|* South and North Catholics Celebrated Liberation Day Together|
While the joint Liberation Day festivities were celebrated in Seoul, religion circles and civilian groups of two Koreas met together and promised to develop nationwide solidarity movement for the reconciliation and unity of the Korean people.
Moreover, as the 7th inter-Korean highest-level talk resumed almost in a year was also successfully concluded, future exchanges seem to be significantly animated.
Total 116 delegates from North Korea participated in the festivities held at Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel located in eastern part of Seoul, from August 14 to 17. On this occasion South and North religion circles and civilian groups reached a consensus on the need for sincere implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration and pledged to make efforts for the reconciliation and harmony of the Korean people, overcoming conflicts and antagonism.
In particular, at a religion meeting arranged on August 16 South and North Korean Catholics reportedly discussed matters of relief aid to the North, expansion of exchanges and visit of South Korean Catholics to the North.
During the festivities, the Korean Bishops including the Most Rev. Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, President of Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People of the Archdiocese of Seoul, and priests, religious and the laity met North Korean Catholics including Mr. Samuel Jang Jae-eon, the Chairperson of Association of North Korean Catholics, and exchanged opinions on inter-Korean issues.
* Bishop Kim Offered a Mass at Baekdusan for Reconciliation of Korean People
The members of the Catholic Council for One Korea Association including the Most Rev. Paul Kim Ok-kyun, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul and Rev. Joseph Kim Byeong-il celebrated a Mass on August 11 on Cheonji, the crater lake of the Baekdusan(Mt. Baekdu), located on the border between North Korea and China. It was the first time for a Catholic bishop of South Korea to offer a Mass there, on the top that Mountain.
The Most Rev. Kim said in the Mass, "if believers have confidence and hope for the reconciliation of the Korean people, the reunification of Korea can be advanced."
During this visit, they sent 20,000 pieces of candles (worth to US$10,000) to North Korea on August 13 from Dandong, border city in China adjacent to North Korea. They plan to send medicines and feminine hygienic items in near future, accordingly.
The Catholic Council for One Korea Association was established in last June with purpose to help Koreans in North Korea and China.
* A Parish in Seoul Set up Sisterhood Relationship with a Japanese Diocese
Susaek Parish in the Archdiocese of Seoul(pastor: Rev. Paul Yu Jong-man) entered into sisterhood relationship with the Diocese of Urawa, Japan(Bishop: Most Rev. Dani Daiji).
This tie was initiated by the Most Rev. Dani who has interest in the growth of the Catholic Church in Korea and wants to learn something from it. His plan was realized with an agreement of Rev. Yu.
Mass was offered at Susaek parish with Catholics from Urawa who came for the occasion. Rev. Yu said in his welcoming address, "though Koreans have bitter memories about Japan, we Catholics should welcome them in fraternal love and communion of faith," and continued, "I hope Catholics of the two nations may deepen mutual understanding through continuous meeting and exchanges."
Most. Rev. Dani responded, "let's build new history from now on by overcoming the painful past and being reborn in hope."
The Susaek Parish of Seoul and the Diocese of Urawa will develop various activities such as mutual visiting of the faithful and exchanges of letters and religious articles to promote reconciliation and solidarity of the two Churches.
The visiting delegation of Urawa Diocese arrived in Seoul on August 17 for 5-day visit and visited historic sites and Myongdong Cathedral of Seoul to deepen their understanding of the culture and the Church in Korea.
The Diocese of Urawa, north of Toyko, has 60 parishes, 220,000 Catholics (including foreign Catholics) and 68 priests(including religious priests). It has also the largest population of overseas Korean Catholics in Japan whose number amounts to 6,000.
* Flood Disaster, an Appropriate Occasion to Witness True Spirit and Love of Christian Community
Heavy rainfall and strong wind that battered the Korean peninsula in April has caused a great number of causalities and property damages across the country, especially southern region of Yeongnam and Honam. Dioceses of Masan, Andong, Pusan and Kwangju were among these victims.
The Most Rev. Gabriel Chang, President of the Caritas Coreana, made an emergency flood relief of 10 million won(US$8,300) to each of the three dioceses, and the Committee of Countermeasures Against Natural Calamities of the Archdiocese of Seoul 20 million won(US$16,700) to the dioceses of Masan and Pusan and 10 million won(US$8,300) to the Archdiocese of Kwangju.
Second collections and subscriptions to relieve the flood victims are made in dioceses and organizations across the country and will continue.
On this occasion the Most Rev. Michael Pak, Bishop of Masan, appealed to all of his faithful to offer material and spiritual support to the flood victims, saying, "flood disaster is an appropriate occasion for us to witness the true spirit and love of Christian community," and added "we will support first the most severely hit regions and people, and we will take care of restoration of church facilities later."
The faithful of Hanlim, Jinyong and Haman of the diocese of Masan lost almost all of their property, farmland, facilities and houses, accordingly.
On August 15, the Most Rev. John Chrisostom Kwon, Bishop of Andong, visited flood hit region of Yongju, Bonghwa and Andong and consoled the flood victims. He recommended to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary for courage and hope.
According to the National Disaster Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters, at least 28 people were killed or remain missing as a result of torrential rains during the past weeks.
Thousands of people had to take shelter at nearby schools and other facilities as 11,666 houses were flooded and 30,400 hectares of farmland were inundated across the country.
* Diocese of Inchon Launches Campaign for Fair Solution of the Case of Two Young Girls' Death and Fair Revision of the SOFA
As the case of two Korean young girl students killed by the U.S. military armored vehicle has not been solved and provoked anti-U.S. sentiment among Korean people, an extensive signature-collecting campaign and prayer meeting tour was launched in the Diocese of Inchon.
The Committee of the Diocese of Inchon for a Fair Solution of the Case of Two Girls' Death by the U.S. Military Vehicle and Overall Revision of the SOFA(Joint representative: Rev. Cho In-hwan) announced that it would start an extensive signature-collecting campaign and prayer meeting tour including Novena from August 28.
The Committee plans to make prayer meeting tour at the actual spot of the incident, US military bases, parishes of the Diocese and public parks etc, and to hold cultural events in order to raise people's consciousness for the matter.
The Committee's demands are: Apology of President Bush of U.S.A. to the bereaved families and Korean people; Complete revision of the unequal SOFA; Relinquishment of criminal jurisdiction over the two American soldiers to the Korean court; Immediate closing of camp-house of the U.S. military unit concerned.
On August 28, the Committee will issue a statement and start Novena and prayer meeting tour at the Dapdong Cathedral of the Diocese of Inchon.
Starting with the Cathedral, the Committee will make prayer meeting tour to parishes of Yanggok, Jung-2-dong, Daeya-dong, Bupyeong Park, Bupyeong U.S. military base and the actual spot of incident of murder etc.
Shin Hyo-sun, 14, and Shim Mi-son, 14, both middle school female students, were killed when they were run over by the U.S. military vehicle on a rural road north of Seoul on June 13.
In this regard, the Catholic Coalition to Solve the Case of Two Girls Killed by U.S. Military Vehicle formed by 39 Catholic organizations issued recently "1000 Korean Catholic Declaration" and vowed to fight until the day the justice would be done for the death of two young girls while a civic coalition of 150 organizations joined their voice for the same cause.
37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea since the Korean War (1950-1953).