Tuesday, September 16, 2014
In a contribution to the Chosun secular daily newspaper, one of the elder clerics, Monsignor Tjeng Eui-chai, who has a teaching chair at Sogang University, reflects for his readers on the meaning of Pope Francis' visit to Korea.
Pope Francis was a non-European and from a land that was for 500 years a colony of Europe. We have a movement in the 3rd millennium evolving to a common culture and the monsignor sees the pope's visit to Korea in this light.
At the airport we have the pope in the 'Kia Soul', a small car followed by highly placed dignitaries in their big cars. This rare sight is a forerunner of what the future holds in store: power to serve the citizens, wealth to serve the poor, and the strong to serve the weak. In the third millennium we will have the rule that has come down to us from God's creation.
What have the two millenniums of the past shown us? In the first we moved from the Roman Empire that dictated to the whole world to a little town in Bethlehem where a baby was born, like us a human, but worshiped as God; the roads that led to Rome moved to Jerusalem.
In the second millennium we had the religious reformation, and the industrial revolution, and at the same time the dehumanization of humanity with totalitarianism and colonization. With the rise of communism, atheism appeared at its zenith. The two world wars brought us to edge of life and death, but at the beginning of this century we had the example of love in Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and the apostle for the new millennium in Pope John Paul II.
One of the Christians saw the appearance of Pope Francis from the colonized continent on the world's stage as Christ for our times. Pope Francis can be seen as the beginnings of a common culture. He sees the North/South Korean situation as the noble cause of our time and whether we progress or regress will depend on the way we deal with it.
The monsignor sees the popularity of Francis coming from the way he listens to everybody and tries to understand their situation. He sees the problems of others as his own. The poor, the handicapped, the comfort women of the Japanese military, the families of the Sewol tragedy these were all a concern of his. He at the same time showed a great deal of wisdom. On the plane back to Rome he was asked a question about the comfort women and gave a shrewd answer: "Today, the women were there and despite all they suffered they have dignity, they showed it in their faces."
For the monsignor the words the pope addressed to the young people were for him the most memorable: "Stay awake." They are being addressed, the monsignor wants to believe, especially to the young people who are going out to the developing countries of the world on a mission as members of the Korean Peace Corp. They have in less than 50 years come from a undeveloped country to a developed county and have a great deal to teach others in the underdeveloped countries of the world.
The monsignor has been a strong proponent of a Korean Peace Corp for many years and our previous president promised to send young people overseas each year and we have many of them now working in different countries of the world. He finishes the article by hoping the young people will continue to expand their presence all over the world.