Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ecumenicism Doing Well In Korea

Toward the end of May, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, visited Korea for meetings with Buddhist, Confucian and Protestant communities, and representatives of other religious groups. He was accompanied by Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, the secretary of the Pontifical Council. They were invited by the Episcopal Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue.

Korea gets high marks in efforts to be ecumenical  and having  respect for the different religious groups within the country. A brief conversation with the Cardinal was written up in the Peace Weekly.The archbishop responsible for ecumenicism and inter-religious dialogue for the bishops of Korea  was with the Cardinal during the 5-day visit.

The Cardinal noted that the world today is faced with  discord and factional strife among religions. There is no  reason, he said, to reject others because we are different. As a people, we have a great diversity in how we approach and see life, and religious people should acknowledge this difference and be able to work with it.

"Religious people," the Cardinal said, "should open their hearts and go in search of the common good, and work for the happiness of humankind. Dialogue means discovering  our differences and our  common points and fine tuning the differences so that we can come to some sort of agreement. The aim of religious dialogue  is to find a common understanding that will help bring happiness to humankind."

This dialogue is not only for religious leaders but for all religious people. All should be concerned with the problems we are facing and with our efforts to arrive at a common viewpoint which will help make a more just society. The Cardinal believes that the religions in Korea  already have a common understanding of family and the value of life.

He was impressed with the open mindedness of the Korean people to other religions. At the same time he was happy to see the pride they had in their Catholicism and hopes they will want to spread it to other parts of Asia. He also hopes that we will be able to form our communities so they will be attractive to those who come in contact with them.

The Church in Korea takes seriously this  dialogue among religions; the bishops realize this is an important issue in preparing for peace. A journalist who commented on the visit of the Cardinal said Koreans often say there is a similarity in feelings and an area of rapport between Buddhists and Catholics and with the Confucians; except for the ancestral tablets, the Church has no difficulty with the celebration of the rites. There is much in Korean Catholicism, he said, that should help bring us to a shared understanding among the different religions.

Where Is True Happiness To Be Found?

A professor at the Seoul University school of Education, who served in the past government as the minister of education, has some thoughts on happiness he wants to share. Writing in a Catholic magazine, he says that we all live with happiness and unhappiness, and the standard used to judge is different for each person. In most cases, the parents pass their standard of happiness on to the children. 

Nowadays, parents think that children will be happy if they have nice clothes, do well in their studies, and have  exceptional capabilities. More troubling is that some parents want their children to play only with the rich and not associate with the poor, also suggesting they stay away from problem families. It is reported, he said, that some grammar school children use as their standard for making friends how fine an apartment and car other children have.  

Material standards can only be temporary. Some parents see nothing wrong in cheating if you benefit from it. There  is a happiness that follows, but it is the selfish kind. If  by chance, after all the trouble in comparing yourself with others, you lose in the competition, you are left with frustration.

The writer mentions that as a child he spent most of his time at the church. This is where he studied and played; it was the meeting place in town and the only place where you could have fun. They gathered in groups of two and threes to play, and now, looking back, he sees it as his first experience of happiness that gave meaning to his life.

Happiness he tells us can be divided into three different categories. The first comes when when you have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes to wear--satisfying  our natural instincts.  The second is the happiness that comes with the accumulation of money, honors, and success--the satisfaction of achieving material goals. The third is the happiness that comes when serving others--the satisfaction that brings joy and fulfillment in life. There are many who are examples of this way of life.

The professor feels that  society has been overly taken up with the first two: the pleasure and satisfaction of achieving personal and material goals in life. These are all good, he admits. To eat tasty food, have an abundance of financial security, and achieve your personal goals of self-fulfillment do bring happiness. They may give temporary bodily pleasure and emotional delight, but  do not satisfy the search for meaning in life--the craving of the inner life. With temporary satisfaction. we are always tempted to look for different ways to be satisfied, leading us into a vicious circle of failed attempts. 

When we are moved by an altruistic desire to help others, however, this is a value that does not disappear with time, as happens with most of our personal goals. The impressions of a mother raising her children , he reminds us, do not disappear with time but actually grow stronger. The professor ends his article by urging parents to teach their children where true happiness is to be found.