25 September 2009

5,000th priest in 164-year history of the Church in Korea ordained in Year for Priests

As a Columban I have a special interest in the Church in Korea since we have been there since 1933. A Fides report indicates how the Church has grown in South Korea in recent decades. The report was published two days ago but Asianews carried the same story on 30 June. You'll find that below too.

But this is not a story for today only but one that brings hope for the future. May God continue to fill the hearts of young Koreans with generosity and zeal for the Gospel.

ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - 5,000th priest in 164-year history of the Church in Korea ordained in Year for Priests

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) – It is a landmark within the Year for Priests, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, and which will serve as an inspiration in the vocational ministry in Korea: the Church's celebration of the ordination of the 5,000th priest in its history, beginning in 1845, with the ordination of the first Korean priest, Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, martyr (in picture above).
The ordination liturgy for Fr. Dionysious Son Ho-bin, of the Archdiocese of Seoul, celebrated by Cardinal Nicholas Cheoung, was attended by an enthusiastic crowd of faithful who gave thanks for this gift to the Church in Korea, which lights the way for the future.

In a statement sent to Agenzia Fides from Cardinal Cheoung, the Prelate told us: “When I was ordained a priest in 1961, there were only 250 Korean priests. In the last 50 years, the number has grown to 5,000 [editor's note: the number of priests today in South Korea is more than 3,200 of whom nearly 2,700 are diocesan priests] and this flowering of vocations to the priesthood is a sign that the Church in Korea is journeying in accord with the will and grace of God.” The Cardinal then invited all the Korean priests to learn from the example of Saint John Mary Vianney in living out their priestly life and asked the youth not to silence the voice of their conscience, but to respond with generosity to the Lord's call, as He “sends new laborers into His fields.”

In addition to the ordination of Fr. Son Ho-bin in Seoul, which had a great impact on the nation, in other Korean dioceses as well, various initiatives for the Year for Priests have been taking place, with days and moments of prayer for priests. Instructions on how to gain the plenary indulgence have been distributed in parishes and the faithful are continually being reminded of spiritual and moral support, as well as practical aid, they can offer the priests in their parishes, which have the gift of administering the Sacraments for the benefit of the community. (PA)(Agenzia Fides 23/9/2009)

Asianews also carries the story - dated 30 June 2009, which indicates that the Fides Agency, based in the Vatican, is a little late in catching up on it!

The 5,000th Korean priest is ordained in Seoul

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

Cardinal Nicholas Chung Jin-suk presided over the ordination ceremony for 27 priests and deacons. The prelate remembers the first Korean priest ordained 164 years ago who died a martyr’s death. The number of South Korean Catholics tops five million or about 10 per cent of the population.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – After 164 years since the first Korean priest, Saint Andrew Kim Dae-gon, was ordained the Catholic Church welcomed its 5000th Korean priest, this in a country, South Korea, where Catholics now number five million or 10 per cent of the population.

Cardinal Nicholas Chung Jin-suk, archbishop of Seoul, presided over the ceremony of ordination for 27 priests and deacons at Olympic Park in downtown Seoul.

The event was indeed particularly poignant because Dionysious Son Ho-bin from Jaegi-dong Parish was among them. He is Korea’s 5000th Korean priest.

“Today, here at this place, the 5000th Korean priest is born to the example of Father Andrew Kim Dae-gon, the first Korean priest, who died a martyr 164 years ago during harsh persecution,” Cardinal Chung said. “We are honoured to preside over the ordination” as “we celebrate the year of St. Paul and the Year of the Priest.”

Some 14,000 priests, religious and faithful were present at the ceremony. They prayed for the new priests and the new deacons, who will celebrate their first Mass in their respective parishes.
Recently the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) released data showing that as of the end of 2008, local Catholics numbered just over five million or 9.9 percent of the total population of 50,394,374. This represents a 130,000 increase from 2007.

The CBCK noted that while the Catholic population has increased by 2.7 per cent a year on average over the past 10 years, the country's overall population has edged forward by just 0.8 per cent.

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