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Cardinal advises more organic approach to Korea's recruitment plans

Korean Church can 'grow like yeast' without marketing strategies, he says

<p>Picture: Vatican Insider/La Stampa</p>

Picture: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

  • Gianni Valente for Vatican Insider/La Stampa
  • Korea
  • August 6, 2014
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Cardinal Fernando Filoni is getting ready to pay what will be his second visit to Seoul in the space of just a few months. The Italian cardinal, who is the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples went on a pastoral visit to the country last October, to take part in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the diocese of Suwon.

During this visit he found out about the source of the Korean Catholic community’s extraordinary missionary energy and the forms in which this was expressed. Now, the head of the Vatican dicastery is preparing to accompany the Pope on his mid-August visit to the Asian country. Focus will also be directed at China. 

What lessons can be learnt from the experience of Korean Catholics and other Christian communities?

“The Korean Church has a missionary verve in its DNA which has always manifested itself in a unique way in the country’s laity.

Many years ago, when I was secretary at the Nunciature of Teheran, I remember a Korean couple came to see me and the lady said to me: I would like to ask you to be my husband’s godfather. I am Catholic, he is not, but he wants to be baptized.

It was obviously not a priest or a missionary who was responsible for the apostolic work of the initial proclamation followed by the preparation period, but the wife. The husband’s decision to join the Catholic faith had come about within the context of everyday family life.

These dynamics have always been the main vehicle for the transmission of the faith in Korea. Historically, it has always been baptized individuals who have proclaimed the Christian message by virtue of their baptism. There has never been a perception of the Korean Church being “imposed” from the outside, for example through traditional means of evangelization.

When the Gospel reached Korea 300 years ag, there were five wise men who asked to get to know it better and then they invited Propaganda Fide to send the first missionaries. So even the first evangelizing body was local. These dynamics prefigure the pastoral vision and image of a Church that is in a “permanent state of mission” in an individual way.

Pope Francis suggested everyone should be in a “permanent state of mission” in the “Evangelii Gaudium”.

And yet, campaigns that seem to present evangelization as a business expansion strategy have crept in, even in Korea. Some have referred to it as “spiritual marketing”.

 “This temptation can spread anywhere, not just in Korea. It happens when so-called pastoral programmes – which are indeed useful tools – are seen as proselytism strategies modelled on publicity campaigns. This turns into a battle to see who can get the most “clients”.

The apostolic mission is of a wholly different nature. What makes it attractive is the enthusiasm baptized individuals show in announcing the Christian message. This enthusiasm is often stronger among novices.

These dynamics are very much alive in Korea and are a good antidote for those who wrongly view the Church as some kind of “product” of pastoral documents or identify it as some kind of service business run by bishops and priests, a business in which the laity are mere spectators or “users”.

In Korea as in any other country, the Church grows like yeast – an image used in the Gospel - which ferments the dough silently, with an internal energy that changes the nature of a shapeless mass, transforming it into a clearly defined object.”

Full Story: “Korean Christians teach us about martyrdom and announcing the Gospel”

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

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