A worker sweeps snow from a street in Seoul on Feb. 16. Many Koreans benefit from the Church's financial help during the country's severe winters. (Photo: AFP)
Despite the social and economic hardships from Covid-19 still plaguing lives, Catholics in South Korea have started traditional fundraising as part of charitable activities for the poor during Lent by using their family piggy banks.
Each year Catholics in parishes across South Korea save money in a piggy bank, also known as the Lenten Money Box. The amount is handed over to church officials in respective dioceses to be distributed among poor people or for the diocese’s welfare programs for those in need.
This is an age-old legacy the Korean faithful inherited from their ancestors, which is now coordinated by the Korean Bishops’ Social Welfare Commission.
Every year a significant amount of cash goes to the poor in South Korea and other parts of the world.
However, the pandemic affected the donation drive last year. The amount of donations dropped by about 75 percent, from 218 million won (US$196,120) in 2019 to 51 million won ($45,880) in 2020.
Father Cho Yong-cheol, vice-president of the Catholic Social Welfare Association of Seoul Archdiocese, appealed to the faithful to donate for the poor and needy during Lent.
“In his message for Lent, Pope Francis has reminded us that it is a time for renewal of faith, hope and love. We can spread love to people who are still suffering from Covid-19 around the world,” Father Cho said.
The priest said that this year Seoul Archdiocese will use donations for welfare programs for the poor and needy covering its territories. In addition to family piggy banks, the website of the archdiocese and mobile devices are also being used for the campaign to collect donations from people during Lent.
Similar efforts are underway in other Catholic archdioceses and dioceses, he said.
“In his latest encyclical Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis urged that ‘we must see and respect the poor with compassionate eyes, and achieve true social unity.’ The Lenten donation is an easy way to do this. We can take part in the sharing and find the true meaning of Lent,” Father Cho said.
Christians in South Korea account for about 29 percent of the total population of 51.8 million. Protestants make up the majority and the Catholic Church has about 5.6 million members in three archdioceses and 14 dioceses.