Saturday, May 9, 2020

Maturing of Korean Catholicism

The World Congress of 'SIGNIS', is a gathering of Catholics from around the world engaged in the communication fields: TV, radio, movies, and the Internet, their meeting will be held in Korea in 2021. An article in the recent issue of the Catholic Peace Weekly by the Korean representative gives us some ideas of the movement.

The World chairman sent a message to SIGNIS Korea saying: "I approve the hosting of the SIGNIS World Congress in Seoul and hope this meeting will contribute to the peace on the Korean Peninsula and the Korean church to communicate with the world church." 

The official name is the World Catholic Communication Association and is currently working with international organizations. The SIGNIS world headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium and the Secretariat is in Rome. There are over 100 member countries worldwide, and about 500 members in Korea. The SIGNIS World Congress will be held in August 2021 at Sogang University. More than 300 world Catholic journalists will be visiting Korea, and a great opportunity to make known the work of Korean Catholicism.

Imagination is needed everywhere. Recently Korea has been in the international news with its efforts on control of the Coronavirus. What is called the 'Korean Wave' is spreading out beyond songs, TV dramas, and Korean food.

In 2014, the writer went to an overseas Catholic Convention for the first time. It was a meeting of Asian Catholic communicators, members of SIGNIS. He felt very uncomfortable since it was his first meeting outside the country. There were a number of participants who wanted the next meeting to be in Korea. The host country, Indonesia, during a celebration performance a woman sang Arirang in Korean and the last song was the Korean pop song Because of You, sung by all.

Korea's Catholic activities within the Cursillo Movement were noted. There are more than 5.5 million Curisillistas in 67 countries in the world, and 220,000 in Korea. They regularly meet in each parish. In particular, it is said that there is even a young men's group. He admits that he doesn't have all the facts but he wonders if there are any countries where the Legion of Mary is as active as in Korea.

Laity's work can also be found right from the beginning of Catholicism. Korean Catholics brought faith to the country without direct help from foreign missionaries. The ancestors of the present believers gathered themselves to practice and study Catholicism and begged a priest to be dispatched from Beijing. In the midst of persecution, many lay people were martyred along with the foreign missionaries. The holy traces of the 103 saints and the 124 blessed are present all over the country.  
'Seoul’s Catholic Pilgrimage Route' was proclaimed as Asia’s first official international pilgrimage site by the Vatican. The recognition as an international pilgrimage site was made official at the proclamation ceremony sponsored by the Archdiocese of Seoul.

In the course of the corona quarantine, Koreans were able to take pride in what they accomplished, getting rid of some of the timidity, overwhelmed by Western culture. Korea in only a half a century was one of the only countries that achieved economic growth and democratization at the same time.

There is also the objection that the gap between rich and poor widened during the rapid process of growth and social conflict deepened. The church also heard criticism that internal growth did not match the external growth and hearing that we are a  'well-being church' was stinging. The body grew but the spirit remained immature.

The body develops first, the mind gradually matures and becomes an adult. Korean Catholics have already turned from being a receiving church to one that shares. Korean missionaries go to South America, Africa, and even Europe. Korean Catholics, have achieved external growth and working to achieve qualitative growth, the Catholic Korean Wave is becoming a reality, not only a dream.

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