Thursday, June 21, 2018

Peace on the Peninsula

In a diocesan bulletin, a priest reviews the past Catholic contacts with North Korea and his hopes for the future. In March of 1988, the construction of the cathedral in Pyongyang and the Changchung church was completed on Oct. 9th.  

He visited China for the first time in 1998 and met with the believers of the Changchung Cathedral in Beijing. It was a meeting with the official approval of the Republic of Korea authorities but uncomfortable and awkward to be speaking to the North Koreans.

The North Koreans also found it difficult to speak to a stranger. Those who had been baptized before the take over of the Communist were accepted but those who come into the church after that date needed the approval of the government. Those who come into the church are likened to civil servants. After visiting China a number of times, in Oct of  2000, a few months after President Kim Dae Jung held a summit with Kim Jong Il in June, 12 priests and sisters were able to celebrate Mass at the Changchung Cathedral.

At that time over 150 North Korean believers came together after the Mass. They got over their embarrassment and hugging each other, cried at the long separation and situation they found themselves in.  

In Beijing, in 2018, he met the man who is now 64  and on his previous visit was the leader of the community,  similar to the administrator of a diocese in South Korea. Kang Paul who now is much older became the head of the committee of the Chosun Federation of Churches and the head of the North Korean Red Cross. This federation was made up of Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Chondogyo believers of North Korea. In South Korea, he would be considered to have made a  success of life, for he was a  cabinet minister. They talked and drank to late into the night.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Changchung Cathedral. The years have taken a toll on the building and needs repairs. Some time ago a couple of bishops came to Beijing to meet with North Korean believers and promised to help remodel the cathedral. Help to the Cathedral parish was continuing from dioceses in the South until the relationships between the North and South broke down.

The writer mentions in conclusion that the summit between the US President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to make the news. The hope is to see an end to the war and declaration of Peace on the peninsula.

Catholics from the South desire to have Mass with those of the North and receive the Eucharist, a sign of unity. With the grace of God and the intercession of the Blessed Mother we will see a new era in Korea, brothers and sisters living in peace.

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