_ From the Editor:
_ Message for the 19th Week for the Sanctification of the Family (Summary)
_ Message for the 35th Biblical Week
_ Message for the 38th Human Rights Sunday and the 9th Social Doctrine Week
_ Message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020
_ Statement of the CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment
_ 2020 Pastoral Letters of the Diocesan Bishops (Summary)
_ The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
From the Editor:
To Be a Fisher of People
Jesus continues to call us to follow Him: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1,17). Because there are still many Koreans who are not yet familiar with the word of Jesus, He waits for our wholehearted response. To come closer to people in the world, we, Christians, should exude the fragrance of Jesus: “we are the aroma of Christ for God” (2Cor 2,15).
To be the aroma of Christ in a world which gives off the stench of injustice and falseness, it is necessary for us to take care of our own inner self and be governed by peace: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts” (Col 3,15).
We should try to be more relaxed and nurture a long-term vision. When we become shortsighted, grappling only with what is in front of us, we are attacked by fears and anxieties. We waste our energy on pointless worries and can become concerned about what has already happened or not happened.
We sometimes feel stuck in endless worries. In fact, most of our worries are unnecessary. It is a matter of mind-set. If we stay positive, our fears and anxieties can fade away. A time of trial can act as a catalyst to strengthen our faith. A healthy flame can be fanned by a strong wind whereas a small flame is extinguished by such a wind. Likewise, one’s firm faith can be strengthen by the challenges of life, whereas a feeble faith can be easily frustrated by the worries of life.
At the end of the day, all depends on faith. We can overcome our fears and anxieties through faith in Jesus. He will set us free from the labyrinth of our worries: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Mt 6,34). All we need is the faith to entrust everything to the Lord.
Our hearts should be focused on what truly matters, seeking what belongs to heaven and not to the world. Then God will grant us everything, even things of this world: “seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6,33).
In this way, our inner self will be purified and filled with peace. Consequently, each of us can be the aroma of Christ and the fisher of people, and, at the same time, the Catholic Church in Korea can move forward in the evangelization of Korean society.
Fr. Thomas Aquinas Kim Joon Chul
Secretary General of the CBCK
Message for the 19th Week for the Sanctification of the Family (Summary)
Vocation of the Family
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Love of God has come to us. During this season of Christmas, our Church, contemplating the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, gives thanks and praise for God’s grace and blessings to all families. God’s salvation has been brought to earth through the loving Family of faith and obedience. The holy mission entrusted to the humble Family illuminates the story of human salvation. The mystery of the Nativity shows that the salvific plan of God, in which His Son became man and dwelt among us, is being completed through the love and devotion of married couples.
Marriage, through which a woman and man are united to form a family, is sacred because it is a sacrament, instituted by Christ. God blesses and sanctifies marriage between a man and woman, entrusting His special calling to their family. This mission reflects God’s will to involve us in His plan for the completion of human salvation. Therefore, those who have been united in marriage and formed their homes should meditate so as to realize what God’s calling is for them.
However there are those who, influenced by the turbulent wave of individualism, have a distorted view of marriage. They value the socioeconomic conditions of marriage more than marriage itself. As a result, many young people postpone marriage until they have the necessary resources to form a family or they give up on it. They regard marriage merely as a way of living in the world rather than as a way towards personal growth and self-perfection through the love and sacrifice of the married life.
Therefore, in today’s world, where individual rights and self-assertion are emphasized more than ever, we urgently need to awaken the young faithful to the sacramental meaning of marriage. For this reason, the Church encourages young engaged couples to receive catechesis in preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage.
Another difficulty can be children who have been raised by overly protective parents. Such young people may suffer from a confusion of values in their lives, often feeling isolated and under pressure to win when in competition with others. As a result, they can be overly anxious not to lose a sense of pride in themselves. If they feel ignored, they cannot stand it and vent their anger often causing social problems.
We cannot ignore the fact that all violence against the weak in society, such as dating violence, child abuse, animal maltreatment, retaliatory driving, murder, and suicide, are fundamentally linked to today’s faulty understanding of family, which forces children into fierce competition, ultimately causing them to lose their sense of self-esteem.
In this age of technological revolution, where social networks rapidly develop and the ways in which people form relationships and communicate with each other are also changing, technology has made it possible to share information to express oneself quickly and easily. However, it has also promoted access to uncensored information and uncontrolled expression; which creates a negative mechanism, provoking mutual distrust, discord, confrontation and conflict. No one can accurately foresee the terrible consequences of a highly technical civilization in a society that underestimates the values of loving life and respecting others.
We must pay attention to the crisis being experienced by today’s families driven into the battlefield of competition. Parents who want their children to succeed are devoted to their children’s education. But if they are concerned about developing only their children’s competitiveness, and are blind to their family’s holy calling, the pressure on their children may well damage family life. Families should not just focus on improving the intellectual capacity of their children.
After all, the family is God’s sanctuary which is called to nurture the life of a child through the love and devotion of their parents. It is within the family that we pray for the will of God, who is Life, to be fulfilled in our children, and where husbands and wives foster virtue while helping each other to grow into mature people. God’s calling to the family is to protect, grow and sanctify each other through love and sacrifice.
In addition, a family should take care of itself. Today there are various forms of family, among which many are in need of our help and attention. There are also families who are struggling with family members who are in need of special care or who are suffering from political, economic, social or cultural discrimination and indifference.
Our Christian families should take care of all families that find themselves in difficult circumstances. In the midst of our desolate world where people are increasingly indifferent to their neighbors, becoming a good Samaritan, able to approach neighboring families, is one of the supreme vocations that God has entrusted to our Christian families. Families can strengthen their solidarity by accompanying their neighbors, growing in love and sharing, and, thus finally, fulfilling God’s sacred calling to all families.
December 29, 2019
The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
+ Linus Lee Seong-hyo
Auxiliary Bishop of Suwon
for Family & Life
Message for the 35th Biblical Week (November 24–30, 2019)
Life of the Faithful and Mission of the Church
Inspired by the Bible
“The word of God is now at work in you who believe” (cf. 1Thes 2,13)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, after his resurrection from the dead, appeared to his disciples and promised to be with them always, even to the end of the world. Accordingly, the history of the Church began on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection.
Jesus, who saved us, is the Son of God and the Word who was in the beginning and created the world.
“In the beginning was the Word... and the Word was God.... All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.... And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1,1.3.14).
When the fullness of time had come, the Word of creation, which in the beginning was with God, became flesh in order to save us; He dwells with us, guiding us through the history of the Church. The Lord leads and inspires His Church to live a faithful life in relationship with Him.
Unlike academic and scientific knowledge, of which we can make use, the Word of God is not simply an object to be understood but is the Lord Himself who is living and working in us. Therefore, it is important for us to open ourselves to a loving, welcoming, and personal relationship with the Word.
The Word of God, who saves us and leads us to a life according to God’s will, shapes our entire way of being. At present, we have many Bible study groups in our parishes and dioceses. Indeed, this is a necessary and desirable practice; however, at the same time, we must remember that the Word is the One we can encounter not only through Biblical studies but through other activities too. Let the Word inspire the entire pastoral work of the Church, from the administration of sacraments to charity work, to modes of prayer and growth in communion.
Pope Benedict XVI repeatedly asserted the need to make the Bible, the Word of God, the inspiration for the Church’s entire pastoral work (cf. Verbum Domini, n.73).
In order to be truly inspired by the Word, we must establish a personal relationship with the Lord through the Bible. Only those who continue to have personal conversations with God can be drawn closer to Him, and so live according to and proclaim the Word of life.
As good food nourishes our bodies, the Word breathes life into our souls. As soon as the Lord uttered the word, a man born blind regained his sight, a girl rose from the dead, and a leper was healed. Likewise, when the Word of the Lord comes into us, we will be healed, regain hope and be guided to live in accordance with the Lord’s will.
The Lord, the Word who called the Apostles His friends and brothers, now embraces all of us as His friends, brothers and sisters. Let us believe, contemplate, and entrust ourselves to the Word who, enabled by the Holy Spirit, inspires the pastoral care of the Church to work for social justice and peace, even in the midst of suffering.
November 24, 2019
+ Augustinus Kim Jong-soo
Auxiliary Bishop of Daejeon
CBCK Biblical Committee
Message for the 38th Human Rights Sunday and the 9th Social Doctrine Week
True Revolution comes from Embracing
“The human being is only a reed” said Balise Pascal, the 17th century French philosopher, in his book, Pensées. Humanity is miserable by nature. However, human beings are able to think clearly about their misery and strive to overcome it; they may raise above themselves. Paradoxically, as Pascal said, the greatness of human beings is proved through human misery.
A couple of years ago, the citizens of South Korea succeeded in regime change through the Candlelight Revolution. This was a series of protests against the corruption and injustice of the then president. Following this the newly elected government emphasized the importance of protecting human rights with the slogan, “People come first.”
However, when taking into consideration the current social situation and behavior demonstrated by government officials and politicians, we must be doubtful about the incumbent government’s cry for human rights. Many citizens are afflicted by the hardships of life and insecurities of society and the socially disadvantaged continue to be neglected. Yet, politicians, instead of cultivating the wisdom that leads to the peace and well-being of our citizens, are squabbling with each other in order to consolidate their political power. Such politicians are stuck in their own narrow ideologies and black and white fallacies.
The true meaning of revolution can be found in the poem of Jang Il-soon, a Catholic and social activist, titled “Revolution.”
Revolution means a warm embracing.
Revolution anticipates a new life and change.
A new life is not brought by getting rid of one’s enemy with violence.
A new life comes with one’s wholehearted commitment,
just like a broody hen hatches her chicks.
A new life is not possible without sincere dedication to embracing.
Revolution is not attacking
but embracing each other.
Meet those who do not know yet the value of life.
Embrace and accompany them.
Perhaps one day they may realize it.
One can be changed through the experience of being cherished.
Embracing to the point of death on the cross is the only way towards true peace and salvation. Jesus called this way “a baptism” with which he must be baptized. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three” (Lk 12,49-52).
This year, black and white fallacies and ideological conflicts seem to be running rampant in society, provoking division and confrontation. Within society there must not exist just pointless hostility and antagonism, but there must be constructive progress towards the truth. Through this trial of time, we hope that what is true is revealed so that the world first considers the plight of human beings, created by God out of love. Perhaps we may need to endure greater turmoil until the day when peace is built upon true respect for human rights. Yet, we should never stop embracing. When we embrace each other life is born and nurtured.
We should remember that human rights cannot be fostered through violence or ideological arguments. Human rights are bestowed only through the grace of God. When we accept divine grace and embrace each other, we are truly able to safeguard human rights and peace.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3,16).
December 8, 2019
The second Sunday of Advent
+ Constantine Bae Ki Hyen
Bishop of Masan
for Justice & Peace
Message for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020
“They showed us unusual kindness” (cf. Acts 28,2)
Peace be with you!
The traditional period for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is January 18 to 25. During this time, Christians around the world pray together to become one in Christ, overcoming divisions and conflicts among them. Such a unity leads Christians to find a renewed and peaceful way to overcome the sufferings and sorrows of the world.
Materials for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by the Christian churches in Malta and Gozo (Christians Together in Malta). The narrative of the shipwreck and encounter of St. Paul with the Maltese people, as described in the Acts of the Apostles chapters 27-28, is a well-known story. In celebration of the arrival of the Gospel in Malta, the Maltese people testify to the type of good heart and good deeds necessary for people to overcome our current global crises.
The story begins with Paul the Apostle being taken to Rome as a prisoner. The centurion and his soldiers have power and authority, while the sailors have good skill and experience. However, all the passengers on the boat are afraid and vulnerable in the face of the terrifying power of nature. Another crisis is created by the escalating distrust and suspicion between the different groups. The lives of both the prisoners and the sailors, who are seeking refuge, are expendable. This is seen through the soldiers’ plan to execute them if the necessity arises, regardless of their guilt or innocence. Remarkably, however, Paul stands out as a centre of peace in the turmoil. Thanks to the faith and encouragement of St. Paul, who knows that his life is not governed by forces indifferent to his fate, but rather is held in the hands of the God whom he belongs to and worships, all the people gain courage and finally their lives are saved.
Eventually, all 276 people arrive in Malta and receive special hospitality from the islanders. They are cold and wet in the rain, but by the fire kindled by the islanders they are sheltered from the confusion, fear and sufferings of crisis. The unusual kindness and welcome shown by the islanders strengthen them to continue on their journey.
This story from the Acts of the Apostles, describing the journey to spread the Gospel message, may also account for the crises facing humanity today. There has been a steep increase in the number of migrants and refugees in European countries. Those who have been displaced from their homes due to natural disasters, warfare or poverty are at risk because of cold political and economic indifference and other human forces. This is an issue not only for European countries, but also for countries worldwide. As Christians, together facing the crisis of migration, this story challenges us: do we collude with the forces of cold indifference, or do we show “unusual kindness” and become witnesses to God’s loving providence directed towards all people?
Hospitality is a much needed virtue in our search for Christian unity. It is a practice that calls us to show greater generosity towards those in need. The people who showed unusual kindness to Paul and his companions did not yet know Christ, and yet it was through their unusual kindness that a divided people were drawn closer together. Our own Christian unity will be discovered not only through showing hospitality to one another, but also through loving encounters with those who do not share our language, culture or faith. Hospitality and kindness is a virtue required not only when we encounter people from different cultures and nations, but also for all Koreans living on this divided peninsula, South and North Koreas. We should, with particular attention, make every effort to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and to eradicate all kinds of injustice through the building of a just and equitable system in South Korea. We should exert ourselves to end confrontation and conflict between the two Koreas and provide humanitarian aid to North Korea.
Humanity is on an unprecedented journey, one never experienced before. Many of the problems and sufferings facing humanity today are derived from imperialism, which is characterized by conquest and exploitation. Humanity, over the past few centuries, has made a lot of mistakes, including the division of the Korean Peninsula. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020 calls on us to reflect on the change brought by unusual and loving kindness; it concerns not just the miracle described in the Bible, but emphasizes that ‘being humane’ must exist in reality. With a firm faith, we Christians should prepare for change following the example of St. Paul.
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020, let us invoke the Lord to grant us the courage, strength and wisdom to recognize the Divine will for humanity and, in turn, the willingness to respond to it.
January 18, 2020
+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
Archbishop of Gwangju
for Promoting Christian Unity & Interreligious Dialogue
Statement of the CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment
We Should Choose Life (cf. Dt 30,19)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK), after witnessing the aftermath of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan in March, 2011, expressed serious concerns about nuclear power plants and their dangerous impact on future generations. Consequently, the CBCK urged a transition to a denuclearized society by publishing “Nuclear Technology and the Teachings of the Church - Reflection of the Catholic Church in Korea on Nuclear Power Development” in November, 2013.
Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, various media outlets in this country have investigated the effects of the aforementioned accident and have concluded that they are far-reaching and will be long-lasting. In fact, possible solutions for the radioactive contamination resulting from the Fukushima nuclear disaster are still to be discovered. The Fukushima nulcear accident has revealed to people all over the world the problems associated with nuclear power: accidents can happen at any time as a result of natural or man-made causes and resultant radiation problems are inevitable. The Japanese government says, on the one hand, that the Fukushima nuclear power plant is under control; but on the other hand, that there is no choice other than to discharge the contaminated water from the nuclear power plant. Such a contradictory position demonstrates the problems concerning the nuclear power plant.
In this context, the Korean government, despite its policy of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, reveals a number of worrisome issues. The Shin Gori Nuclear Power Plant Unit-4 began commercial operation on September 2, 2019, and the Shin Hanul (Shin Uljin) Nuclear Power Plant Unit-1 and Unit-2 are ready for operation. In addition, the construction of the Shin Gori Nuclear Power Plant Unit-5 and Unit-6, which were finalized through public debate and government decision, will increase operational facilities for nuclear power plants in the country.
On July 3, 2019, nearly 200 holes were found in the concrete containment buildings of two nuclear reactors, Unit-3 and Unit-4 at Hanbit (Yeonggwang) Nuclear Power Plant, constructed in the 1980s. The largest hole is said to be 157cm in diameter (and 167cm deep). The claims of the government and the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., LTD that a 1 meter reinforced concrete containment wall will be sufficient for safety are unconvincing. In the case of Hanbit (Yeonggwang) Unit-1, it was found that the operation of the nuclear power plant’s main room by an unlicensed operator resulted in a dangerous increase in nuclear power output.
The press have repeatedly revealed how the Nuclear Research Institute, located in Daejeon, a large city with a population of more than 1.5 million, have carried out research without insuring proper management of high-level nuclear waste. Such research is still in progress.
Citizens who take seriously the issue of nuclear power plants are most concerned about high-level nuclear waste. The government and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. launched the ‘Spent Nuclear Fuel Management Policy Review Committee’ aimed at constructing an interim storage facility. They claim that temporary storage for high-level nuclear waste is saturated, and if no additional facility is provided, the nuclear power plant will have to be halted. However, it is very doubtful that the Review Committee can play its proper role if it excludes local people and environmental groups, both important stakeholder, from the process. There is no country in the world that operates a high-level nuclear waste repository durable for more than 100,000 years and it is not advisable to build an interim storage facility designed for only 50 years. It is a safe and reasonable course of action to close nuclear power plants after their spent nuclear fuel has reached saturation point.
God led the Israelites from Egypt to a new world, asking them to choose a life that they and their descendents may live (cf. Dt 30,19). Our society must be transformed from a society that devalues life in pursuit of economic values, into a society that truly respects life. Instead of nuclear and coal-fired power, which ultimately produces suffering for the vulnerable, energy production must be shifted to renewable and eco-friendly sources.
Therefore, we ask the government and our society that:
- The independence of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission should be ensured and its authority strengthened in safety matters relating to nuclear power plants.
- Old nuclear power plants should be closed as construction of new nuclear power plants is completed.
- The ratification of the Yeongdeok (Daejin) nuclear power plant project should be cancelled.
- Legislation should be enacted to end the construction of new nuclear power plants and to stop the extension of operational time for old nuclear power plants.
- At the Atomic Energy Research Institute in Daejeon, a densely populated area, the R&D project under the name of promoting nuclear energy should be stopped. However, research and development for safety and decommissioning of nuclear power plants should be promoted.
- The results of regular inspections of all domestic nuclear power plants should be disclosed to the media each time on completion.
October 14, 2019
+ Peter Kang U-il
Bishop of Cheju
President of the CBCK Committee for Ecology & Environment
2020 Pastoral Letters of the Diocesan Bishops (Summary)
On the occasion of the new liturgical year which commenced with the first Sunday of Advent, the diocesan bishops each issued pastoral letters for 2020, giving directions to their diocesan communities for the year.
H.E. Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul, said that in order to fulfill our missionary calling, we must transform our Church community into a missionary community. Cardinal Yeom urged the faithful to build up a missionary Church community within their families, parishes, and society, by experiencing and proclaiming the Gospel.
The Most Rev. Gabriel Chang Bong-hun, Bishop of Cheongju, set the goal for 2020 as becoming the ‘Year for the missionary community that preaches the Gospel to the whole world.’ In addition, Bishop Chang proposed five mottos to guide diocesan pastoral action: overseas mission, evangelization of North Korea, mission to youth, and the Church’s missionary roles in working with and for multicultural families and North Korean defectors.
The Most Rev. John Baptist Jung Shin-chul, Bishop of Incheon, declared the new year as the second ‘Year of the Bible’ so as to build on last year and bear fruit more abundantly. Bishop Jung stated, “Only through the Bible, can we have a personal encounter with Christ, and for this to happen, prayer must accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture.” He urged the faithful to “be missionaries, proclaiming the Word.”
The Most Rev. Matthias Ri Iong-hoon, Bishop of Suwon, referred to Jesus Christ as “the prototype of the kerygma,” and said, “In this time, when human dignity is threatened by technological revolutions, confusion about values, and amid difficulties in transmitting the Christian faith, it is urgent to proclaim the Gospel.”
The Most Rev. Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate, chose as a motto for the 2020 pastoral care, ‘Following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Bishop Yu explained that “the earthly life of Christ, the life of proclaiming the Gospel, is build on three foundations: obedience to our Heavenly Father; proclamation of God’s Word that brings salvation to all humankind; meeting with the suffering and healing them.”
The Most Rev. Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil, Archbishop of Daegu, said: “We are going to spend 2020 as a year of healing. I, as the Diocesan Ordinary, feel responsible for a series of unfortunate incidents over the past few years and ask forgiveness to all parishioners.”
The Most Rev. Joseph Son Sam-seok, Bishop of Busan, declared 2020 as the ‘Year of Love’, defining love as a ‘response to the grace of God.’ Bishop Son emphasized how the “human vocation is to live a life, reflecting the image of God while refuting secularism, misuse of media and digital culture, and extreme capitalism.”
The Most Rev. Constantine Bae Ki-Hyen, Bishop of Masan, said, “Love is the driving force enabling us to walk the path of peace to the end, and its embodiment is forgiveness.” In addition, Bishop Bae made an appeal that “the faithful of the Diocese of Masan should no longer point their fingers at others but become forgivers.”
The Most Rev. John Kim Son-Tae, Bishop of Jeonju, announced a plan to continue the ‘new evangelization in preparation for the 100th celebration of the establishment of the diocese.’ In particular, he decided to seek a path for the renewal of faith and new evangelization by promoting catechetical formation that leads the faithful to God, the Trinity.
The Most Rev. Lucas Kim Woon-hoe, Bishop of Chunchon, recommended that “Preparation for the 100th anniversary of the diocese begins with a return to the basics of faith.”
The Most Rev. John Chrysostom Kwon Hyeok-ju, Bishop of Andong, set forth 2020 as the ‘Year to practice our resolution for the 50th anniversary of the diocese’ and invited each priest, religious and lay person to make a ‘resolution for life’ and practice it on their own initiative.
The Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, Archbishop of Gwangju, stated that he will continue to pay attention to parish evangelization in 2020, as he dedicated the years 2018-2020 as the ‘Years of Parish II.’
The Most Rev. Lazzaro You Heung-sik, Bishop of Daejeon, affirmed 2020 as the ‘Year of communication and communion’ in which the diocesan synodal spirit will take root. To this end, Bishop You urged the faithful to examine and practice the detailed outcomes so as to realize the synodal spirit of dialogue through listening, communal discernment, and synodality. He also stated that a ‘Synod Pastoral Research Institute’ and an ‘Office for the Clergy’ will be established in the diocese.
The Most Rev. Basil Cho Kyu-man, Bishop of Wonju, asked the faithful to be people of God and children of God because 2020 has been designated as the ‘Year of Prayer.’
The Most Rev. Peter Lee Ki-heon, Bishop of Uijeongbu, urged that pastoral care for the elderly should be the preferred initiative for 2020. In this regard, Bishop Lee stated that a ‘Study Group for Pastoral Care of Seniors’ under the ‘Diocesan Department for Mission & Pastoral Care’ will be organized.
The Lives of 124 Blessed Martyrs of Korea
21. Luke Hong Nak-min(1751-1801)
Luke Hong Nak-min was born in 1751 in Yesan, Chungcheong-do to a noble family, and lived in Chungju and Seoul. In 1776 he became a disciple of the renowned scholar Ambrose Kwon Cheol-sin who was living in Yanggeun. Four years later he passed the first state examination and in 1788 he passed the civil service examination and became a government official. His son was Protase Hong Jae-yeong, who was martyred in 1839.
Luke Hong embraced the Catholic faith just after the Church was established in Korea in 1784 and was baptized by Peter Yi Seung-hun. As one of the Church leaders of the time, he acted as a priest and administered the sacraments to the faithful. He later learned that this was not right practice. This state of affairs arose because there were no priests at the time and Catholics were unaware of Church law and the requirements for ordained ministry. Fortunately, this pseudo priesthood did not last long. When the Sinhae Persecution broke out in 1791, Luke Hong began to distance himself from the Church to follow the order of the king. But this was only a pretence. When he returned home, he continued to pray and observe abstinence according to the teachings of the Church.
At the end of 1794 when Father James Zhou Wen-mo entered Korea, Luke Hong prepared himself to receive the sacraments. He was arrested when the Eulmyo Persecution broke out. Out of fear, he presented a letter to the king in which he attacked Catholicism. He said that the “damage done by Catholicism is as critical as that of a flood and ferocious beasts and therefore it should be thoroughly banned” (Ilseongnok, August 1, 1795; Yi Gi-gyeong ed., Byeokwipyeon, Vol. 2, pp. 220-222).
As time passed, Luke Hong began to practice his religion again. When his mother died in 1799, he did not worship the ancestral tablet as it was forbidden by Church teaching (cf.The Letter of Alexius Hwang to the Bishop of Beijing in 1801). On the surface, however, he pretended to stay away from the Church. When the Shinyu Persecution broke out two years later, Luke Hong was again arrested with other Catholics and was taken to the Supreme Court where he was interrogated and punished. His great fear made him fragile from the beginning. However, he did not inform on the other believers and replied to the interrogator, “The Ten Commandments teach us to respect our parents and to be loyal to the nation. I think this is right and just.”
Luke Hong was not courageous enough to endure severe interrogation and punishment, and was eventually sentenced to exile. During his exile, he gradually started to regain his faith and demonstrate bravery as he had years before. The following is his last recorded statement to the judges:
“I believe that Catholicism is the true religion. Therefore, I cannot say this is an evil religion. Despite this I distanced myself from my religion for ten years. Therefore I deserve punishment. Now I cannot give up the Catholic religion, nor can I say anything ill about Jesus Christ” (Chuguk-ilgi, February 26, 1801, Hong Nak-min; St. A. Daveluy, Notices des Principaux Martyrs de Corée, 1858, Vol. 5, pp. 105-106).
Luke Hong, who professed his faith in God, was finally sentenced to death. On April 8, 1801 (February 26 by the lunar calendar) he was taken outside the Small West Gate in Seoul along with his Catholic companions, beheaded, and suffered a martyr’s death. Luke Hong was 50 years old.