ASIA/NORTH KOREA - A South Korean ecclesial delegation with four bishops visit North Korea

Saturday, 5 December 2015 dialogue  

Pyongyang (Agenzia Fides) – The 17-member delegation’s visit representing the South Korean Catholic Church ended on 4 December. The delegation included four bishops – among them, Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the South Korean Bishops’ Conference – priests and representatives of the Church committees for the reconciliation of the Korean people, present in all dioceses and the Benedictine Abbot, Simon Peter Ri Hyeong-u, of the Abbey of Waegan. They had been officially invited by the Catholic University of Korea, an organization headed by the North Korean regime. Before departure, Mgr. Kim Hee-joong, Archbishop of Gwangju, had expressed before the media the hope "that in the future more and more South Korean priests will travel to North Korea to celebrate Mass".
In the talks the possible reconstruction of a church in Pyongyang was also discussed. The delegation also had a dialogue meeting with Kim Yong Dae, vice president of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, on how to improve relations between the two Koreas
In the past, other Korean Bishops had individually visited North Korea, but since the Korean peninsula was split in half a delegation representing the South Korean Catholic Church has, for the first time, crossed the border to visit the northern part of the Peninsula.
During the visit, the bishops and priests from the South also tried to update themselves on the real situation of the Catholic communities which are apparently still present in North Korea. They have been deprived of ordained ministers who could celebrate mass and listen to confessions, for decades.
This official visit by the South Korean Catholic delegation is especially significant in light of the ever greater role the South Korean Church plans to play in the context of national reconciliation and a possible reunification of the two Koreas. "We need to consolidate this platform of reconciliation intensifying exchanges and collaborations. Today’s Koreans can focus on the future. But now, young people risk becoming indifferent to a past they did not experience first hand and there is a risk of a growing indifference towards the desire to reunite the Korean people", explains to Fides Father Timothy Lee Eun- hyung, secretary of the bishops' Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean people and the chaplain of the "Church of repentance and redemption", which was inaugurated in 2013, just a few kilometres from the border, where prayers and liturgies are held every week to invoke the gift of reunification. "We need to set aside aggressive attitudes, and walk the path of inclusion, forgiveness and reconciliation, which also Pope Francis mentioned when he came to Korea" adds Father Timothy. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 05/12/2015)