Vox Parva: ‘Arise, shine’ at Asian Youth day


Benedict Keith Ip

The 6th Asian Youth day will be hosted in Daejeon, South Korea from today to August 17. According to the Vatican Radio, it will be the Pope’s third foreign journey as well as the third trip of a Pope to the Asian nation.
Coincidently, this pastoral, or precisely, apostolic trip, comprises 3 major objectives. First, the Pope will join Asian Youth Day together with about 5,000 young people from different countries and areas. For this, the Diocese of Macau has just sent a group of 35 youths to South Korea to participate in the event.
Second, the Pope will beatify the large group of Korean martyrs who first brought the faith to the country on August 16. The history of Catholic faith in Korea is interesting and very different from other countries, for Koreans first came across the faith through books rather than a missionary physically preaching inside the country. The earliest sources can be traced back to Jesuit missionary Fr. Matteo Ricci who spent time at the Chinese imperial court and finished the book “The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven”, which was written in Chinese and titled 天主實義. At that time, Korea paid regular tributes every year to the Ming Empire, bringing back new publications to Korea from time to time. This practice went beyond the Ming to the Qing Dynasty when the Southern Church, also known as Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Beijing nowadays, was established. These emissaries would also visit the Church and see the priests, such as Fr. Adam Schall von Bell, to learn more about foreign technology. This was the very beginning of how the faith was spread forward. Interestingly, among the 124 martyrs, there was one Chinese priest from Jiangsu province: Fr. Jacob Zhouwen Mo 周文謨神父, who was martyred in 1801 because of what he preached; and so the bishops from the Chinese region, including Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, will join the beatification ceremony together with the Pope.
A third important theme for the visit will be the quest for peace and reconciliation between South and North Korea. After the Korean War in 1953, the separation of the North and South remains unchanged until now. Before they were split into two parts, in the southern part there were about 100 parishes and 100,000 Catholics; while in the northern part there were about 50 parishes and 55,000 Catholics. Since the North Korean regime strongly suppresses Catholicism, the world no longer heard news of those 166 priests and friars, nor the exact number of believers remaining in the country. It truly became a “silent church”. On the other hand, according to South Korean statistics in 2013, Catholics comprise 10.4% of the total South Korean population. The annual number of baptisms exceeds 100,000. Currently they have 2 cardinals, 36 bishops, and 4,865 priests.
In addition to these 3 important events, the Pope will also meet a delegation of elderly Korean “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during the Second World War, according to the Vatican Radio. All of these events are quite meaningful and significant in terms of apostolic as well as social perspectives.

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