Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SOUTH KOREA - 90 years of the founding of the diocese of Pyongyang: a Mass and an exhibition for the Catholics of North Korea

Image result for roman catholic diocese of pyongyangIn 2017, the Catholic diocese of Pyongyang celebrates its 90th anniversary of foundation: for the occasion the Archdiocese of Seoul has organized a series of initiatives, like a special Mass and a photo exhibition.

The Mass was held in Seoul Cathedral on March 18 and was dedicated to all Catholics in North Korea, in particular to all the baptized (priests, religious, lay people) who lived in Pyongyang in these 90 years and to all those who offered their lives for their faith. 

The Mass was presided by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who is Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang; next to him there was the Archbishop Victor Yoon-hee Gong, born in Pyongyang; Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, Apostolic Nuncio in Korea; Fr. Matthew Hwang In-Guk, Episcopal Vicar of Pyongyang, and Fr. Gerard Hammond, missionary of Maryknoll still engaged in cooperative activities with North Korea. 

There was also the participation of religious congregations that have continued to support the diocese of Pyongyang, such as the Society for Foreign Missions of Paris, the Maryknoll Fathers, the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

During the Mass, a painting of the 24 martyrs of Pyongyang was brought to the attention of the assembly, in front of the altar. The artwork was created by Fr. Jerome Chang Keung-sole, director of the Study and Iconography laboratory in the Archdiocese of Seoul. 

Fr. Chang Keung-sole is also the executive secretary of the group of priests born in Pyongyang and former director of the Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean people.

The 24 martyrs depicted in the painting include Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho, a victim of the North Korean regime in 1949, and now included in the group of new Korean faithful (214 in all, including bishops, priests and laity) for whom there is an ongoing process of beatification.

The celebration of the 90th anniversary also includes a photo exhibition on the life of the parish of Pyongyang with images taken between 1920 and 1950. The theme of the exhibition is "Get up, let us go (Matthew 26:46)", based on the episcopal motto of Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho.

"As time passes, our memories of Catholics who lived in North Korea tend to disappear", says Cardinal Yeom in his introduction to the exhibition. "What we see in these photos does not happen any more today in North Korea. 

Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the diocese, therefore, is important for us to keep the memory alive and not to forget how many brothers baptized in Pyongyang struggled right to the end to keep their Catholic faith".