Archbishop You: South Koreans united, hope amid the coronavirus

Many experts concur that the South Korean model of tracing and tracking the coronavirus emergency is a model to be emulated. The bishop of Daejeon praises the actions of the authorities and praises the citizens' response. "They showed great love of neighbor. It was deeply moving to see so many volunteers go to Daegu." The Church expects to resume public masses on April 6, Monday of Holy Week.


Seoul (AsiaNews) - South Korea is wrapped in an "atmosphere of unity and determination to overcome the coronavirus emergency together," says Msgr. Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon and president of the Commission for Social Affairs of the Episcopal Conference of Korea (CBCK).

He was commenting on Seoul's success in the fight against Covid-19, which many experts see as a model to follow.

The prelate notes that “from the beginning our government acted transparently and hid nothing from ordinary people, doctors and the sick. Unlike other countries, the South Korean government has shown great credibility. The administration asked for and obtained loyalty and help from the people. If we have become a symbol of hope for the world, it is because almost no one thought only of themselves".

According to Msgr. You, this is the main reason why the country has managed to contain the spread of the virus, taking the right path to return to normal. "Now I can move freely again, attend meetings and carry out my daily activities as a bishop," he says.

“But we must not let our guard down. Last week, a young priest of mine returned from Latin America. For seven days and for as many to come, he will remain in solitary confinement in his room. It is important to avoid any possibility of virus transmission."

The South Korean people, continues Msgr. You, has been able to demonstrate "great love for others. It is moving to see how many doctors and nurses left for Daegu, the epicenter of the crisis here. The city has also received numerous donations in cash and basic necessities. I want to underline the initiative "of the president and other government officials, who have decided to donate 30-50% of their pay to the victims of the coronavirus. Many, even priests, have also decided to take part in this charity drive."

The coronavirus emergency shows that the world is now called to solve problems through collaboration between countries. "The pope stresses this, as a good parish priest of humanity, with the concept of our 'common house'. It is important to live for others. The Gospel has given us a new commandment, the only law on Earth and in Heaven: ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.' (Jn 13:34). The virus gives us the opportunity to reflect on our past life; creates a community moment for an examination of conscience. In Lent it is time to return to the Father; but it is not possible to find a right relationship with the Father without first having done so with our brothers and sisters. The Church, just like humanity, will be different after the coronavirus. Covid-19 reaffirmed that there are no boundaries and that ways forward have to be found together."

The Church of Korea has followed the authorities' measures to counter the spread of the virus. At the moment, the churches remain open to individual prayer but the masses with the people are still suspended. However, the improvement of the situation of contagions at national level seems to open new scenarios. "Last week - said Msgr. You - we Korean bishops met. We thought we could ease the restrictions in early April. My diocese would thus have commemorated the anniversary of the death of Saint John Paul II (April 2). However, it is very likely that we will resume public Eucharistic celebrations on Holy Week Monday (April 6), when all the schools in the country will also reopen. In any case, I invited the People of God of my Diocese to pray the Novena starting from April 2, remembering the victims of Covid-19, the poor and marginalized of the world every day. The Novena will end on Good Friday. Thus the Catholics of Daejeon will prepare to celebrate the Lord's Passion and Resurrection, spiritually uniting themselves with humanity's suffering in prayer. For Palm Sunday, we will find a solution. At the moment, the provisions on social distancing make personal confessions problematic; but we plan to start again within the solemnity of Corpus Domini (June 14). The important thing is that we will be able to celebrate Easter in community in our churches, always respecting some preventive measures against the virus. Following the path indicated by Pope Francis, we continue together as a synodal Church, all together. It is a desire, a challenge; but that's how we will overcome." (PF)

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