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Riot police break up protesters' Mass

Witness says police knocked down priest and trod on Eucharist

Fr Mun attempts to retrieve the Eucharist after allegedly being knocked to the ground by police (Photo courtesy of Gangjeong village) Fr Mun attempts to retrieve the Eucharist after allegedly being knocked to the ground by police (Photo courtesy of Gangjeong village)
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • August 9, 2012
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Cheju diocese has demanded an official apology after about 20 riot police disrupted a Mass yesterday on Jeju island. The police were clearing a path for a cement truck to enter the construction site of a controversial new naval base.

Father Bartholomew Mun Jung-hyun, who was presiding over the Mass at the gates of the site, was knocked to the ground while administering communion. It is claimed that a policeman also trod on the Eucharist.

Father John Ko Buyeong-soo, president of Cheju diocese’s Committee for Justice and Peace, visited the site shortly after the disturbance.

He told ucanews.com that he would demand an explanation and an apology from police.

“To step on or damage the Eucharist is an insult to Catholics,” he said.

The Jeju Provincial Police Agency yesterday issued a press statement in which it denied any wrongdoing.

“There was no violent force throwing Fr Mun to the ground or stepping on the Eucharist,” the statement said.

Woo Jeong-sik, chief inspector of Jeju police, later said it remained unclear whether Fr Mun was knocked down and added: “the policeman who allegedly stepped on the Eucharist said he did not do so."

But Cheong Seon-nyo, head of the Gangjeong mission station, told ucanews.com yesterday that she was with Fr Mun when the incident occurred.

“I clearly saw a policeman step on the Eucharist that had fallen to the ground,” she said.

The construction of the naval base on Jeju island, which will become home to a new fleet of 20 warships and other vessels, has sparked vigorous protests from local residents, environmental activists and religious leaders.

Protesters say the project would cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the island, which is a popular tourism destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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