Friday, October 12, 2012

Web Page for Pyongyang Diocese

Maryknoll priests and brothers  who worked in North Korea have all died. They would have enjoyed reading the web page recently inaugurated and seeing the pictures of the Pyongyang diocese they knew so well before the Korea War. This was the diocese that was given to Maryknoll by the Paris Foreign Mission Society in 1927 when it was separated from Seoul.

The first prefect apostolic to Korea when it was united  was Fr. Patrick Byrne, who was later made a bishop and died in the forced death march to North Korea in 1950.  He arrived in Seoul in 1949 and was arrested, July 1950, by the Communists after they invaded South Korea.  There are still many Korean priests who remember the history of the diocese and who took the place of the Maryknollers after the repatriation of the Americans at the beginning of the Second World War. 

After the Korean War, many Maryknollers from the North returned to the South to work, as  did the Korean priests who were not kidnapped and killed.
Last year at a meeting of the Seoul diocesan priests, it was decided to create a website like all the other diocesan sites, which finally went online this past month. For those interested :(

At the inauguration of the website, the archbishop of Seoul said that only a spark remained of what was remembered from the N. Korean experience. The  surviving clergy from the Pyongyang diocese are now working in other dioceses in the South. Because of their advanced age, they felt a need to start a website similar to those of the other dioceses so the memories will not fade.

However, the reason for the website is not only to remember the  good days of the past, said the archbishop, but to keep in mind that in God's good time there will be a rebirth of the diocese, which is the hope of those entertaining this dream. There are now 16 seminarians studying in the Inchon diocesan seminary for that eventuality.

This year is the 85th year since the founding of the diocese of Pyongyang. It is also the 80th year of the formation of the Perpetual Help Sisters, the first Korean congregation.

When the diocese was turned over to the Korean clergy, there  were 19 parishes, 106 mission stations and 26,400 Catholics in the diocese; 57,000 Catholics in the North were  31.8 percent of the total number of Catholics in the whole of Korea. In 1948, with the ascendency of communism, difficulties began and many of the clergy and  religious were kidnapped and their whereabouts unknown.

The website contains a brief history, pictures of the ordinaries, the churches built, biographies of some who died at the hands of the communists, and a bulletin board. It is hoped that the website will stir interest among the Catholics who were parishioners in the different parishes of the Pyongyang diocese and had to leave when the war began. The website is an ongoing endeavor, which looks forward to the participation of many who will help to fill in the empty spaces.

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