12/09/2004, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA - NORTH KOREA

Both North and South consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin, says Bishop of Seoul

by Thomas Han

During yesterday's solemn ceremony, Archbishop Nicholas Cheong spoke for the first time about the situation in North Korea urging everyone to pray for its people.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, announced by Blessed Pius IX in 1854, was celebrated yesterday in a solemn mass in Seoul Cathedral.

Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul celebrated the Eucharist with Card Stephen Kim, the Apostolic Nuncio Emil Tscherrig and the two auxiliary bishops of Seoul, Mgrs Andrew Yeom and Bishop Luke Kim. A number of priests were also present.

The Cathedral was crowded with almost two thousand faithful. Many others followed the ceremony from screens in an adjacent hall.

In his homily, Archbishop Nicholas Cheong said that Pope Gregory XVI dedicated the Korean Catholic Church to the Immaculate Virgin in 1841 before the dogma was proclaimed. The entire nation owes much to Mary. The liberation of Korea from Japanese rule and the founding of the Republic took place on 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption, in 1945 and 1948 respectively.

Archbishop Cheong emphasized the importance of the celebration of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in the Year of the Eucharist. "More than ever before," he said, "we need light at the beginning of a new millennium overwhelmed and humiliated by violence, terrorism and war. We need Her more than ever before our nation, suffering the division between South and North, subjected to a chain of hostility and discord in the midst of the structures of sin which prevail at every corner of the society."

The Archbishop then invited the faithful to ask the Immaculate Virgin for help "to anticipate as soon as possible the day when our faithful and our people in the North may live a more humane life while their own fundamental human rights are respected and to adequately accomplish our mission to bring the light of Christ to all people of our time."

It is the first time that a pastor speaks publicly about the situation in North Korea urging everyone to pray for its people.

The Archbishop ended praying to the Immaculate Virgin that She may intervene for the nation and the Church to help them build a society in which every one respects human rights and promotes a culture of life and help young people who commit themselves ever more to build a better world, keeping hope alive".

He then invited the faithful to become more aware of the Eucharist and live a greater commitment to brotherhood at the service of the poor.

South Korea has a population of 53 million people, 4,430,000 Catholic (452,000 in 1960). There are no precise figures about the number of Catholics in North Korea. After the Korean War in 1953, some 300,000 Christians are said to have disappeared. There are no longer any priests and nuns, presumably killed during the persecutions.

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