Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon, the new chairman of Caritas Korea. (Photo: OCatholic)
The new chairman of Caritas Korea, the social service agency of the Catholic Church in South Korea, has appealed to the faithful to help embolden the agency’s capacity for sharing and giving for the needy.
Bishop John Baptist Jung Shin-chul of Incheon took over as the new chief on Jan. 25 after being a director of the agency since 2014.
He took the reins just ahead of Overseas Aid Week observed by the Korean Church in the final week of January when donations are collected for aid to various countries.
The theme of the 2021 Overseas Aid Week is “One Human Family, One Common Home.”
Bishop Jung reminded the faithful how they can feel “happier by giving and sharing.”
“In my life I have always believed, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).’ I hope our believers and our society will find happiness in sharing and giving,” the prelate said.
Caritas Korea was founded in 1975 as the Human Development Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK). It became a member of Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of Caritas and Catholic charities, in 1979.
Caritas Korea used to receive aid from other countries until the mid-1980s. in 1993, the CBCK decided to transform the agency into an institution to offer aid to other countries. In 2010, Caritas Korea was restructured to develop and strengthen its institutional capacity and was registered as Caritas Korea International under the foreign ministry.
Since then, Caritas Korea has supported more than 1,015 emergency relief and community development projects in response to humanitarian crises such as famine, natural disasters, communicable disease outbreaks and conflicts for both immediate relief and long-term recovery. These included large-scale disasters such as the conflict in Syria, Boko Haram insurgency, Rohingya refugee crisis, Venezuelan economic insecurity, Southeast Asia floods and human atrocities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
In collaboration with Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Korea has also been playing a leading role to support community development in North Korea since 2006.
Despite such achievements, many in Korea don’t know about the programs and activities of Caritas Korea, which suggests the agency needs better public relations, Bishop Jung said.
“I am thinking about activities to inform people by engaging with the media and parish visits,” the prelate said.
Bishop Jung noted that the Catholic Church in Korea grew with foreign support until the mid-1980s and, thanks to massive economic development, the Church can offer aid to others today.
“One of the main difficulties is a lack of awareness about foreign aid. There are people who still have the question in mind — do we still need help?” the prelate said, adding that people need to know the aid is for people in other parts of the world.
He expressed concerns that due to Covid-19 donations and sponsorship might decrease significantly and requested people to think about helping neighbors facing even more difficulties.
“It may be difficult. Yet let us try to blossom the love of sharing for those in need in the world through your help,” Bishop Jung added.