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Korean archbishop ready for big Vatican challenge

New prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy says the Church can do more for poor countries

UCA News reporter, Seoul  

UCA News reporter, Seoul  

Published: June 14, 2021 07:39 AM GMT

Updated: June 14, 2021 08:23 AM GMT

Korean archbishop ready for big Vatican challenge

Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, the new prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, speaks at a press conference in Daejeon on June 12. (Photo: Catholic Times of Korea)

The Catholic Church in Korea and the world have bigger roles and responsibilities to play, especially for poor countries and churches around the globe, says South Korean Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, the new prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.

“I thank the pope and the Holy See for the appointment. My greatest calling is to assist the Holy Father and the Church to grow and expand,” Archbishop You, 69, of Daejeon Diocese said during his first press conference on June 12 following his appointment.

Pope Francis named him as the new head of the Vatican dicastery that oversees diocesan priests and deacons around the world on June 11. The new prefect has also been made an archbishop, the Vatican said.

The Korean prelate succeeds Italian Cardinal Beniamino Stella, who had led the dicastery since 2013.

"In response to the expectations of the pope, the Holy See and the universal Church, the Korean Church will become a bigger church for poor countries and churches. I hope to be able to play my roles and responsibilities,” Archbishop You said.

He noted that the Korean Church started with laypeople and has a unique history of producing martyrs for their faith in Christ, adding that his appointment was a recognition the Church has potential to grow in Korea as well as in Asia and the world beyond.

We give glory to our ancestors who laid the foundation for this faith and passed it on to us

Archbishop You issued a letter to all clergy, religious and laypeople in Daejeon Diocese in which he thanked God for the appointment and requested them to pray for him continuously.

“The appointment of a prefect of the Holy See as direct assistant to the pope, the successor of Peter, is a historic event given to a Korean clergy for the first time. The pope encouraged the Korean Catholic Church to be able to carry out its vocation well as a descendant of the proud ancestors of the faith while celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Andrew Kim Taegon,” the prelate wrote.

“We give glory to our ancestors who laid the foundation for this faith and passed it on to us.”

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul Archdiocese congratulated Archbishop You and thanked Pope Francis for the special gift for the Korean Church.

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“On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Father St. Kim Taegon, not only Bishop You but also the entire Korean Church received a significant gift,” Cardinal Yeom was quoted saying by the Catholic Times of Korea.

“I hope that Archbishop You will support the pope in his new position and bear many good fruits for the Church through his deep spirituality and communication skills.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is a Catholic, also greeted Archbishop You.

“It is not only an honor for the Korean Church but also good news that has raised the status of our country. It is even more meaningful because it is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Father Kim Taegon, the first Korean priest,” President Moon said.

Archbishop You was born in Nonsan on Nov. 17, 1951. He studied in Seoul and obtained a doctoral degree in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

He has been a member of various commissions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea

He was ordained a priest in 1979 and served in Daejeon Diocese in various positions including spiritual director, professor and president of the Catholic University of Daejeon.

St. John Paul II appointed him coadjutor bishop of Daejeon in 2003 and he became bishop of the diocese in 2005.

He has been a member of various commissions of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

Archbishop You hosted events held in Daejeon as part of the Sixth Asian Youth Day, sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences and attended by Pope Francis in 2014. He also attended the Synod on Youth in Rome in 2018.

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