Seoul (AsiaNews) - Thousands of faithful, priests and consecrated people gathered around the new archbishop of Seoul, Msgr. Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who with a solemn Mass has become the 14th Metropolitan of the Korean capital. The new archbishop takes the place of Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, who next June 29 will say farewell to the Catholic community with a solemn Mass in the cathedral of Myeongdong. Immediately after the celebration, Msgr. Yeom left for Rome, where, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, he will receive the pallium from Benedict XVI.
During his homily, the new pastor said he "felt all the responsibility of this position, to lead the country's largest diocese. I ask you all for help to carry on this mission." Afterwards he wanted to clarify what are the biggest challenges of his job: "We must keep human life foremost in society. The Church will fight for this without any compromise."
But after human life, for a Korean bishop, comes the unity of his country. Archbishop Yeom wanted his installation Mass to be celebrated on June 25 - the 62nd anniversary of the Korean War - and asked everyone to "pray for the reunification of the two Koreas, a goal shared by both peoples". In the Catholic hierarchy, the Archbishop of Seoul is also Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang.
The Mass was attended by Cardinal Cheong, the Korean Minister of Culture Choe Kwang-shik, Msgr. Osvaldo Padilla and several political leaders including Sohn Hak-kyu, Kang Ki-gap and the Governor of Gyeonggi, Kim Moon-soo. 27% of the population of Seoul is Catholic, and the press and politicians are increasingly interested in the world of the Church: in South Korea, 10.3% of the population (more than 5 million individuals) is Catholic and the country confirms itself each year as one of the most active in the fields of the apostolate and the social commitment of its faithful.
Msgr. Yeom, 68, chose as his episcopal motto: "Amen, Veni Domine Jesu"(Amen, come Lord Jesus) to emphasize his "total submission to the decisions of the Lord." The prelate is known for his proximity to the young priests: he launched "Kakao Talk", a diocesan program in which older priests are paired with the newly ordained to sustain them on their way, and play tennis with them once a month.
The archbishop, who comes from a family of Catholics from the early days of Catholicism in Korea, is engaged in a particular way in getting the government to grant the Seosomun area in downtown Seoul, which should soon become a place of pilgrimage. Here, in the late Joseon era (ca. 1800), various Catholics were martyred: among them were also two direct ancestors of Msgr. Yeom - Yeom Seok-tae and his wife Maria Kim - who were arrested and sentenced to death in 1850. The new pastor of the capital intends to preserve the memory of the martyrs and relaunch devotion to them.