Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with the Bishop of Wonju Korea

The Wonju Diocese, one of the smaller dioceses in Korea (click here for an overview of the statistics), was the subject of an interview, written up in the Peace Weekly, with Bishop James Kim Ji -seok, the second ordinary of the diocese.

The interviewer asked about the foreigners now living in the diocese, those who are married to Koreans.

The bishop said this seldom happened in the past, but now we need to be concerned with families from different cultural backgrounds, and to get rid of the idea of being a homogeneous people concerned only with our own problems. We shouldn't forget who we are, our cultural heritage, but we have to become interested in learning the culture of those who have chosen to live among us, and they also have to become acquainted with ours. So far, there has been little progress, but we have to continue our efforts to accept those from another culture as Koreans and as Christians.

The diocese of Wonju has 10 percent of their priests working in social welfare projects; the bishop was asked the reason for this emphasis.

He said that Bishop Tji Hak-Soon, the first bishop, was very much interested in the poor and the alienated in the diocese, that the nation has a responsibility to help, and that it is also a concern of the Church.

He was asked about the large area of the diocese and the many mission stations and what he, as bishop, thought of the pastoral care of these mission stations.

The bishop agreed that there were many mission stations and that the area was large. The catechists and the volunteers are doing much good work but there is much not being done. I have, he said, for the past few years tried to get retired sisters to come and live in the mission stations, to pray and to teach; their presence alone helps to evangelize. One of the mission stations with the sisters in residence has come to a point where it will become a parish.

The interviewer asked a question (on the minds of many) concerning what our position should be when it comes to politics, the environment, and our relationship to North Korea. He stressed that there are all kinds of viewpoints, and it's difficult to know who is right or wrong. How are we to decide from among so many?

The bishop said it's not an easy question to answer. Everyone has his own way of thinking about these subjects. This is a fact, but when it comes to problems of life we have to have one voice. This teaching on life is very clear. To preserve life is the absolute duty of the Church. This does not change with the times and is a standard we should be united on.

The bishop was asked for some words that he would like to address to his Christians.

This Diocese is a small diocese, he said. At some of the diocesan functions we have had about 100 people attend. Because we are small, we have the opportunity to be more like a family; any Christian can easily meet and talk with his pastor. This is a sign of community. Those who leave the diocese find they very much miss this communal atmosphere. I pray that this feeling of community does not change.