Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How Will Korea Deal With Secularization?

A team leader on the editorial staff of the Catholic Times, in the Desk Column, writes of  her trip to Ireland. Beginning with a brief history of the country, she then tells us that thanks to the Columban missionary priests, who have  worked in Korea for many years, she felt very much at home in Ireland.  It was like visiting  an old friend.

She recounts the work of the monks in the monasteries as they painstakingly copied manuscripts. Ireland was a leader in producing works of the mind during those early  centuries of Christianity. But dark times were soon to follow. In the 12th century, the invasion of the Normans brought difficult changes to the country, and in the 17th  century the English made Ireland a colony, plundering and oppressing the common people.  With the English Reformation, there was a long period of religious wars and persecution. And 160 years ago, over a million died of starvation, and over a million left for other countries.

At the time of Henry the VIII and Queen Elizabeth, the Church suffered much.  There were few bishops, and the courageous clergy enabled the Church to put down roots during these difficult times.  Following this, we had the Easter Uprising and the civil war.  Catholic Ireland and the  citizens left their individual piety and became conscious of their own common identity. 

Nowadays, the  strength of the once powerful Irish Church, once called the Irish Tiger, has been severely weakened by the sudden economic growth of the country and the  secularization of the culture. The clerical sexual scandals have also  diminished the authority of the clergy and the Church. And few young people are seen in Church, the press estimating that only about 5 percent are attending Mass, and in certain areas it is as low as 2 percent.

A  high-ranking  cleric in the Church of Dublin said he can't refrain from being concerned about the  effects of the culture and  economics on  the country, which have brought about the secularization, alienating  many of the young  from Catholicism.  But others see the problem as the failure of Catholics to examine what it means to be a true Christan.

Next year Ireland will host the 50th Eucharistic Congress; its theme will be: "The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and With One Another." It will be a time to hope for the renewal of Catholicism in the country, the catalyst necessary for a new journey, with a new atmosphere, that will challenge everyone to a new faith life.
The columnist compares Korea with Ireland, which has had a Catholic history of over 1000 years. Ireland has dramatically shown what can happen in the encounter with secularization.  She can't help but wonder how the Korean Church will fare in handling this same encounter as it intensifies in our own secularizing society. She hopes that what happened in Ireland will be a teaching example of what not to do.                                        

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