Monday, January 3, 2011

Another Viewpoint on the North-South Relationship

A professor  at the Catholic University and a member of the Seoul Diocese National Reconciliation Committee discusses in the January issue of Kyeongyang Magazine the efforts of the Church to heal the wounds that have developed between North and South Korea. 

Since 1988 the Church has worked  pastorally for  reunification. They ceased using the word evangelization of the North because this would be looked on negatively. It was an effort on the part of the Church to heal the wounds of the past and express themselves in a manner that would not antagonize the North.

Another example of the efforts of the Church to begin working on a  spirituality for  unification is the change they made in 1992 to  the wording to the prayer for the Silent Church. This was seen as an  affront to North Korea so  we pray now for National Reconciliation  and Unity. This change that has taken place in the Church has  not yet according to the writer become the spirituality of the Catholics.

The  Church in the North at Liberation had three dioceses: Pyongyang, Hamhung and the Benedictine Abbey in Tokwon. (The territory of Hwanghae-Do Province was part of the Seoul Diocese.) The Catholic population of North Korea at that time was over 50,000. In 1949 the Abby at Tokwon was closed,the bishop and all the priests were taken into custody and the whereabouts of the bishop of Pyongyang was unknown. The structure of the Church in the North was destroyed. 

In 1980 the North changed their treatment of religion. Seven years later a group in Pyongyang invited representatives from the Vatican to come for a visit. The Seoul Diocese formed a group representing the Church and met five Catholics  in Pyongyang. In April of 1988, two of the five Pyongyang Catholics had an audience with the Pope and attended Easter Mass. Later that same year, plans were made to build the Changchung Catholic Church in Pyongyang. When the church was completed, the first Mass was celebrated by a group from Seoul.

In 1995, the 50th anniversary of liberation and division, there was a stirring for more pastoral concern for reconciliation. The Cardinal was making preparations for a visit to the North, and the parishes were putting aside 3 percent of their income to help in unification. And there were efforts to give the North humanitarian aid: A factory for making noodles was started and a place was set up for distributing food to  children.
The Church has recognized the de facto division of the country, their history and socialistic government, and in humility will deal with this reality. However, from 1995 until the present the only efforts that have been made are material help to the North. No other efforts have been made by the Catholics in the North and the Church in the South. There were  plans for building a center for reconciliation but  because of money difficulties nothing has developed. Although more than 10 million dollars have been set aside, it will not be used to help in reconciliation but to help later, after unification.
The professor feels that the North is not solely responsible for the North-South problem; the South also can be faulted for not continuing ts pastoral initiative to the North. He wonders how God would look upon the way we have let things go instead of working along with the providence of God with regard to the North.    

Here again we have the conflict between those in favor of the Sunshine policy and the present policy of the government. Our writer in his article shows us clearly where he stands, even though  faced with the current  problems with the North.

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