Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Cardinal's Feelings On Keeping Peace

Cardinal Chong Jin-suk of Seoul was interviewed by the Chosun Ilbo as part of the series on the Korean War, "I and the Korean War." "Just seeing the title of the series," said the Cardinal, made me recollect the past. Ordinarily, I don't even want to think about it... the whole thing was so tragic I thought I had forgotten, but no, reading the series, I experienced it all over again."

At the start of the war, the Cardinal was studying at Seoul National in the Enginering Department. He wanted to be an inventor. Experiencing the cruelty of the war, he changed his mind and decided to become a priest.

Those who have experienced war have an understanding quite different from others. For them, he said, justice and peace are necessary for forgiveness. The interviewer mentioned that the Cardinal rarely speaks about personal matters, but felt that the matter being discussed here was important enough to prompt the Cardinal to share some of his feelings.

When the interviewer asked the Cardinal for his understanding of forgiveness in Catholicism, he replied, "Since I am a religious person, there are those who will want me to say that I should forgive unconditionally, but forgiveness has conditions. In the Catholic's understanding of confession, there are five steps. Reflecting on what was done, expressing sorrow, resolving not do it again, confessing publicly, and compensating for what was done. If one does not have these requisites, it shows no real desire to be forgiven and the forgiveness is without meaning.

For young people who have not experienced war but want peace, the Cardinal quotes the Latin phrase: Si vis pacem para bellum (If you want peace be ready for war). Peace does not come naturally, he said. Our history shows us if we can't defend ourselves, we will lose both freedom and peace; we have to be able to defend ourselves. Preparations for self defense are necessary.

In speaking of war and peace, it is easy to make it sound very complicated with all kinds of conditions. The Cardinal was very blunt and clear in what he expressed, but with so many variables on this issue it is difficult to come to a consensus. Over the centuries, the Church has developed the just war theory and until something better comes along it is a good starting point. War should only be a last resort when all conceivable alternatives have been tried and have failed. Hopefully, the recent Chon An incident will have the input of the United Nations before any unilateral action is taken. We can dream and pray for a different world order, but until we have a consensus on disarmament, it's good to keep in mind the Cardinal's Latin phrase: "If you want peace be ready for war"-- defense will always be part of the present wisdom.

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