New Laity Head To Focus On Social Evangelization

2006-02-24 00:00:00

The newly elected head of the official national Catholic lay council has resolved to "wake up" sleeping laity by educating them and encouraging them to live by the Church´s social teachings.

The Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea (CLAK) elected Thomas Han Hong-soon its president at the plenary assembly it held Feb. 18 at the Catholic Center in Seoul.

"It´s a serious responsibility for me. I´ll do my best to help them to perform their duty as Church," Han told UCA News Feb. 20.

"The Church can be alive when each and every layperson fulfills their apostolate missions in their daily lives. South Korean laypeople are called ´sleeping giants.´ My duty is to wake them up to share God´s words with our society," he said.

Han identified education and formation as the greatest needs for laypeople. He praised the Korean edition of the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," which he said would be the core textbook for the lay-education effort he envisions. The compendium was released last November.

Before being elected to the office, Han had served as acting president of the CLAK since August, when former president John Bosco Sohn Byung-doo resigned to become the first lay president of Jesuit-run Sogang University.

The 62-year-old economics professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies has been a member of Pontifical Council for the Laity since 1984. Han also has served as dean of Hankuk´s College of Business and Economics, 1988-1990 and 1991-1993, and of its Graduate School, 2002-2004.

"The Korean Catholic Church has a proud history and tradition that it was built by the efforts of laypeople. It´s a grace from God, and we will share the grace with our society through dialogue. That could lead to social evangelization," he said.

At the plenary, the CLAK decided to concentrate on evangelization of youth and society. Fabian Choi Hong-jun, the council´s executive secretary, told UCA News on Feb. 20, "This year we will focus on social evangelization and try to help laypeople be the salt and light in society."

As part of this, the council will hold an international symposium this year on the Second Vatican Council´s "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity." Pope Paul VI promulgated the decree, Apostolicam Actuositatem, in 1965, "to intensify the apostolic activity of the people of God."

Choi also spoke about the CLAK´s effort to engage youth. "We will open a youth forum to check the current issues related to the youth ministry and hold a youth festival this September," he said.

Of the 15 diocesan lay apostolate councils in South Korea, 13 sent representatives to the plenary assembly. But only three of the 25 national-level lay apostolate groups that also belong to the CLAK sent representatives.

Uijeongbu diocese, which was erected in 2004, is alone among the 15 dioceses in South Korea and the Military Ordinariate in not having a lay council.

Han hopes to promote the lay movement with cooperation and exchange among Asian Churches. "Through the continuous exchange of experience with Asian Churches, I´ll help Asian laypeople wake up," he told UCA News.

Currently the national lay leader also is president of the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Seoul. He was elected its president on Jan. 14.

According to the Seoul council´s bylaws, members each recommend three suitable persons 14 days before its plenary assembly. The members come from parish pastoral councils and lay apostolate groups in the archdiocese.

The archbishop of Seoul nominates up to three candidates for election from the list of people who receive more than 10 recommendations. This year, three people received more than 10 recommendations, but Cardinal-elect Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk nominated only Han, so he was elected without opposition.


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