10/09/2021, 10.25
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Msgr You Heung-sik: 'Me, the first Christian in my family, and the Synod'.

by Lazarus You Heung-sik

The testimony of the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, former archbishop of Daejeon, during the Moment of Reflection with the pope that launched the synodal process in the Vatican: "Being a priest and bishop for me means walking together with others, loving them and above all listening well to people".

(Vatican City) - A moment of reflection in the presence of a representation of bishops, religious and lay people opened this morning in the Synod Hall in the Vatican the synodal process convened by Pope Francis for the next two years to reflect in every diocese in the world on the theme of synodality. Among the testimonies offered during today's meeting, the voice of Asia was brought by Korean Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, whom Pope Francis appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in June. Below is his speech.


I was born into a family with no religious faith. I went to middle school and high school in a Catholic school, which bore the name of our martyr Andrew Kim Taegon. He was the first Korean priest and gave his life for others. His testimony attracted me a lot. I was baptized on Christmas Eve 1966. I was 16 years old. I was the first Christian in my family. Knowing Jesus, I felt the urge to open my heart to others.

So, for example, at school, together with my Christian friends, we performed various services. More and more, an immense horizon opened up before me. Subsequently, I entered the major seminary in Seoul. It was not easy, because no one in my family understood this decision of mine. After three years of seminary, we were required to do military service. In this harsh environment, I discovered that love conquers all. I experienced the power of witness: little by little hundreds of my classmates got baptized.

During my 41 years as a priest, and then as a bishop, I have always been challenged by the example of Jesus at the washing of feet. And even more so his offering on the Cross. It was above all there that he was a priest. This made me understand that living the priesthood to the full means giving one's life for others, putting oneself at the service of others, being a man of dialogue and communion. So for me, being a priest and a bishop means walking together with others, loving them, in a special way: listening well to people. In this way the priest is "a father" of the community, "a man" beside his brothers and sisters who are walking towards the Kingdom of God, "a companion" who makes himself one with people in difficulty.

I am convinced that above all, the Church is and must be a family, where each one is a gift for the others: men and women, young and old, priests and laity, consecrated men and women. A family in which all feel co-responsible for the life and proclamation of the Gospel; sent together to realize Jesus' dream: "that all may be one" (Jn 17:21). For me, being a synodal Church means this: living and walking as a family, listening to the cry of humanity, being at the service of the excluded.

This prompted me a few years ago to hold a diocesan synod. It was a great grace, because it made us experience the beauty of walking together. And it was also an antidote to clericalism. I hope that, from the Synodal Way, we learn more and more to live as brothers and sisters, listening to each other and listening to the Spirit, knowing how to harvest and grow all the good that is found in humanity. Living as a synodal church will not be a journey without effort, but it means opening the doors to the Spirit for a new Pentecost.


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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”