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Korean ‘prayer priests’ reignite passion for faith

Eight priests conduct 'the Liturgy of the Hours' at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul every day

South Korean priests are seen at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul during the Liturgy of the Hours.

South Korean priests are seen at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul during the Liturgy of the Hours. (Photo: Seoul Archdiocese)

Published: September 26, 2023 11:14 AM GMT

Updated: September 26, 2023 12:00 PM GMT

Seoul Archdiocese in South Korea has seen a revival of faith ever since it designated priests to conduct “the Liturgy of the Hours” at midday on all weekdays inside its cathedral together with lay people.

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-Taick of Seoul appointed eight “prayer priests” last September to revive the passion for faith that has somewhat shrunk due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Sept. 26 press release from the archdiocese.  

The Liturgy of the Hours is offered alternately by the prayer priests sitting on both sides of the altar and the faithful in the pews.

The sound of prayer, without the help of audio devices, extends to every corner of the cathedral, creating a sense of holiness.

Every weekday, the priests lead the Liturgy of the Hours at 7:40 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and 5:30 p.m. (Korean Time) at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul. From 10 a.m., they tour around the cathedral to meet with the faithful, and at 11 a.m., they adore the Eucharist at the cathedral.

“It is very meaningful that the Prayer Priests pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which can be considered the prayer of our church, with the faithful at the cathedral with all their heart,” Archbishop Chung said.

“In addition to prayer, adoration of the Eucharist for 30 minutes or an hour every day is also one of the missions of a Prayer Priest,” he explained.

In the past year, Catholic parishes have started prayer services with inspiration from the prayer priests.

“Many parishes in the Archdiocese of Seoul are holding Holy Hour or Adoration of the Eucharist, and the prayer movement is promoted through the priests’ prayers. I hope this spreads even further,” he added.

The Liturgy of the Hours is not the exclusive domain of clergy and religious, but the prayer of the entire Church, he emphasized, adding that “we would like to encourage faithful to participate in the prayer at this point when we seek to realize a synodal church.”

The new small mission of Seoul Archdiocese is a small step toward “church walking together,” the prelate noted, and added that the faithful can have “a spiritual experience” by praying together with prayer priests which can create “new opportunities in their religious lives.”

Father Laurentius Yoo Seung Rok, the director of the Prayer Priests, said the Liturgy of the Hours is “the basic prayer of the church.”

“It is a mission in which the proclamation of the word and the life of prayer are emphasized a little more,” he said. “It is a symbol of being together with everyone in the solidarity of prayer.”

Father Yoo who meets with the faithful for an hour after morning and afternoon prayers said it has an important meaning.

“It is an important sign that there is a priest who always welcomes the faithful in the Archdiocese’s cathedral as their spiritual companion,” he said.

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