearing in mind the Lord's words: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6,36). Making a pilgrimage during the Jubilee year of Mercy may convey a greater meaning to Korean Catholics who also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom during the Byeong-in Persecution. It is because "life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination" (Misericordiae Vultus, n.14). Pope Francis especially asks every diocese to implement "the initiative of '24 Hours for the Lord,' to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent" (Ibid., n.17). In addition, he encourages us to pray fervently in order to return to the Lord through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The 150th anniversary of the martyrdom during the Byeong-in Persecution gives us an opportunity to remember the martyrs who have not yet been beatified. Among the Servants of God 'John Baptist Yi Byeok and 132 Companions,' there are 95 martyrs who suffered from the Byeong-in Persecution. Therefore, more prayers are needed for their beatification.
Since the Positio for the Witness and the Servant of God "Fr. Thomas Choe Yang-eop" was approved by the theological commission of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on December 15, 2015, he will soon be proclaimed as 'Venerable'. Afterwards he will be beatified once the inquiry into his alleged miracles is completed. We also hope for a successful progress on the preliminary examination for the Causes of the Beatification and Canonization of Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho and 80 companions.
The authentic meaning of the beatification and canonization is to make people around the world know about the martyrs whose sacrificial lives culminated in God's love. Through the intercession of the martyrs, the Catholic Church in Korea may experience an internal renewal and development. Consequently this may serve to proclaim the Gospel of Christ widely in this land. I ask all the faithful to understand clearly the true significance of the promotion of the beatification and canonization, and pray ardently for the Catholic Church in Korea to grow into the Christian community which follows the example of our ancestors in the faith.
This year the Month of Martyrs, September, is expected to be more meaningful for us than ever. We have only a very few proclaimed saints and blessed from among roughly ten thousands of martyrs in Korea. There are still many anonymous martyrs. Remembering especially those unrecognized martyrs in the Catholic Church in Korea, we, armed with the spirit of martyrdom, should fulfill our mission to spread the Gospel in our own situations.
January 25, 2016 On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong Archbishop of Gwangju
President Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea
Appeal for Peace on the Korean Peninsula
"To shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Lk 1,79)
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of national division last year, the Catholic Church in Korea carried out a prayer movement with a firm resolution to overcome the painful history of national division marked with hostile confrontation and conflicts, and to make the year of 2015 the first year of peacebuilding on the Korean Peninsula. As if our desperate prayers had been answered, Pope Francis proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015 with the theme: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6,36). He urges us to overcome all the conflicts with a merciful heart and take a path of reconciliation, reunification, and peace, as the theme says.
However, in our current situation, we are witnessing that it is never easy to follow the path towards peace. In response to North Korea's recent provocations with its fourth nuclear test and launch of a longrange rocket, the South Korean government decided to resume anti-North propaganda broadcasts near the DMZ, and to suspend the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint inter-Korean economic project. In addition, South Korean and U.S. troops started major joint military exercises in March, 2016. These incessant provocations of both Koreas have drastically escalated the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, pushing each other closer to the brink of war. As we can witness in the recent controversy over the possible deployment of the U.S. antimissile system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea, the acute conflict and antagonism between the two Koreas are not just our national concern but an international affair closely linked with the current situation, de facto new Cold War, waged by People's Republic of China and the USA as two protagonists in the region of Northeast Asia.
We have unfortunately suffered from a fratricidal war 65 years ago. For more than 60 years, we have been in the state of armistice, without the end of the war; and scars of the war still remain deeply in every corner of our society. This results in various social conflicts and pains. In the present situation where the ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction and the state-of-the-art weapons are ready to be deployed, it is inevitable to fall into mutual destruction if war breaks out again. Pope Pius XII said, "Nothing is lost with peace, all can be lost with war." In this regard, we appeal for the authorities of both Koreas to strive for the peace, not for war on the Korean Peninsula.
First of all, we desperately appeal to the authorities of both Koreas.
We are sincerely asking you to stop the dead end confrontations, and to pool your wisdom and strength with one accord for peace on the Korean Peninsula. National security, which is stressed so strongly by the government, is meant to be a guarantee for the safety of Korean people. For this, the ultimate security should be surely based on the principle of sustainable peace. North and South Korea should continue to meet, communicate, exchange and cooperate with each other to make the Korean Peninsula a symbol of peace, not of conflicts. To achieve this, it is necessary to respect, succeed, and develop the spirit of all the declarations and agreements drawn by the collective wisdom of concerned parties over past years despite the long history of national division. Furthermore, the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be reconsidered since it is a symbol of mutual exchange and cooperation, peace and reunification of the two Koreas. We should not forget that reconciliation and reunification can be achieved only on the basis of peace.
Secondly, we also appeal to all the countries that neighbor the Korean Peninsula.
After the brief moment of joy over the liberation from Japanese colonial rule with the end of World War II, our nation has gone through painful division, suffering from its deep wounds and pains over 70 years. On the other hand, even though Germany was divided into East and West after the defeat of the Nazi atrocity in World War II, Germany marks the 26th anniversary of its reunification this year. There is no doubt that the division of the Korean Peninsula is a national concern, and at the same time an international affair concerning all the related superpowers around the Korean Peninsula. Hence, we earnestly ask for the resumption of six-party talks in the nearest future in order to have in-depth open discussions on the denuclearization of North Korea, a peace on the Korea Peninsula, and the stability of Northeast Asia. In full recognition of the fact that peace on the Korea Peninsula will make a contribution to international peace and stability as well as the stability of the Northeast Asia, we ask for your positive concern and cooperation in our journey towards peace.
Lastly, we sincerely appeal to our people and the faithful.
The realization of peace in our land and nation starts from our ardent desire for peace. It is possible to build a true peace only through reconciliation and forgiveness (cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 2000, n.22). Now, it is a high time to open a new peaceful era for the future generation, overcoming our indifference and narrow mind-set toward the obsolete Cold War. By putting aside vain ideological debates and accepting differences with the full respect of democratic principles, we, in one accord, should search for a path of peace based on justice and truth.
Jesus Christ firmly said when he gathered his disciples together before his passion and death on the cross: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (Jn 14,27). The peace that Jesus promised us cannot be like the fragile one forced by arms. The peace that Jesus asks us is mutually tolerant and beneficial, founded on the justice and love of God. For this, the first and foremost thing that we must do now is to pray in one accord.
It is through prayer that "the Church engages in the battle for peace" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n.519). We should pray to God so that we will be able to seek the Lord's will, and ask for His help. Especially in this time of crisis when peace on the Korean Peninsula is in danger, the faithful should continue to carry on the prayer movement initiated last year. We also wish that our prayers lead to the practice of love in its concrete form. It is our duty of love as believers to promote humanitarian exchange and cooperation between North and South Korea. We should try to act together in solidarity with the power of the Lord's Mercy with a firm belief that "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
"Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss" (Ps 85,11).
March 6, 2016
+ Peter Lee Ki-heon, President CBCK Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People
+ Lazzaro You Heung-sik, President CBCK Committee for Justice & Peace
The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
Matthias Choe In-gil (1765-1795)
Matthias Choe In-gil was born in 1765 to a translator's family. He learned the catechism from John B. Yi Byeok and became a Catholic in 1784, right after the Catholic Church was Introduced to Korea. Ignatius Choe In-cheol who was martyred in 1801 was his younger brother.
From the early years of the Church, Matthias Choe had taken a lead in pro- claiming the Gospel with other Catholics. When Paul Yun Yu-il returned from his visit to the Catholic Church in Beijing, Matthias Choe par- ticipated in the efforts to bring priests to Korea. In particular he was in charge of providing hiding places for the missionaries. He prepared a house in Gye-dong in Seoul (now, Gye-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul) and waited for the arrival of the missionaries.
Father James Zhou Wen-mo, a Chinese priest, finally entered Korea on December 24, 1794 (November 3, by the lunar calendar), and was intro- duced to Matthias Choe's house at the beginning of the following year. He tried to ensure the safety of Father James Zhou day and night, but the royal court came to know about his entry into Korea through a secret informer. Fortunately, Father James Zhou managed to escape secretly to the house of Columba Kang Wan-suk. In the meantime, Matthias Choe, who waited for the police in his house, dis- guised himself as Father James Zhou in order to give him more time to take refuge. He was able to devise such a scheme because he spoke Chinese flu- ently.
His plan, however, did not last long. Soon after he was captured, his identity was revealed and the police set out in search of Father James Zhou once again but did not succeed in find- ing him. Full details of how Father James Zhou entered the country soon became known, and Paul Yun and Saba Ji Hwang who accompanied him were arrested.
Matthias Choe and his companions were severely punished at the Police Headquarters. The persecutors were confused by the sincerity of their answers, their patience and firm deter- mination. Even while undergoing repeated torture, they did not reveal the whereabouts of Father James Zhou. Rather, their faces reflected that their hearts were full of heavenly peace.
The persecutors, on realizing that they would not betray Father James Zhou, decided to beat them to death. Matthias Choe and his companions were killed by being mercilessly whipped. It was on June 28, 1795 (May 12, by the lunar calendar). Matthias Choe was 30 years old. Their bodies were thrown into the Han River.
Bishop A. Gouvea, on hearing the full story of their martyrdom through a secret envoy, wrote as follows about the courage that Matthias Choe and his companions had shown at the moment of their martyrdom:
"To the question of the persecutor; 'Do you worship Jesus who died on the cross?' they replied courageously; 'Yes, we do.' When they were asked to renounce their faith in Christ, they declared; 'We are ready to die a thou- sand times rather than to renounce our faith in our true Savior Jesus Christ.' Matthias Choe was one of the first cat- echists that Peter Yi Seung-hun select- ed to proclaim the faith. And he was one of the prominent Catholics, who was committed to spreading the glory of God with faith, zeal and devotion."