Saturday, November 14, 2009

A New type of Pilgrimage

We live in a very fragmented world and few seem to want to put the pieces together. Religions are not known to help and often are given much of the blame for the walls and divisiveness. When it comes to religions, many go back into the past to haul out some of the horrific stories and those they see in our present times, and do little to situate the events in the history of the times; it is what they are doing today to unify human kind that should be of as much interest.

A diocese in the southern part of Korea is involved in an experiment which in the words of the bishop is unique. The Buddhist, Won Buddhists and Catholics with the different civilian magistrates of the areas have staked out a pilgrimage route of 180 kilometers ( 112miles), that walking for 8 hours a day would take 5 nights and 6 days to walk. They stop at the Catholic sites, Buddhist temples and the cultural land marks along the way.

This was highlighted by the Peace Weekly in the recent edition. The bishop of the diocese joined 1200 pilgrims on their inaugural pilgrimage; the sponsoring group has been incorporated and these three entities will work to develop the route: the religions, the civilian magistrates and the cooperation.

The bishop gave the talk at the Buddhist temple and the Buddhist monks gave the talk at the Catholic shrine. Because of rain on the second day only 200 continued. The bishop stayed with the group for 2 days and finished before he left with a Mass two days from the start. How this will develop, no one knows, but it is a dream of becoming closer to nature, becoming more of what they would like to be , and respecting each other in the process.

Pope John Paul did give us an example of breaking down walls and the Diocese of Jeonju is showing that it can be done in Korea. It is showing respect for other religions in a very religious way: to maintain your convictions and respecting the convictions of others, should not interfere in being brother and sister to the other.

The Korean Civilian Magistrates are not opposed to helping other faith groups if the citizens are helped which is a different way of looking at the relationship of State and Religion. There will be many praying for their success and looking to see how this can be spread to other areas of life.

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