Friday, July 31, 2009

Background to the Faith in Korea Part II

Continued from previous blog.

Bishop Blanc, who succeeded Bishop Felix Ridel as seventh Apostolic Vicar in 1884, assembled the first open synod and published a Directorium Commune or "Rule book of the Korean Church". It was based on records made by Father Ridel of resolutions passed at a conference of priests held from 1868 to 1874 in Chakou, Liaotung, a province of Manchuria (Northeast China) contiguous to Korea. The Bishop's directives guided mission work until revision forty-five years later.

Paris based French missionaries devised a system of registration to keep tabs on who were active and practicing Catholics. It mirrored civil regulations and gave a sense of urgency to being listed as a parish member in good standing. Twice a year the pastor gave an oral exam on prayers and doctrine after which he gave a ticket to be handed in at confession and recorded in the parish registry. The obligation included all from First Communicants to the elderly.

A seminary was established in 1885 with the first ten priests ordained in 1896. The Church started welfare work with a lay run orphanage in 1885 and an old folks home soon after. French Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartes arrived from Saigon in 1888. German Benedictine Fathers and Brothers of the Congregation of Saint Ottilien came to Seoul in 1909 and soon established a presence at Wonsan in present North Korea.

Suffering for the Church was far from over with the end of the Great Persecution(1866-'72). It continued with Japan's hegemony over East Asia beginning as early as 1904 but especially during the whole period of the occupation of Korea (1910-'45) in the form of Japanese hostility to Christianity and opposition to the role of foreign missionaries.

Following World War I which cost a heavy loss of personnel in European missionary institutes, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda in 1922 thought to increase the number of apostolic works in Korea. Maryknoll consented to assume responsibility for the territory northwest of Seoul in the two provinces of North Pyong Yang and South Pyong Yang. Father Patrick J Byrne arrived in Seoul, May 10th, 1923 and was joined in the fall by Father John E. Morris and Patrick H. Cleary to make the original mission band. Father Byrne made his headquarters at Sinwiju ten miles distance from Wiju near the mouth of the Yalu river. Maryknoll Sisters arrived in 1924, German Benedictine Sisters came in 1925 and the Columban Fathers arrived in 1933.

The Centennial celebration of the erection of Korea as a Vicariate Apostolic was held September 26, 1931 in Seoul Cathedral. On this occasion, bishops and priests, foreign and Korean, well qualified both in experience and ecclesiastical training gathered in national synod. Archbishop Edward Mooney, Apostolic Delegate to Japan and later Cardinal Archbishop of Detroit, presided. Representing the Pyong Yang prefecture were Monsignor John E. Morris, and Father Patrick Cleary, Dean Chisholm, Walter Coleman and Leo Sweeney.

Not unlike the first assembly, the synod's purpose was to review and improve the regulations of intervening years. The Directorium was updated and revised as a mission-related compendium of theology, cannon law and liturgy. It became standard reference for pastors in legislative and juridical matters concerning spiritual life, social conduct, mission work and the exercise of pastoral authority. Monsignor Morris described it as a code of regulations applying to all areas, which the faithful were encouraged to follow for their salvation. Responding to Pope Pius XI's call for lay participation, the bishops started a movement for collaboration in evangelization and reminded the laity, of their glorious heritage of responsibility for the faith.

When the missionaries were expelled in 1942-'43 the local clergy under Bishop Francis Hong, who was consecrated June 29, 1943, took responsibility for the Church in Pyong Yang Vicariate. The division of Korea in 1945 brought increased difficulties until finally with Bishop Hong's abduction in May 1949 and the arrest of his priests in the following months the Church ceased to exist in the north.

Meanwhile in the south individual Maryknollers had returned and served at various posts in Seoul and vicinity from 1947-'50. Monsignor Patirck J. Byrne, founder of both Korea and Japan regions, returned from Tokyo in 1947 as Visitator Apostolic for Korea. He was appointed the first Apostolic Delegate in April 1949 and consecrated bishop on June 14, 1949 in Seoul.

On June 25, 1950 the fratricidal Korean War began. Maryknoll priests in the Republic served as chaplains during the fighting 1950-'53. In June 1950 Bishop Byrne was arrested at Myong Dong Cathedral with Father William R. Booth and endured a "death march" to North Korea where he died November 25, 1950 in a prison hut. In 1951 Father Joseph W. Connors established Choryong parish in Pusan.

Renewed emphasis on evangelization and a Second Spring began with the acceptance of a mission field in the Province of Chung Chong Pukto, in September 1953. Personnel included members from the former mission and newly ordained all serving under the leadership of society superior Father James V.Pardy. He was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Cheong Ju in 1958 and installed as first bishop of the diocese in 1962. The Inchon mission opened in 1958. Father Joseph W. Connors was appointed Vicar Forane with ordinary responsibility for the district and islands. Father Joseph P. Gibbons followed as vicar. In 1961 "Father William J. McNaughton was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Inchon and with establishment of the hierarchy in 1962 became first bishop of Inchon diocese. Parishes were staffed in Pusan, Seoul, Suwon and Masan. Like Pyong Yang (1942) in the north, Cheong Ju (1968) and Inchon (2002) dioceses were turned over to a Korean Ordinary.


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