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Korean, Japanese churches strengthen pastoral cooperation

Catholics in two countries can work together for greater unity despite challenges, church leaders say
Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon Diocese in South Korea speaks to a group of Japanese priests during their visit on June 6

Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon Diocese in South Korea speaks to a group of Japanese priests during their visit on June 6. (Photo: Catholic Times)

Published: June 14, 2023 11:12 AM GMT

Two groups of Japanese priests visited South Korean dioceses with the aim to strengthen friendship and cooperation between churches on various issues including undocumented migrants, catechesis for the elderly and children, and a decline in religious vocation.

The priests’ group from the Diocese of Fukuoka of Japan along with Spanish Bishop Josep Maria Abella Batlle paid visits to Incheon from June 5-9.

The Japanese priests joined a training program at the Social Pastoral Center of the Incheon Diocese.

On June 6, they held meetings with the clergy of the diocese to share pastoral activities on issues such as migration, catechesis, and religious vocation.   

During the meeting, the priests of both dioceses pledged to promote cooperation despite challenges like language barriers.

Prior to the meeting, the Japanese delegation attended the Eucharistic Exaltation Mass and the Eucharistic Procession presided over by Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon at the Eucharistic Pilgrimage Shrine in the Gimpo Catholic Church.

They also paid visits to the Dapdong Catholic Church and the Incheon Diocese History Museum.

Bishop Jung presented a statue of the Korean Virgin Mary and an unknown martyr to Bishop Abella.

"I hope that the two countries, having their first meeting as a group of priests, may speak different languages, but become one in God and achieve a greater unity that helps each other." the prelate said.

Bishop Abella said that the Diocese of Fukuoka is grateful for the support of the Incheon Diocese which dispatched Korean priests to serve in his diocese.

Earlier, on May 24-27, another Japanese delegation of 10 people led by Bishop Paul Yoshinao Otsuka of Kyoto Diocese paid visits to the Diocese of Jeju.

They visited Jeju diocesan offices and attended a prayer gathering dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The group held a meeting with Bishop Pius Moon Chang-woo of Jeju and discussed the history of the diocese and its cooperation with the Kyoto Diocese dating back to 2005.

Since then, Kyoto Diocese has been sending pilgrims to the Blessed Virgin Mary shrine in Jeju. On the other hand, youths from Jeju Diocese have been participating in Hiroshima Peace Camp hosted by Kyoto Diocese.

The cooperation between the Japanese and Korean dioceses was halted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Church leaders say promoting friendship and cooperation between churches in the two countries is important as many Koreans still hold a negative attitude towards Japan for its colonization of Korea (1905-45) and various forms of oppression and abuses.  

In April, a group of Korean Catholics made a "pilgrimage of reconciliation and peace" and paid visits to several cities in Japan that hold memorial sites related to the Japanese occupation and persecution of Koreans.

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

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