2020 Spring General Assembly of the CBCK
Address of the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea
(March 17, 2020)
Your Eminence Cardinal,
Your Excellency, the President of the CBCK,
Your Excellencies, Dear Bishops of the Church in Korea,
The Right Reverend Abbot,
We gather together for the first time this new year, on the occasion of the General Assembly of the CBCK. I am honored to offer you and the Church in this beloved nation, the best wishes of the His Holiness Pope Francis for this year. I thank the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the CBCK, who, on behalf of Your Excellencies and members of the CBCK, invited me to your assembly.
The recent 7th anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the Throne of Peter invites the community of believers to ask Christ, who chose him, to bestow wisdom and health on His Vicar, for the good of the Church and of the whole of humanity. We are also grateful to him for the gift of his latest Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, which spurs us on to make a renewed commitment to evangelization, seeking new ways to bring men and women closer to Christ. This exhortation can also be of great pastoral impulse for the Church in Korea, called to face in its own ways the great and pressing challenges of developed societies, particularly that of people who have fallen away from the faith, especially among the younger generations.
Dear brother bishops, in renewing a keen appreciation for your apostolic zeal by showing pastoral leadership in the local Churches, I wish to mention three themes which might be worthy of reflection.
A. Ongoing formation of clergy and lay people:
The ongoing formation of clergy and lay people is one of the most lively and constant concerns in the life of the Church, especially since the II Vatican Council.
The Pontifical Magisterium offers multiple documents to help bishops guarantee that priests receive adequate ongoing human, spiritual and intellectual formation. First, we should remember the new Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, a guiding document for the formation of future priests, edited by the Congregation for the Clergy. The Ratio states that the integral and ongoing formation of the priest is understood as “one unbroken missionary journey of discipleship” (n.55). Challenges which come along with social changes require priests to make credible testimony, based on a mature faith and continuous growth in the spiritual and human life. Pope Francis reminds us, “The formation of which we speak is an experience of permanent discipleship, which draws one close to Christ and allows one to be ever more conformed to Him. Therefore, it has no end, for priests never stop being disciples of Jesus, they never stop following Him. Thus, formation understood as discipleship accompanies the ordained minister his entire life and regards his person as a whole, intelectually, humanly and spiritually” (Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Participants in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, November 8, 2014).
In addition to the ongoing formation of clergy, I would like to mention the formation of the lay faithful. According to a report recently published by the Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea: over the last twenty years, while the number of Catholics has steadily increased, lately the pace has slowed considerably and attendance of the faithful at Sunday Masses has recorded a significant drop, from 29.5% to 18.3%. I join with you, the bishops, in suggesting that we look carefully at the need for catechetical meetings for adults. Catholic generations in the past committed themselves to transmitting the Christian faith to their children, but today they are unable to do this because they lack adequate training. The new evangelization, prophetically launched by Pope Paul VI with his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi and implemented by his successors, also includes pastoral care of those who are already baptized but who are in need of re-evangelization. With a systematic and permanent catechesis, the faithful rediscover the richness of the Christian faith and become active collaborators with priests in pastoral and liturgical actions. The programs of the Church in Korea, aimed at theological formation and timely pastoral activity for the lay faithful, are appreciated, and you, dear pastors, are called to ensure that these catechetical courses are operational in each of your parishes.
Animated by the desire to consolidate and transmit the faith to future generations, I ask the Holy Spirit to support your discernment and encourage you to draw upon your proven experience of service gained over years of episcopal ministry.
B. Political life:
Many observers praise the country for its political balance, which is so important in dealing with urgent issues, particularly delicate relations with neighboring countries. We hope for a revival of the economy and dialogue with North Korea together with an ever greater internal stability based on justice, solidarity and peace.
The Social Doctrine of the Church ensures that teaching ethics of social and political life is not an undue extension of the Church’s functions. Rather they are a form of charity through which moral principles are transmitted and, in turn, make society solid and developed. Such a path is an integral part of the Church’s mission to participate in citizens’ anxieties and contribute to the growth of national society, while avoiding partisan positions and, all the time, pursuing the way of synodality, as desired by Pope Francis. As you know, this will be the theme of the Synod of Bishops in 2022.
Dear brothers, some may perceive different attitudes towards the theme of reconciliation on this peninsula. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the words of Pope Francis in his Message for the 53rd World Day of Peace: “The journey of reconciliation calls for patience and trust. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for.... Fear is frequently a source of conflict. So it is important to overcome our human fears and acknowledge that we are needy children in the eyes of the One who loves us and awaits us, like the father of the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15,11-24). The culture of fraternal encounter shatters the culture of conflict.” In the concluding Mass of his apostolic journey to Korea, the Supreme Pontiff Francis implored God for the grace of peace and reconciliation, which has a particular resonance on the Korean Peninsula. During his homily he said: “Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people. They speak the same language” (Homily, Cathedral of Myeong-dong, Seoul, August 18, 2014).
C. Approaching the Church in China:
I sincerely welcome the commitment shown towards the beloved Chinese Catholic community with the commendable initiatives carried out by some of you; the results have been edifying. In a spirit of deep communion with the Holy Father and in accordance with the instructions sent to you by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, you will be sure to communicate about activities and individual initiatives to the said Dicastery by sending reports on these matters. The Apostolic Nunciature is happy to be your correspondent in these matters. The Holy See appreciates the diligence shown so far in your approach to this important work. While encouraging perseverance in building bridges of dialogue and friendship, the Holy See hopes that the pastors of those communities together with their faithful will be able to experience collegial affection and the effective proximity of the Catholic Church so as to achieve full ecclesial unity.
In the emergency situation due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has already caused the death of thousands of people around the world, the thoughts of the Holy Father go out to the affected populations. Help sent by the local Church to China and hospitality offered by some of you to patients in other dioceses has been greatly appreciated. The timely precautionary measures that you have adopted, in full collaboration with the civil authorities in charge of dealing with this situation of national health crisis, are to be commended.
Through the maternal intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, patroness of the Church in Korea, may the Lord bless you and guide your work in this General Assembly. Thanks for your kind attention.
+ Alfred Xuereb
Apostolic Nuncio in Korea