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By Fr. Paolo Na Myong-ok, SDB


Seoul, Korea, December 3, 2015 - ‘The Church in North Korea is in my heart’ – this is a new initiative launched by the Seoul Archidiocese that involves all parishes in praying during the whole YEAR of MERCY for the Catholic Faithful in North Korea.


In 2015 we remembered already 70 years of division of Korea into two parts. During the Year of Mercy the Catholic in the South would like to remember the Catholics in the North who are still living in very difficult times. This prayer campaign initiative was launched during the November 24 Eucharist in the Cathedral of Myeongdong. Seoul Cardinal Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung during his homily underlined: ‘As the archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyeongyang, I never forgot the Catholic Church in the North with all brothers and sisters in faith in my prayers. The Korean peninsula is among those regions in the world that most need the Mercy of God. All Catholics are invited to offer daily the ‘Prayer for Peace and Reconciliation’.


According the official statistics, at the end of the Pacific War and liberation from Japanese occupation, there were 54 parishes and about 5200 Catholics in North Korea. Before, during and after the Korean War (1950-1953) the Catholic in the North suffered very strong persecution and according the present estimates there are only very few Catholic faithful.


Since last February 2011 Fr. Paul Na Myong Ok, SDB was at the service of Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea in the Committee for National Reconciliation – ministering to the North Korean refugees in the Seoul. From this year Fr. Paul Na became a Coordinator of the newly erected Committee for National Reconciliation and Peace of the Korean Male Religious Superiors Association (cf. hwahai.cbck.or.kr)


Among his main duties are the weekly Sunday visits to the National Agency facility. All newly arrived North Korean refugees (via Thailand, Laos or China) spend in this government investigation center three months after their arrival to the South. In the government designed program there is also a space for introducing the main religions. Sunday Catholic programs are run together with two religious sisters, brothers and lay volunteers.


After three months the North Korean refugees are transferred to one of the two ‘Hanawon’ government facilities for another 3 months program that facilitates their smooth entering into the South Korean social life – through different education programs and professional skills courses. All refugees can also choose between Buddhist, Protestant or Catholic religious programs – prayer services and group or personal dialogue. Fr. Paul is also involved in the necessary assistance during their first months of the refugees independent life. They receive from the government own apartment, but are facing the challenges of cultural shock. Also many religious congregations open group home facilities for the young people from North Korea who arrived without their parents (e.g Dream-house of the FMA sisters in Seoul).


Fr. Paul shares his inner conviction:

    “We don’t’ know, when the time of Korean reconciliation and unification will come, but these North refugees with their personal experience on both sides of the actual boarder are very important link and catalyst in mutual understanding of the same Korean people. If they settle well with a positive life experience they might exercise a wonderful bridge role between the two parts of the divided nation in the future.”


    "Although there is no fast end of the division ahead of us, as South Korean religious we try to contribute our best to this ministry. We would appreciate also some preparation and support from the Superiors side.”


    "At the level of the EAO region I dream about possible help to those North Korean refugees in Mongolia, Thailand or other South Asia countries. Before their refugee statues recognition they spend long time in detention centers in those countries. Possible connection with local Salesian family religious congregations might be a good help in this mission."

For past 20 years, since March 7, 1995 the Archdiocese of Seoul has been celebrating a Holy Mass 'for peace and reconciliation on Korean Peninsula in division' every Tuesday to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Last January 6, 2015 the 1000th 'Mass was held in Seoul Cathedral of Myongdong.


North Korean brothers and sisters are in my heart. Please, join us in our prayers for them during the Year of Mercy!





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  • vaclav 2015.12.05 22:18
    ASIA/COREA DEL NORD - Una delegazione ecclesiale sudcoreana con cinque vescovi visita la Corea del Nord

    Pyongyang (Agenzia Fides) – Si è conclusa venerdì 4 dicembre la visita realizzata in Corea del Nord da una delegazione della Chiesa della Corea del Sud composta da 17 persone, iniziata lo scorso primo dicembre. I partecipanti, sia all'andata che al ritorno, hanno fatto scalo nella Repubblica Popolare cinese. La delegazione, che includeva 4 vescovi alla guida di diocesi coreane – compreso l'arcivescovo Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, presidente della Conferenza episcopale sudcoreana - e l'Abate Simon Peter Ri Hyeong-u, dell'Abbazia benedettina di Waegan, insieme a sacerdoti e rappresentanti dei Comitati ecclesiali per la riconciliazione del popolo coreano - era stata ufficialmente invitata dall'Associazione cattolica di Corea, organismo che fa capo al regime nord-coreano. Prima della partenza, mons. Kim Hee-joong, Arcivescovo di Gwangju, aveva espresso davanti ai media coreani l'auspicio “che per l'avvenire sempre più preti sudcoreani potranno recarsi in Corea del Nord a celebra rvi la messa”. 
    Durante la visita, i vescovi e i sacerdoti della delegazione hanno cercato di raccogliere notizie sulla reale consistenza delle comunità cattoliche che sarebbero ancora presenti in Nordcorea, dopo decenni trascorsi senza ministri ordinati per celebrar messa e confessare. 
    Nei colloqui si è parlato anche della possibile ricostruzione di una chiesa a Pyeongyang. I membri della delegazione hanno anche avuto un incontro di dialogo con Kim Yong Dae, vicepresidente della Suprema Assemblea del popolo della Corea del Nord, sulle modalità di miglioramento delle relazioni tra due Coree.
    In passato, altri vescovi sudcoreani avevano visitato singolarmente la Corea del Nord, ma dai tempi della divisione è la prima volta che una delegazione ecclesiale sudcoreana così numerosa e di alto profilo visita la parte settentrionale della Penisola.
    La trasferta ufficiale oltre frontiera della delegazione ecclesiale sudcoreana assume valore soprattutto alla luce del ruolo sempre più intenso che la Chiesa sudcoreana intende giocare sul terreno della riconciliazione nazionale e della possibile riunificazione delle due Coree. “Occorre consolidare questa piattaforma di riconciliazione intensificando scambi e collaborazioni. Perchè se per le generazioni che hanno sofferto la separazione e la guerra civile vanno curate le ferite rimaste aperte, tra i giovani c'è il rischio di una crescente indifferenza davanti al desiderio di riunire il popolo coreano” spiega all'Agenzia Fides padre Timothy Lee Eun-hyung, segretario del Comitato dei vescovi per la riconciliazione del popolo coreano e cappellano della «chiesa del pentimento e della redenzione», inaugurata nel 2013 a pochi chilometri dal confine, dove si svolgono ogni settimana preghiere e liturgie per invocare il dono della riunificazione. “Occorre mettere da parte atteggiament i aggressivi, e camminare sulla via dell'inclusione, del perdono e della riconciliazione, come ci ha indicato anche Papa Francesco, quando è venuto in Corea” aggiunge padre Timothy. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 5/12/2015).


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