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Ecology, poverty among Korean Church's priorities this year

Church leaders also aim to restore religious life that was negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic
South Korean children participate in a Church-sponsored climate march in the capital Seoul on Sept. 23, 2023.

South Korean children participate in a Church-sponsored climate march in the capital Seoul on Sept. 23, 2023. (Photo: Catholic Times)

Published: January 03, 2024 05:28 AM GMT
Updated: January 03, 2024 05:54 AM GMT

The Korean Catholic Church will emphasize works on ecology and environment, supporting the poor, faith, evangelization and implementation of synodality as part of the pastoral priorities in the new year, church leaders say.

The pastoral messages from Korean dioceses emphasized the Church’s role in reflecting Gospel values with an aim to restoring religious life that was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Church has made about a 70 percent recovery from the pandemic effects, but there is “a lot of room for further effort,” said Bishop Augustine Kim Jong-soo of Daejeon.

“There are differences in parish environments compared to the pre and post pandemic era,” Kim explained. “Please do your best to encourage faith through personal encounters with parishioners,” he said.

Many people left the Church during the pandemic and no longer visit churches, said Archbishop Simon Ok Hyun-jin of Gwangju.

“This means that the Church has not been able to meet personal expectations or communal wishes in a rapidly changing era,” the prelate said.

“There is a need to explore once again what the role of and the true nature of the Gospel is. It is solidarity and sharing for the poor,” he said.

The Korean bishops’ Catholic Pastoral Research Institute is expected to publish the “Korean Catholic Church COVID-19 Pandemic Pastoral White Paper” in January. The white paper systematically analyzes the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic and outlines pastoral proposals for churches.

Korean Catholics are encouraged to live the “true meaning of synodality” in keeping with the Universal Church’s spirit of “walking together” as outlined in the Synod on Synodality, said Archbishop Thaddaeus Cho Hwan-kil of Daegu.

“By clearly realizing the form of communion through the principle of synodality, dialogue and listening through the Holy Spirit, the Church must reveal itself to the world as a sacrament of living communion,” he said.

All communities within the diocese must “strive to find and put into practice concrete ways to reveal the spirituality of communion while overcoming the factors that hinder the lives of synodality,” he urged.

Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon said 2025 is the “Pilgrimage of Hope” to embrace new vitality of faith by more concretely practicing the directions of the Synod on Synodality.

“We plan to make every effort to evangelize homes to pass on faith to the next generation, as well as evangelize families, the basic church community, and to revitalize the life of devotion that has been stagnant,” he said.

Rejuvenation of faith and re-evangelization of families are priorities for the new year, said Bishop John Kim Son-tae of Jeonju.

“In order to lay the foundation for a new family evangelization, we want to focus on ‘families that practice love’ in 2024,” he said.

On the last Sunday of every month, all parishes will offer a Mass for the sanctification of the family, he explained.

“Let’s provide an opportunity to learn together at the district or parish level the Church’s teachings on family, life, sexuality, and love,” he urged. 

Father Paul Shin Eun-keun, apostolic administrator of Masan diocese, echoed similar sentiments.

“The family is the space that must first be evangelized and where faith is passed down to the next generation,” he said, adding that the first Sunday of every month will be called “Family Sunday."

“On Family Sunday the family participates in Sunday Mass together and prays and reads the Gospel together,” he said.

Bishop Basil Cho Kyu-man of Wonju declared 2024 as the “Year of Mercy.”

“In preparation for the Jubilee of Pilgrims of Hope in 2025 declared by Pope Francis, we welcome 2024 as a year of remembering and meditating on God’s ‘mercy’ for all. Let’s do it together,” he said.

Ecological and environmental efforts to protect “our common home” through a life of ecological repentance is a priority this year, said Bishop John Chrysostom Kwon Hyeok-ju of Andong.

“There was also a call to embody the Church that lives a life of ecological repentance by listening to the voice of the Earth, the 'common home' created by God,” he said.

“In order for the Church to fulfill its mission of spreading God’s salvation as the light and salt of the world, it must achieve internal communion and unity through ecological repentance and be reborn as an integrated ecological Church that lives together with all creation,” he added.

From the perspective of integrated pastoral care, all are invited to ecological repentance, said Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-hoo of Suwon.

“Now, in order to transition to a sustainable society, we must abandon growth-centered values ​​and transition to a life-centered life,” he said.

All must respect and reflect that the Earth, our common home is “becoming sick because we regard nature as something that can be exploited and forget that we are a part of nature,” he added.

In 2024, the Korean Church will support young people to become leaders of the Church and society as part of preparation for World Youth Day to be held in Seoul in 2027, said Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul.

“As we prepare for World Youth Day together, let us pray that the preparation journey of youth and young adults will be an opportunity for them to grow into young leaders in the Church and society,” Chung said. 

The Korean Church is expected to follow the example of Jesus' brotherly love and social friendship and continue its efforts to participate in loving neighbors and realizing peace in the world, Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu said in his message.

“If you are a Christian, the teachings of Jesus should be your first standard,” he said.

“If you look at the world and live from the perspective of Catholic social doctrine, you will be pleasing to God,” he added.

Bishop Pius Moon Chang-woo of Jeju urged people to work together to create a society where human rights are fully protected.

Bishop Simon Kim Jong-gang of Cheongju said Catholics will continue prayers and efforts for the canonization of Catholic heroes and martyrs including Father Choi Yang-eop.

The priest administered to persecuted Catholics in the mid-nineteenth century during the Joseon dynasty before his death from typhoid in 1861 at age 40.

“Please pray that a miracle, a sign of holiness, will be achieved through Father Choi Yang-eop’s intercession for those in desperate need,” the bishop said.

* This report is brought to you in partnership with Catholic Times of Korea

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