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Suwon Bishop Warns Against ´Family-Tree Healing´ Practices

Updated: November 13, 2007 05:00 PM GMT
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Bishop Paul Choi Deog-ki of Suwon has issued a pastoral directive warning Catholics against "family-tree healing" practices, which he says runs counter to Church teaching.

Bishop Choi released his four-page directive on Nov. 2, All Souls´ Day. The document was also published in the Nov. 11 issue of the diocesan weekly bulletin.

"Recently, the so-called ´family-tree healing´ practice has been spreading among some faithful in Suwon diocese. It came from overseas and combines Church teachings with non-traditional teachings," he wrote in his letter.

The bishop speaks of concerns that this wrong practice could spread "especially in November, the month dedicated to praying for the souls in Purgatory."

According to the directive, proponents of this practice believe that people inherit their ancestors´ sins, which cause chronic family problems.

The proponents of "family-tree healing," also called "generational healing, argue that if people do not pray for their ancestors´ souls and offer Masses for the removal of their sins, these problems cannot be solved.

Bishop Choi explains that "family-tree healing is a mixture of traditional Church teaching" on the souls of the dead and Oriental religious worldviews. "The belief that people inherit their ancestors´ sins is not part of the Catholic faith," he stresses.

He points out that sins belong solely to the individual and cannot be inherited. Furthermore, baptism frees all Catholics from their past sins, even original sin, he points out.

In his directive, the prelate prohibits meetings where erroneous "family-tree healing" beliefs are propagated. He urges Catholics not to participate in these gathering and to report such cases to parish priests.

Father John Moon Hee-jong, evangelization director of Suwon diocese, told UCA News on Nov. 9: "For the past few years, the Church has been monitoring the family-tree healing practice among the faithful with concern. Bishop Choi issued the directive to warn the faithful not to subscribe to this belief."

The priest, who teaches liturgy at Suwon Catholic University, added that the diocese issued the directive after theological, doctrinal and pastoral investigations into the phenomenon over the past year.

According to Father Moon, "family-tree healing" came to Korea from the United States and has been practiced mostly at charismatic gatherings.

Proponents play on people´s fears by using "threatening words," he added, saying the Church "has to stop them to protect the faith life of Catholics."

He pointed out that Catholicism "is a religion of hope, as believers wait for the resurrection of all people, following Jesus Christ."

The Korean bishops, during their plenary assembly in October, expressed concern that some Catholics have deviated from Church teaching through the misguided "family-tree healing" practice.

They said it arises from an incorrect interpretation of the doctrine of original sin and an incorrect view of the world to come, adding that these errors are combined with shamanism.

As of 2006, Suwon diocese had 672,803 Catholics served by two bishops and 386 priests in 173 parishes and 28 mission stations, according to the Korean bishops´ conference. The diocese has the second-highest number of Catholics in South Korea after Seoul archdiocese.


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