12/06/2013, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Unafraid of the truth, Korean priests write open letter calling for Park's resignation

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
The Catholic Priests' Association for Justice calls on the government to shed light on the abuses committed by the Secret Service and on President Park to step back and take the "honourable course of action". Saying that they are unafraid of retaliation and willing to bear their cross, they found encouragement in the pope's words and the "blood-stained records of the martyrs".

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The Church and its ministers have a duty to stand up "to injustice". This "is demonstrated by the blood-stained records of the martyrs [. . .]. As was emphasized over and over again in Pope Francis's first papal exhortation 'The Joy of the Gospel'," which stressed that "the mission of the church is to share the pain of people who are suffering." Hence, "the honourable course of action is for [South Korean President] Park [Geun-hye] to take responsibility for all of these things and to voluntarily step down," said the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ) in an open letter signed by 400 of its members and made public yesterday.

In issuing this letter, the association was responding to government attacks against one of its members, Fr Park Chang-shin, who became the centre of a media storm when on 22 November 22 in a homily he criticised the government for its militaristic policies, which in his view have forced North Korea to respond military to its actions. As a result of this, members of South Korea's ruling party lashed out at Fr Park, accusing him of being an "enemy of the nation" and placing him under investigation on '"various criminal charges".

Reacting to the situation, Seoul Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung had noted that Catholics "must be involved in politics" but "it is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly". Below is the full text of the association's letter.

Protestants, Buddhists and Won Buddhists are joining Catholics to urge the president to confess the government's attempts to rig the election and to take responsibility for these attempts. Despite this, the government adheres to its politics of terror, which is characterized by a failure to communicate, self-righteousness, and repression of opposing forces. Such a government cannot endure for long. Even now, the honourable course of action is for Park to take responsibility for all of these things and to voluntarily step down.

The President obstructed the investigation and forced out the prosecutor-general and the head investigator, who were only following their conscience. Even when it was discovered that the National Intelligence Service had posted millions of comments and Twitter messages interfering with the election, the President kept feigning ignorance. In fact, she tried to neutralize anyone who talked about the rigged election by labelling them as a North Korean sympathizer.

Jeonju diocese's special Mass was attacked on ideological grounds, which was severely insulting and greatly offensive to Catholics in Korea. These priests were obeying the dictate of their conscience, but the government tried to portray their message as Communist propaganda. This is the crisis management method that has been repeatedly used by corrupt governments of the past.

The statement also singled out the media for criticism. Another contributing factor was the malicious way that some conservative newspapers and TV networks blindly followed the government's lead. There is no doubt that this will leave a black mark on the history of Korean journalism.

Each time in history that the church has resisted organized power, there has been a heavy price to pay. This is demonstrated by the blood-stained records of the martyrs. But fighting injustice is at the heart of our belief. Trials purify the soul and refine the spirit of the church. As we have always done, we will not refuse to walk the path of thorns. For priests such as us whose lives are spent dreaming of the kingdom of heaven, this is both our duty and our joy.

Asking that those involved with the election rigging be held accountable may result in us facing hardship. But even so, we will not refuse the cross we have to bear. If we remained silent even as we witnessed injustice in our time, it would be both dereliction of our duty and a denial of our identity as priests. As was emphasized over and over again in Pope Francis's first papal exhortation 'The Joy of the Gospel,' which was released recently, the mission of the church is to share the pain of people who are suffering. Priests are the offering that is made in that work.

The tragic end of the Yushin dictatorship [the assassination of former president Park Chung-hee] is a chilling message to everyone in power. We will never stop standing up to injustice. We ask all priests, monks, nuns, and laypeople to pray that the darkness we see today will be rolled back.

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