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Korean Church remembers Halloween tragedy victims

Church leaders, family members call for truth and justice for Itaewon stampede victims one year on
Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Yu Gyeong-chon of Seoul, apostolic vicar for social ministry of Seoul archdiocese, comforts the bereaved families of the Itaewon tragedy victims on Oct. 29 at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.

Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Yu Gyeong-chon of Seoul, apostolic vicar for social ministry of Seoul archdiocese, comforts the bereaved families of the Itaewon tragedy victims on Oct. 29 at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul. (Photo: Catholic Times of Korea)

Published: November 03, 2023 08:17 AM GMT
Updated: November 03, 2023 08:54 AM GMT

Catholics in the South Korean capital Seoul participated in memorial Masses to mark the first anniversary of the Halloween tragedy that left 159 people, mostly young adults, dead and scores injured.

Hundreds attended a Mass joined by relatives of the victims at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on Oct. 29.

Following the Mass, Church leaders and laypeople met with the relatives to console them for their loss and promised to continue supporting them.

The anniversary event was organized by the Social and Pastoral Affairs Department of the Archdiocese of Seoul.

Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Yu Gyeong-chon of Seoul, apostolic vicar for social ministry in Seoul archdiocese presided over the Mass and said the Church stands in solidarity with the victims for truth and justice.

“The reason we are offering a memorial Mass today on the first anniversary of the Oct. 29 disaster is to hold hands and stand in solidarity with the bereaved families who are suffering from the sorrow of losing their loved ones,” Yu said during the homily.

“It reminds us that the truth must be uncovered and those responsible must be properly punished in order to prevent such disasters from recurring,” he added. 

Family members shared how the disaster and the loss of loved ones brought unending suffering for them.

“I have spent the past year feeling sorry and saddened by the many things that have not yet been resolved regarding the deaths of the children,” said Michael Hyeong-woo, Vice Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Itaewon Disaster Victims' Families Council.

“I am grateful to the believers who reached out first and supported us after the deaths of our children. I hope you will pray with us so that the truth about this can be revealed as soon as possible so that the children can find eternal rest with the Lord,” he said.

Meanwhile, two other memorial Masses were celebrated at Seoul City Hall on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 where hundreds of Catholics participated.

The masses were arranged by the National Priests for the Realization of Catholic Justice and the Justice and Peace Committee of the Social and Pastoral Department of the Archdiocese of Seoul.

Father Leo Ha Chun-soo, who co-celebrated the memorial Mass, also called for truth and justice.

“I put my hand on my heart and ask for my conscience to those who promised to take responsibility for the lives and safety of the people and then ascended to such a high position and only thought about their own life and safety.

“We must try to soothe the hearts of parents and siblings who are grieving in inconsolable sorrow, and we ask President Yoon Seok-yeol and the People Power Party to enact the ‘October 29 Disaster Special Act’ as soon as possible to prevent such tragedies in future,” he added.

The Halloween stampede tragedy on Seoul’s Itaewon district on Oct. 29, 2022, sparked fierce public criticism of the authorities for lax crowd control.

The tragedy occurred when around 100,000 people — mostly in their teens and 20s, wearing Halloween costumes — had poured into its narrow, winding streets for partying, resulting in a deadly crush.

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

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