Friday, July 19, 2013

The Wisdom of Preparing for Confrontation?

The construction of the navel base in Jejudo is moving ahead, and the bishop of Jejudo, who is also the president of the Bishops Conference, expressed his thoughts on the matter, among others, when interviewed by the magazine With Bible. There has been opposition to the navel base from the beginning, and the Church has taken an active part in siding with the opposition, which would include the majority of the inhabitants on the island. Two government administrations and the present one have considered the navel base necessary for security, and also considered necessary because of the United States' military strategy in North East Asia. Though there have been many attempts to block construction of the navel base, after the last presidential election the work at the base continues as strongly as ever, around the clock. Since the government is adamant, using the power of government to back the construction, there is little that can be done. However, the bishop says they will continue to oppose the construction.

The bishop was asked by the interviewer: Since there are Catholics on both sides of the issue and you are the pastoral head of the diocese, what kind of attitude is necessary?

The bishop answered that from the beginning he was not giving his personal opinion on the issue. He was expressing the teachings of the Church, council texts, encyclicals and the teachings of the pope. Those who are following Jesus have the mission and the duty, he said, to work for peace.This teaching in Korea has been put on hold and has been given little thought because of the confrontation with North Korea, which has made security the number one priority.

Pope John 23 addressed this issue in Pacem in Terris, "There is a common belief that under modern conditions peace cannot be assured except on the basis of an equal balance of armaments and that this factor is the probable cause of this stockpiling of armaments. Thus, if one country increases its military strength, others are immediately roused by a competitive spirit to augment their own supply of armaments. And if one country is equipped with atomic weapons, others consider themselves justified in producing such weapons themselves, equal in destructive force....Hence justice, right reason, and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stock-piles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned." It has been over 50 years since these words were written but the Korean Church has been quiet on the issue, which is a dereliction of duty, the bishop said.

To the question: Why do the  priests get involved in social problems? The bishop answered that before they are social problems they are human problems. When a person's human rights are taken away and we do nothing, that is not the attitude of a disciple of Jesus. When a person made in the image of God is being hurt and the priest doesn't do anything, he is not doing his duty.This is why popes speak about social issues and why priests act accordingly. There are a few priests who are strongly politically motivated, and cause trouble, but those that bring this issue up do not understand Catholicism.

At the conclusion of the interview, the bishop said he hopes that Jejudo will be a place where we will be able to see peace in the way Pope John 23 described in his encyclical. The bishop wants us to see beyond the confrontation with the North. They are not only the same race but the same children of God. Even though it's difficult to understand the reckless provocative behavior of the North, he reminds us that they are left with little besides their pride, and if we can look upon them with magnanimity, he believes it may be possible to settle the confrontation. He hopes that all parties to the conflict will soon take the steps necessary to bring about a speedy and peaceful resolution.


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