In addressing the religious of Korea August 16, Pope Francis stressed the need to live joy-filled lives. “Only if our witness is joyful will we attract men and women to Christ,” he said. “And this joy is a gift, which is nourished by a life of prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and life in community. When these are lacking, weaknesses and difficulties will emerge to dampen the joy we knew so well at the beginning of our journey.”
Francis in Korea
Sacred Heart sisters say money plays god in Korean society today, deploring the opening of a major building for off-track race horse betting. It stands only a stone's throw from Sacred Heart Girls High School where South Korean President Park Geun-hye graduated in 1971.
So what must Pope Francis tell the young? What message would he need to deliver to the young? I posed these questions the day before Francis met with the Asian young at Asian Youth Day today, to try to get a measure from an expert who works with young Koreans. Immaculate Conception Sr. Rosa Kang Sun Mee is just such an expert. The charism of her order focuses on the young.
The distance from Seoul to Nashville is 6,927 miles, but some “sister sisters” here feel close to Leadership Conference of Women Religious delegates now in the middle of the annual meeting. Yesterday I had an appointment to meet two women here in Seoul, members of the Little Servants of the Holy Family, a local congregation, that took the Vatican II call seriously and renewed their congregation’s charter and mission following the council.
When Pope Francis arrives here Thursday, he will encounter a vibrant but divided Korean church. It is a church that has grown substantially in numbers in recent decades, but one with significant internal divisions. At the center of this division is how Korean Catholics should engage society and how Catholics should respond to the needs of the poor and the marginalized, especially those displaced by the rapid social and economic change that has occurred here in the past two decades.
Analysis - Traveling through South Korea for five days, Pope Francis will be hard pressed to meet local challenges. He will be called to offer greater meaning to the nation's young people plagued by consumerism, fresh hope to its economically marginalized, encouragement to tired peacemakers, and reconciliation within a fragmented society seemingly searching for a 21st-century identity and a path forward.
Audio interview - Holy Names Sr. Sophia Park, a native of South Korea, is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Holy Names University in California and teaches spiritual direction courses at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Park holds an Ph.D. in Christian spirituality from Graduate Theological Union. I spoke to her recently about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to South Korea and what kind of church the pope will likely find there.
Like what you're reading? Sign up for GSR e-newsletters!