ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - “Make me an instrument of your peace”: Catholics in the North and South recite the prayer for reconciliation together

Tuesday, 9 January 2024 prayer   eucharist   reconciliation   wars  

Arcidiocesi di Seoul

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - As the world looks with concern at the political and military tensions between North and South Korea that have increased in recent days, the Catholic faithful gathered today in Seoul and Pyongyang in prayer to call for peace and reconciliation . A special "Mass for Reconciliation" was celebrated at Seoul Cathedral, an initiative launched by Cardinal Stephen Kim in 1995 and constantly carried out - with the Eucharist or with simple prayer - by the Catholic community on both sides of the 38th parallel border. Today's Eucharist, January 9th, is the 1,400th Eucharist (see Fides 3/1/2024) in the sign of reconciliation. After the Mass of Reconciliation, according to a communiqué from the Archdiocese of Seoul, "those present recited the prayer attributed to St. Francis, which says: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, that I may love where one hates; that I forgive where one offends." Today, this prayer, said by the faithful of the "Association of North Korean Catholics" recognized by the government in Pyongyang, also resounds across the border. In fact, on August 15, 1995, Augustine C. Park, a Korean priest who for many years carried out pastoral service in the United States, visited Pyongyang and managed to agree with this group of North Korean Catholics to use this text as a "prayer for reconciliation". Since then, the faithful in the Seoul Cathedral and the Association of North Korean Catholics at Changchung Church in Pyongyang every Tuesday pray this prayer in spiritual communion and intention. At the Mass celebrated in Seoul today, Auxiliary Bishop of Seoul Job Yobi Koo, who presided over the Eucharist, recalled in his homily that "Cardinal Stephen Kim's motivation for introducing this Mass was not 'for change of each other', but to pray 'for the grace of reconciliation and unity' from God. As a result, one wants to "pray that we become an instrument of forgiveness and reconciliation through which all people in this country can unite in love".
Msgr. Koo pointed out that "on the Korean peninsula and throughout the world, an attitude of threat towards one another is encouraged and peace is sought with weapons rather than through encounter and dialogue. Therefore, the glimmer of reconciliation is getting weaker and weaker." The bishop also recalled that the South Korean Church celebrated a Mass for Peace on the 70th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War, on July 27, 2023. For this celebration, Pope Francis sent a message blessing the Korean peninsula "to encourage us to become prophets of peace," he said. In the "Urbi et Orbi" message for Christmas 2023, the Pope also expressed the hope that the day would come when the fraternal bonds on the Korean peninsula would be strengthened and paths of dialogue and reconciliation would be opened up, which would create the conditions for lasting peace." "Now," Bishop Koo concluded, "it is time to give up hatred and follow the path shown by Jesus. Let us pray together that we become true apostles of peace." The tradition of this special Eucharistic celebration began on March 7, 1995, with the first Mass of Reconciliation celebrated by Cardinal Stephen Sou-hwan Kim, then Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang. At the beginning, the bishops and priests of Seoul took turns celebrating mass. From 2000 onwards, it was the community's newly ordained priests who presided over the Eucharist. This tradition continued every Tuesday at 7 p.m. for 29 years, with only a brief interruption due to the pandemic. In May 2017, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Cardinal Andrea Soo-jung Yeom, then Archbishop of Seoul, wanted to add the practice of praying the Rosary after Mass for reconciliation with an extraordinary pastoral letter, with the intention of entrusting peace on the Korean peninsula and peace in the world to the Virgin Mary. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/1/2024)