Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why I Respect Cardinal Kim

Fr. Oh Kyong-hwan a priest of the diocese has an interesting article in our Sunday Bulletin this week. He was a professor in the Seoul Seminary and had the opportunity of meeting the Cardinal often. He not only heard him speak, talked with him, and saw him in action during those years he was able to hear comments about him from others. He feels that the church and society were blessed with his presence as the bishop of Seoul. From the beginning of the 1970s to the beginning of the 90s it was a dark time in Korea. The basic rights of free speech and the media were repressed and those who had difficulty with the state of things were arrested and at times tortured.

During that time the Cardinal reacted, as the ordinary of Seoul, in a very proper way. He was able to do what the times were asking of him and responded appropriately: when all in 1971 were afraid and silent. During the sermon at the midnight Mass that was televised nation wide, he criticized the totalitarian rule of Park Cheong- hee. He became the protector of freedom, democracy and human rights. His was a prophetic stance, the supporter for human rights, but never in the extreme.

In 1987 June 10th at the end of a demonstration denouncing the government by college students, they went to the cathedral. The Cardinal's tone was determined, he told those sent to arrest the students they would have to walk over him, the priests and the sisters to get to the students. This put an end to the attempt.

The Cardinal did not worry on what to do and what to say. He was able to judge what the government was going to do but the big concern was a small group within the Church that were in opposition and criticizing what he was doing. They also began a campaign to remove him from his position by circulating a petition asking for signatures of those that disagreed with his actions. A group of young priests took to the streets to demonstrate against the government. Those who were for and against continued but he never refused the priests from using the Cathedral for prayer meetings against the government.

During this time Fr. Oh was teaching the seminarians what the Church's message was in social teaching. The foundation of this social teaching is: with our intellects, freedom of the will and consciences we are made in the image of God and have dignity. That dignity should never be violated.

The Cardinal always followed the teachings of the Church. Fr. Oh concluded the article saying it was a blessing that he was the ordinary of the diocese. Someone else in that position who was in opposition to what he did, would have given us a very shameful history to deal with and there would have been a delay in democratization of the Country.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, one reason I choose Catholic in Korea was thanks to its awareness in society and politics. Living in the US, I sometimes realize how involved Catholic churches were in society in Korea. I miss it as well.

    Activities by Catholic Priests' Association for Justice, though controversial, are very unique in Korea, and deserve respect from the society.

    To me and most people in Korea, Catholic means awareness and care for minorities.