Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pyongyang Vicariate


Maryknoll's work in Korea started in 1923 in the Vicariate of Pyongyang, given to Maryknoll by the French Foreign Missionary Society. The above picture and article appeared in the Peace Weekly this past week; it is the penciled drawing of an old photograph taken in front of the Tai Shin Li Church in Pyongyang. This was the second parish built in the Vicariate after the Maryknoll Society began working in North Korea.  Under the Japanese occupation, they had to change the name of the church to follow administrative regulations. After liberation, it was changed back to the original name, but soon after the work of the Society come to an end with the Communist takeover of the North. .

The first Korean priest of the Vicariate, Fr. Ryang Ki-sep, was assigned to Pyongyang and built the church that we see above. According to the "Korean Mission History of the South," by Fr. Robert M. Lilly M.M., Fr. Ryang, after leaving the North, assisted in project work for the Seoul archdiocese. He had dual citizenship which facilitated travel for fund raising. Through a grant from Miserior, he built the original Saint Mary's hospital which has since moved across the Han river to the south side of Seoul. He later improved the pilgrimage site where the martyr Hwang Sa-yang wrote the silk letter to the bishop of Peking. Fr. Ryang died in 1982.

The second pastor of the parish was Fr. Patrick Duffy. At the start of the Second World War, the following story about Fr. Pat was told: The American missioners were considered enemy and confined in a large Protestant compound in Pyongyang. Fr. Duffy had two passports, Irish and British, and in order to remain within the group, he first presented the British passport, which made him an enemy alien. After several months of that experience, he got fed up and thought he might do better back in his own place. So he presented his Irish passport which made him a neutral, giving him the right to demand his freedom. Returning to his parish again, he became a prisoner there and not allowed off the compound. He couldn't meet anyone and was in worse shape than before, having to stay under house arrest until the end of the war while his follow Maryknollers were repatriated in 1942 and 43. 

He was assigned back to Korea, after the war, but with the country now separated into two halves, north and south, with the occupation of Soviet, and United States forces, the situation provoked a great deal of suffering for the Korean people. After the silencing of Catholicism in the North, Fr.Pat went to Japan where he spent the other half of his 54 years on the missions.

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