South Korean Catholic priests invited to hold annual services in North Korea
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) announced they will be making annual visits to North Korea at the end of a historic four-day trip across the border. 17 representatives from the Catholic Church in South Korea, including CBCK president Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, had been invited by the State-run Catholic University of Korea to help promote reconciliation between the two countries and mark the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. CBCK spokesman Lee Young-Sik said that “the meeting laid the foundation for further cooperation and exchange among Korean Catholics.”
Yearly services will be held at Changchung Cathedral in Pyongyang – the only Catholic church in the entire region – to celebrate major Catholic feasts. The first visit is scheduled for Easter in March 2016 “and then we will iron out details on how frequently they would visit and lead a mass there,” said Lee Young-Sik. There have even been discussions about the possible construction of a church in Pyongyang.
Father Timothy Lee Eun-hyung, secretary of the Bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of Korean People, said: “We need to consolidate this platform of reconciliation exchanges and collaborations. Today’s Koreans can focus on the future. But now, young people risk becoming indifferent to a past they did not experience first hand and there is a risk of a growing indifference towards the desire to reunite the Korean people. He added “We need to set aside aggressive attitudes, and walk the path of inclusion, forgiveness and reconciliation, which also Pope Francis mentioned when he came to Korea.”
During his visit to South Korea in 2014, Pope Francis had said “All Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people,” at a special mass in Seoul dedicated to reunification of the two Koreas.