War is raging in Korea and millions there are in agony. How can we be indifferent to the fate of our Korean brothers and sisters’? They are all creature::; of God like ourselves. And among them are Catholics, redeemed as we have been redeemed, by Christ’s Precious Blood, members of the great Christian family, our brothers and sisters in the Faith, who have a very special claim on our prayers. Catholic readers will be glad of some information at)Qut the Catholic oommunity in Korea.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CHURCH IN KOREA
It is an extraordinary fact, unique indeed in the history of the Church, that it was not missionaries who first carried Christ’s teaching to the Koreans.
In 1777, some Korean scholars, on duty At the court of Pekin, discovered the beauty of Christian teaching in the Chinese writings of Father Matteo Ricci, S.J., who long before had lived at the court, high in the Chinese Emperor’s favour. They were baptised and took the seeds of the Faith back with them to their own country. Those seeds grew amazingly. When the first Chinese priest, despatched at the request of these first Korean Christians, arrived there, he found more than 10,000 Catholics. The authorities tried to stop conversions by violent persecution. In 1839, Mgr. Imbert, of the Paris Foreign Missions, the first Bishop to succeed in getting into the country, was martyred, along with two of his missionary priests and a large number of Korean Catholics.
Seventy-five of these martyrs were beautified in 1925. The persecution continued, with some interval, until about 1866, when at last the Church had peace.
THE PRESENT POSITION OF THE CHURCH
At the present time there are about 231,000 Catholics, divided into eight ecclesiastical district~ of which four are under the care of Korean Bishops; and in all the important towns there are groups of loyal, active Catholics.
Everybody knows that since 1943 Korea has been cut in two. The northern half has endured five years of persecution; bishops, priests religious men and women have been murdered and imprisoned. Under the Communist regime the Church has no right to exist.
In the southern half, the coming of peace raised hopes high and there were a great many conversions. It is easy to imagine what a terrible testing the Christians are undergoing now through the ravages of war.
True to the spirit of their Master, the priests have stayed at their posts. The Good Shepherd is with His sheep: “The Good Shepherd lays down His Life for His Sheep
Taejon is the headquarters of a mission staffed by twenty-five priests of the Paris Foreign Missions.
When war broke out, Mgr. Ro, the Korean Vicar-Apostolic of Seoul, was in Rome with Mgr. Larribeau, the Vicar Apostolic of Taejon.
Let us hope and pray that when the storm has passed, the Christians of Korea will show their fellow-countrymen the way of true freedom. Ph. M.
The Malayan Catholic Newsletter, August 13, 1950, page 3