CBCK Newsletter

 CBCK Newsletter

 



CONTENTS
- 2015 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK
- Message for Overseas Aid Sunday 2015
- Message for the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees
- Message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015
- Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2014
- News from the Church in Korea
- The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea


Some Heartfelt Advice



The bishops of Korea successfully accomplished their ad limina visit to the Apostolic See from March 9 to 17, 2015, the first time in seven years. For the bishops this visit must have been an occasion to experience the fraternal communion with the Holy Father and to reaffirm the deep unity of the local Church with the Universal Church. They still remember the Holy Father as a warmhearted and humble pastor during his apostolic visit to Korea in 2014 when he celebrated the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs and consoled the wounds of Korean society. It was his heartfelt encouragement and warm advice for the Church in Korea that made the ad limina visit to the Apostolic See a happy moment, in spite of the tight schedule that included the 2015 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK during their visit to the Apostolic See.


The Holy Father stressed the fact that the Catholic Church in Korea was nurtured by the blood of Korean martyrs and established by the passionate spirituality of martyrdom of the lay faithful. He also urged all of us to make efforts together, lest we quench the fire of the Holy Spirit working in the Church in Korea. Especially, he asserted that we must overcome the temptation of spiritual secularism, "religious well-being" which reduces the faith into a tool for cultural life, lurking behind the amazing growth and fruitful development of the Church in Korea. The more the Church becomes a so-called "middle-class community", the greater is the indifference of priests and religious to voluntary poverty as they pursue a more comfortable life. There is always a danger for the Church to indulge in collective self-interest, as the poor turn their backs to the Church.


During the ad limina visit, it was acutely felt that the Catholic Church in Korea must make more endeavors to serve the universal Church and to realize catholicity in the local Church, while the esteem of the Catholic Church in Korea in the universal Church could be ascertained through the papal audience and the thanksgiving Mass for the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs. Just as the confession of the disciples sent by Jesus: "It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4,20), the vitality of the Catholic Church in Korea and the depositum fidei of Korean martyrs must be preserved with more efforts in her substantiality. In this regard, we must share in the sensus fidei which is "aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth from the bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" (cf. Lumen Gentium, n.12). Furthermore, we need a movement for the rehabilitation of ecclesiastical communion to share intimately in the paschal mystery up to the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Truth.


We must remember the heartfelt advice of the Holy Father to the Church in Korea all the more in the midst of confusion in Korean society: lack of trust and communication; deepening economic and social polarization; overturned value system. Today we entertain the advice of the Holy Father given to the bishops of Korea with his hearty smile. He asked Korean priests and religious to reveal the light of faith with humility and good example, as the Church must live a joyful life consecrating herself first to God, in the spirit of service following in the footsteps of Jesus who came to this world to serve all, never to be served.


 


Rev. John Song Yong-min
Undersecretary of the CBCK


 


2015 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK



The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) held its 2015 Spring General Assembly at Centro Internazionale di Animazione Missionaria (CIAM), Rome from March 9 to 13, 2015 and made the following decisions:


1. The bishops deliberated on and approved the revised draft Ordo Paenitentiae. A sentence is added as a note: "The regulation on the rite of general absolution is to be applied only in special circumstances such as war, when the confessions of individuals are not available, in accordance with the judgment of the diocesan bishop."


2. The bishops examined and approved the drafts of five matrimonial document forms in six languages (Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai language, and English).


3. The bishops deliberated on and approved the educational book on life for children preparing for their first communion, Jesus Has Come as Life, submitted by the Pro-Life Activities under the CBCK Committee for Bioethics.


4. The bishops deliberated on the necessity for prior notice on the cause of a signature campaign in a Sunday Bulletin with the permission of the competent diocesan bishop as such a national campaign, officially requested by the CBCK National Committees, could provoke a negative reaction on the part of parishioners.


5. The bishops examined the plans to support "Father James Zhou Wen-mo Retreat Center", submitted by the five entrusted bishops according to the decision of the 2014 Autumn General Assembly. Responding to the urgent request of the Center, they decided to spend KRW 10,000,000 as a preliminary support for its retreat programs for the first quarter.


6. The bishops elected the Most Rev. Peter Kang U-il as a delegate, and the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong as a substitute delegate for the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.


7. The bishops elected the Most Rev. John Chrysostom Kwon Hyeok-ju, President of the Committee for Catechesis, as the chairman of the CBCK Episcopal Commission for Doctrine.


8. The bishops decided that they will participate in the on-sight exposure for bishops again in 2015.


9. In regard to the circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, the General Secretariate of the CBCK collected observations from all the dioceses, and summarized them as an instruction, "A General Instruction of the Catholic Church in Korea on Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass". The bishops approved the instruction and decided to distribute it to all the dioceses.


10. In regard to holding hands for the Lord's Prayer at Mass, the bishops decided to inform every parish in all dioceses of the following:


It is not liturgically recommended to hold hands for the Lord's Prayer at Mass. Recently, more and more faithful have complained of discomfort about holding hands with others on the ground of emotional and sanitary problems. Hence, it is not desirable for pastors to ask the faithful to hold each other's hands at Mass for the cause of communal sentiment. However, on the occasion of the feast day of the parish or other big events, it can be exceptionally recommended.


11. The bishops listened to the report that in keeping with the Holy Father's intention for the refugees in the areas of Syria and Iraq, the special collection gathered at Sunday Mass was sent to the Apostolic See.


12. As the term of Rev. Thaddaeus Lee Ki-rak, Executive Secretary of the CBCK and Secretary General of the CCK, has run out (from March, 2009 to March, 2015), the bishops appointed Rev. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul from the Archdiocese of Seoul, ordained in 1986, as his successor.


13. According to the statutes of the Conference, the 2015 Autumn General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea will be held from October 12 to 16, 2015.




Message for Overseas Aid Sunday 2015


Let's Shed a Light of Hope on All People in a Global Village



Dear brothers and sisters,


It has been 23 years since the Catholic Church in Korea started to carry out her mission for overseas aid with heartfelt concern and charity to our neighbours suffering from various difficulties in every corner of the world. The Korean society was deeply moved by Pope Francis' apostolic visit to Korea in August, 2014. During the in-flight press conference of His Holiness Pope Francis from Korea to Rome, he said, "Whenever you find yourself facing human suffering, you have to do what your heart tells you to. Where human suffering is involved, you can't be neutral."


In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said, "We incarnate the duty of hearing the cry of the poor when we are deeply moved by the suffering of others" (n.193). The Gospel also tells us, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mt 5,7). In this perspective, I would like to invite you to be a person who moves forward believing in God's love.


In its 19th general assembly in May, 2011, Caritas Internationalis decided to commit itself to a dynamic strategic framework 2011-2015 with a vision of "One Human Family: Zero Poverty" to eradicate global poverty, an ultimate threat to humanity. Even though we are in a world of affluence, we still witness many people who suffer from extreme poverty and hunger. We must see those who are suffering from chronical malnutrition, and find out the structural cause of poverty and hunger.


Hunger is a condition in which a person cannot enjoy a healthy and active life because he or she cannot secure enough food. According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 of the United Nations, a total of 842 million people were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger in 2013, which means one out of eight people in the world cannot take proper nutrition to stay healthy. Developing countries account for 98% of the total number. The number of people living in extreme poverty with less than $1.25 a day was 1.2 billion in 2010, and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have the largest share of the extreme poor in the world.


The Hunger Map 2014, released by World Food Programme, shows that the number of undernourished people has sharply increased lately, especially, in the Middle East which deserves our careful attention. The insecurity of food caused by the conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, and Syria has resulted in the increasing number of the undernourished. The current global conflicts have also caused the increase of the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people, and the total number has crossed the 50 million mark for the first time since the World War II. The majority of the people living in extreme poverty are both children and women. Communities in both the conflict-stricken areas and rural areas are suffering from severe hunger.


Why do so many people suffer from chronic hunger? In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis referred to unrestricted capitalism as "a new tyranny" (n.56), denouncing "an idolatry of money" (n.55). Food available in the world is more than enough to feed every single man and woman. The fundamental reason of the food crisis is the unfair distribution of food. The food crisis is a matter of distribution, a matter of justice.


For this reason, all the members of Caritas Internationalis have been exerting their efforts together to eradicate extreme hunger. Food relief programs are carried out to resolve the global food crisis and to help those who meet calamity. Medium- and long-term plans for the security of food and for development of agriculture are also carried out. The campaign against global hunger is being promoted with the solidarity of 164 Caritas Internationalis member organizations working in about 200 countries around the world.


In his address at the meeting with the leaders of the apostolate of the laity in Korea in August, 2014, Pope Francis said, "To assist the poor is good and necessary, but it is not enough. I encourage you to multiply your efforts in the area of human promotion."


I sincerely express my appreciation of your love and sharing which promote solidarity for the common good and the illumination of human dignity as members of one human family. I pray for God's blessing on all people to deliver them from deficiency and marginalization.


 


January 25, 2015
Lucas Kim Woon-hoe
Bishop of Chunchon
President
Caritas Committee of the CBCK
Chairperson
Caritas Korea International


Message for the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees


Culture of Encounter



Dear brothers and sisters,


In the message for the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis clearly stated what the Church should do for migrants: The Church should be the Mother to all without frontiers. The Holy Father stressed what the members of the Church should not do: be indifferent to migrant related matters; keep migrants at arm's length; back up any kinds of discrimination or persecution of migrants; assume a neutral attitude toward issues on migrants.


Who will ever want to leave his or her own country and family to live in another country? It is unimaginably painful to live far from family. Because many of the migrants living and working in Korea had no other choice but to leave their own families behind, they have been always carrying deep pain in their hearts. Migrant workers in Korea seem to mirror Koreans who chose to leave Korea to seek a better life as mine workers or nurses. Foreign partners in multi-cultural families in Korea also remind us of ourselves who in the past decided to get married to Americans for the sake of our family.


Now, I would like to pose a question: "Are foreigners living in Korea happy?"


First, are the migrant workers in Korea happy? Because of a language barrier and cultural differences, they have difficulties managing their life. What makes matters worse is that they are suffering from racial discrimination. Even though there are institutional systems to resolve problems related to migrant workers, more often than not, they have not played their roles well. This is because many Koreans are not open-minded and generous enough towards migrants. The systems alone cannot solve the problems. This current situation torments migrant workers. They are often deeply hurt because employers treat them as expendables.


What about the foreign women in multi-cultural families? They have various problems with their spouses resulting from different academic backgrounds and big age differences. Another thing that puts their marriage life in difficulty is that their marriage seems to be based not on love, but on money. In addition, most foreign women who chose to marry Korean men often have problems with their mothers-in-law.


Finally, are the children in multi-cultural families happy? Peer pressure makes them hardly have a normal school life. High private education expenses and family problems also cause them to be distressed and to wander around. According to the statistics, the rate of high school dropouts in those families amounted to 69% because they could not settle in.


We need to suggest new ways for them to get through this painful and terrible reality they are facing now. What we need to do is to welcome them as a member of a family, a member of our society and country, and above all as a member of the Church. We must be the "Church without frontiers, Mother to all" as the theme chosen by Pope Francis for the message for the 101st World Day of Migrants and Refugees.


What do migrants think of Korea? They say that there are both good and bad people in Korea: Those who think only of themselves are bad people while those who are open towards others and build a world where people can love each other are good people. We, first, must become good people who know how to be with the migrants. The Church, above all, needs to be an exemplary community where people can live together in love.


I would like to suggest a few ways to be with migrants in the spirit of Catholic movements.


The first thing to do is to promote an egalitarian movement. Equality is one of the most important things in every society. The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church emphasizes the equality of all. As the saying goes, "All men are created equal." World history teaches us how much of a negative effect racial discrimination can have on us. We must carry out our duty to promote equality in our relations with migrants and to eradicate any racial discrimination or prejudice. When equal rights are realized, this is the very first step to be with migrants.


The second thing to do is to realize the dignity of human beings. We are all human beings with the same dignity. Therefore, nobody should be used as a means to attain our purposes. We, who are wonderfully created in the image of God, should be accepted for who we are. We also should be acknowledged as people who must be loved. When people trust and respect each other, we can make the world better and full of good people. When we encounter migrants at work or with our family, we need to keep in mind that they are human beings with the same dignity and rights. We should make efforts not to treat them as expendables and not to consider them as slaves in a relationship between employer and employee.


The third thing to do is to realize the principle of harmony. Harmony is the principle of the world. We are individually created. Difference should not be considered to be wrong. We should try to live together harmoniously, accepting each other's differences. When we recognize the differences, we finally can build the world that God wants for us, the one that we all want to have.


Dear brothers and sisters! May the will of God, who loves all of us and does not want any discrimination, be fulfilled in Korea and the Church. May God bless migrants, especially those in difficulty, Amen.


 


April 26, 2015
+ Simon Ok Hyun-jin
Auxiliary Bishop of Gwangju
President
CBCK Committee
for the Pastoral Care of Migrants
and Foreign Residents Living in Korea


Message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015


Give Me a Drink (Jn 4,7)



On the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015, I would like to share the gift of peace with all of you. May the grace of Jesus Christ who gathers us together be always with you in abundance.


Christ the Lord established only one Church and sustains her. Since 1968, all the Christians who have faith in it have celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in prayer for the unity of various Christian denominations and traditions. It follows the example of the prayer of Christ, "Ut unum sint." The Commission on Faith and Order of Korean Churches, established in 2014 by many Christians in Korea, was a response to the prayer of Christ.


The encounter of Jesus with a Samaritan woman offers a lesson on unity and a teaching towards life. We must understand why Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, an alien: "Give me a drink" (Jn 4,7). This is a request for encounter and dialogue in full respect for the value of others. It is to accept one's own weakness, shunning competition. It is to accept the gift of unity granted by God, going beyond the difference of ethnicity, clan, religion, and culture. Following in Jesus' footsteps, we should try to learn actively from others who have different talents so that we will be able to enjoy the grace of mutual abundance in diversity.


We also follow the example of the Samaritan woman who gave Jesus, a foreigner, a drink. There are many foreigners in our society who ask the water of life. The number of foreigners residing in Korea has exceeded 1.5 million mark. More than 180,000 of them are not protected by the law. Since the division of Korea in 1945, more than 27,000 Sae-teo-min, North Korean defectors, have come to South Korea. There are 67,000 students from 150,000 multicultural families. Furthermore, irregular workers, accounting for half of the total workforce, are in a situation of wandering. When they ask us for a drink, we must open our arms to welcome them. This is not a matter of doing a favor to them. We will be rewarded with unexpected abundance through them, just as was the Samaritan woman who earned salvation from Jesus who asked her for a drink as a foreigner.


When we humbly ask for a drink and when we share a drink with warm hearts, our life will be changed into that of love, justice and peace. As the Samaritan woman gave a drink from the well to the tired and thirsty foreigner and found a spring of eternal life, we will find a new dimension of our life. It is the way of life to be with the world and save the world, and the way to be with the Holy Spirit who laments the suffering of life in the whole world. In this way, we can unite ourselves as one in the power of the Holy Spirit.


We confess that the true unity is granted to us by the Lord of life. Let us move forward to the Lord of life who restores the dignity of life by healing and reconciliation, becoming a humble witness of the fulfillment of Heaven's will.


 


+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
Archbishop of Gwangju
President
CBCK Committee for Promoting
Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue



Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2014



The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (President: Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong) published Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2014 on April 3, 2015.


According to the Statistics, as of December 31, 2014, the number of Catholics in Korea was 5,560,971, an increase of 2.2% (117,975) over the last year. This amounts to 10.6% of the total population. The total number of Catholics in Korea has slightly and consistently increased since 2004. Especially since 2009, the rate of Catholics in Korea has hovered around the 10% mark.


Of the 15 dioceses and the Military Ordinariate in Korea, the Archdiocese of Seoul was the most populous with the number of the faithful standing at 1,492,449 or 26.8% of the total Catholics in Korea. The Seoul Archdiocese was followed by the Diocese of Suwon (848,221 or 15,3%), the Diocese of Incheon (487,145 or 8.8%), the Archdiocese of Daegu (485,341 or 8.7%), the Diocese of Busan (442,392 or 8.0%), the Archdiocese of Gwangju (351,762 or 6.3%), the Diocese of Daejeon (303,223 or 5.5%), and the Diocese of Uijeongbu (289,590 or 5.2%). Adding up the number of the faithful in metropolitan areas, i.e. Seoul, Suwon, Uijeongbu, and Incheon, the number amounts to 56.1% of the Catholics in Korea.


In terms of the percentage of the Catholic population compared to the local population, the Archdiocese of Seoul was ahead of others with the rate of 14.8%, followed by the Diocese of Cheju 11.9%, the Diocese of Incheon 11.4%, the Diocese of Cheongju 11.3%, the Diocese of Suwon 10.9%, and the Archdiocese of Daegu 10.7%. The numbers of each diocese show a similar trend or slight increase over last year. Especially, the Dioceses of Chunchon and Incheon show 1.0%p and 0.7%p increase respectively.


By gender, the number of the male faithful was 2,323,688 and that of the female faithful was 3,237,283, 41.8% and 58.2% respectively of all Catholics in Korea. The rate of the male faithful in the age bracket between 20 and 24 accounted for the largest share (58.7%), reflecting the active religious practice of the soldiers in their military service.


By age group, 52.2% of the total faithful were in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. The number of people under 20 years of age accounted for 11.3% and those over 60, 23.1%. The Statistics indicated that the rate of the faithful under 19 decreased by 3.6% from the previous year. On the contrary, the rate of the faithful over 65 increased by 5.2%, reflecting a rapidly aging society.


The Statistics also indicated that the number of clergy in Korea in 2014 amounted to 4,948, with 36 bishops including 2 Cardinals. The total number of Korean priests was 4,786 and foreign missionary priests 162. Among them, 4,087 were diocesan priests, 708 religious priests and 153 missionary priests. The new priests ordained in 2014 were 107, a decrease of 4 from the previous year. The number of seminarians was 1,435, a decrease of 1.9% from the previous year.


There were 1,574 men religious, including novices, religious in temporary and perpetual vows as well as foreign religious, while there were 10,160 women religious. The number of novices decreased by 35% from the year 2004.


According to the Statistics, the number of newly baptized in 2014 was 124,748. This indicates an increase of 5.0% over the previous year, which might indicate the effect of Pope Francis' apostolic visit to Korea. By gender, newly baptized men represented 67,194 and women 57,554. The number of infants baptized amounted to 26,009, a decrease of 0.7% from the previous year.


The number of the celebrations of the Sacrament of Matrimony amounted to 19,781 in 2014, an increase of 1.8% over the previous year. Of this number 12,334 cases were marriages between a baptized and a non-baptized person. The number of the faithful who received the Sacrament of Confession was 4,55,580, a decrease of 2.3% from the previous year. The average rate for Sunday Mass attendance was 20.7% of the total Catholic population in Korea, a decrease of 0.5% from the previous year.


Statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea 2014 is compiled on the basis of the data collected from 16 dioceses, 7 Catholic universities, and men and women religious institutes in Korea, which shows the annual statistics of the Catholic Church in Korea as of December 31, 2014. These statistics will be helpful to understand present situations of the Catholic Church in Korea and also be a useful point of reference for pastoral decisions.


 


News from the Church in Korea


● Mass for Life


The Pro-Life Activities under the CBCK Committee for Bioethics (President: Most Rev. Linus Lee Seong-hyo) celebrated Mass for Life at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on February 9, 2015.


Mass for Life affords an opportunity for prayer for the eradication of abortion as well as the abolition of Art. 14 of the "Mother and Child Health Law" that technically promotes abortion. Since 2005, the Pro-Life Activities has been celebrating annually on the Monday closest to February 8 when the law was established.


Rev. Casimir Song Yul-sup, Secretary of the Pro-Life Activities, said that too many babies are still silently sacrificed in their mother's wombs. He urged the faithful to be the mustard seeds in the world where an anti-life culture prevails so that we can create a stir of love cherishing respect for life. He also said that the path towards true happiness is not in possessions and control but in gratuitous self-giving.


Bishop Lee gave pro-life activists a boost, saying that we ourselves are the most blessed when we do something for the cause of protecting life.


The Pro-life Activities is also going to initiate the 'Forty-Day Prayer' again for building a culture of life.


● Statement on the Occasion of the First Memorial Day of the Sewol Ferry Disaster


"A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation" (Mt 2,18). On April 10, 2015, the Most Rev. Lazzaro You Heung-sik, President of the CBCK Committee for Justice & Peace, issued a statement on the occasion of the first memorial day of the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014. He started his statement with a prayer for the heavenly rest of the victims who lost their precious life both at the accident site and during the rescue operation, and for the healing and peace of the bereaved families and those who remain. He reminded us about the shameful reality of Korea. He stressed that we have overlooked irregularity and corruption, and have neglected many rules on security, offering the excuse of convention. In his statement, he said that the root of the disaster was not only our evil mind but also the prevailing tendency of materialism in our society.


Bishop You strongly urged that the so-called draft "enforcement ordinance" of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries be abolished because it is against truth and justice. He also urged that all facts related to the disaster including its cause, the procedure of the rescue operation, and its salvage work should be opened to the public fair and square. He said, "Instead of the useless draft, a new special law should be enacted and put in force in a proper way." He also mentioned that the reckless delay on the salvage work will increasingly weaken the credibility of the government.


Bishop You urged that all the faithful and Korean people should not be indifferent to our neighbours, especially the disadvantaged, and injustice within our society. He said, "Indifference is aggravating the social evils." He said that we must awake and face the reality with the spirit of the Gospel and call upon political authorities to carry out their duty.


In conclusion, Bishop You urged that all of us should resolutely try to change ourselves, lest the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster have sacrificed themselves in vain.


● Seminar for Evaluating "A Project for a New Life"


The Pro-Life Activities under the CBCK Committee for Bioethics (President: Most Rev. Linus Lee Seong-hyo) urged that all the dioceses promote actively "A Project for a New Life."


The Committee held a seminar on April 14, 2015 at the auditorium of the Catholic Conference of Korea in order to evaluate the on-going project and share its management plans, aims and visions.


Holding the National Congress for Life in 2010, the Committee planed the project, which is a kind of pro-life movement to offer education on life for youth and to support single mothers.


At the seminar, the participants agreed upon the need to build a better infrastructure for educating youth to respect life and formating volunteer workers. In regard to self-reliance and child-rearing by single mothers, they specifically discussed the plans to promote cooperation inside and outside the Church.


However, it was also mentioned that there are still difficulties in carrying out education on life at school. In addition, there should be a system for those who guide youth at school or at Sunday school and pastoral workers to keep fostering their awareness of life.


Bishop Lee said, "The movements playing a key role in the Project for a New Life are not just a small step." He also asked that all the dioceses and parishes strive for the pro-life movement in their respective situations.


The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea


James Zhou Wen-mo (1752-1801)



Father James Zhou Wen-mo was born in 1752 in Su-Tcheou, Jiang-nan Province, China. His parents died when he was a young boy. He was brought up by his grandmother. He believed himself that the Catholic faith was the truth and embraced it. He entered the diocesan seminary in Beijing, where he was ordained a priest with the first graduates of the seminary.


At that time, Bishop A. Gouvea of Beijing was thinking that he should send a missionary to Korea. Father James Zhou, a man of profound faith and bearing resemblance to the Korean people, was the first Catholic missionary to be sent by the Bishop to Korea. He vested in him the necessary faculties to carry out his ministry.


Father James Zhou left Beijing in February of 1794. He met with two secret envoys from the Catholic Church in Korea, Saba Ji Hwang and John Pak, at an appointed place. But they had to wait until the Amnok River would freeze before they could cross it. Meantime, Father James Zhou visited the Catholics in the Liao-dong district. He met again with the secret envoys on the appointed dated, at the border village. He entered Korea disguised as a Korean on December 24, 1794 (December 3, by the Lunar calendar).


Father James Zhou arrived in Seoul and stayed in the house of Matthias Choe In-gil, located in Gyedong (now, Gye-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul). There he studied the Korean language. He celebrated the first Mass with the Korean Catholics on Easter Sunday in 1795. But after a while his entrance to Korea became known, so he had to hide in the house of Columba Kang Wan-suk. However, his secret envoys, Paul Yun Yu-il, Matthias Choe, the owner of the house, and Saba Ji were arrested and severely punished. All of them were martyred.


Father James Zhou performed the holy offices very secretly, but very fervently. He went around administering the Sacraments and organized the Myeongdohoe, a gathering of the laity where doctrine and scripture were studied. He also carried out other activities, including even the writing of a catechism.


Within six years of missionary dedication the number of Catholics in Korea grew from four thousand to ten thousand. However, everything changed with the Shinyu Persection of 1801.


When the Shinyu Persection broke out, Catholics were arrested one after another. The persecutors interrogated and tortured Catholics to make them confess the whereabouts of the priests. Father James Zhou, thinking that Korean Catholics were being killed because of him, resolved to return to his country. However, he changed his mind. Instead he resolved to surrender himself saying, "I have to share the destiny of my flock and to mitigate their persecution and martyrdom."


On March 11, he appeared before the persecutors. His interrogation began immediately. In spite of harsh punishment, he kept a peaceful composure and answered with wisdom and prudence.


"The only reason I came to Korea, accompanied by Saba Ji, despite dangers I may face at the border, was because I love the Korean people. The teaching of Jesus is not evil. Doing harm to people or to a nation is prohibited by the Ten Commandments. Therefore, I cannot report about Church affairs."


The persecutors could not get him to confess anything they wanted to hear. So they sentenced him to death according to the military law and hung his head high on the camp gate. Father James Zhou's execution took place at Saenamteo, near the Han River. On May 31, 1801 (April 19, by the Lunar calendar), he was beheaded and died a martyr. Father James Zhou was 49 years old.


It is said that the following extraordinary sign appeared at the moment of his decapitation:


"The clear sky suddenly darkened. A violent gale blew the rocks around. The visibility was only one inch due to a heavy rain-shower. As soon as the execution was over, the clouds dispersed. A bright rainbow appeared high in the sky. Then it disappeared to the north-east sky."

List of Articles
No. Subject Date
97 CBCK Newsletter No.97 (Winter 2016) Feb 09, 2017
96 CBCK Newsletter No.96 (Autumn 2016) Dec 14, 2016
95 CBCK Newsletter No.95 (Summer 2016) Jul 26, 2016
94 CBCK Newsletter No.94 (Spring 2016) May 11, 2016
93 CBCK Newsletter No.93 (Winter 2015) Feb 11, 2016
92 CBCK Newsletter No.92 (Autumn 2015) Dec 01, 2015
91 CBCK Newsletter No.91 (Summer 2015) Aug 12, 2015
» CBCK Newsletter No.90 (Spring 2015) May 12, 2015
89 CBCK Newsletter No.89 (Winter 2014) Jan 27, 2015
88 CBCK Newsletter No.88 (Autumn 2014) Dec 15, 2014
87 CBCK Newsletter No.87 (Summer 2014) Aug 04, 2014
86 CBCK Newsletter No.86 (Spring 2014) May 07, 2014
85 CBCK Newsletter No.85 (Winter 2013) Feb 10, 2014
84 CBCK Newsletter No.84 (Autumn 2013) Nov 27, 2013
83 CBCK Newsletter No.83 (Summer 2013) Jul 31, 2013

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