North Korean Catholics Celebrate Their First Official Mass in Seoul

SEOUL, South Korea, MARCH 13, 2003 (ZENIT.orgFides).- North Korean Catholics participated officially for the first time in a Mass as part of a visit to South Korea.

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The 16 Catholics attended the eucharistic celebration March 2 in Seoul’s Myongdong Cathedral and were led by Samuel Chang Jae-on, chairman of the Association of the Catholic Church in Pyongyang.

Some 1,200 people celebrated the Sunday liturgy, presided by Auxiliary Bishop Luke Kim Woon-hoe. In his homily the bishop said that the visit of the North Korean Catholics was “an important step in national reconciliation and the process of reunification,” adding that he hoped that Catholics in the North would soon have priests to serve them.

“Being united with North Korean Catholics was highly significant for us all after 50 years of division of the country,” said Paul Han Jung Kwan, executive secretary of the Korean Bishops’ Conference.

An estimated 3,000 Catholics in North Korea have been without priests and men and women religious since 1953, when the local clergy and missionaries were expelled by the Communist regime. Only one church, Changchung Church, remains in Pyongyang.

The group of North Korean Catholics was part of a delegation of 105 believers of various faiths who traveled to Seoul on March 1 to commemorate the independence movement that liberated Korea from Japanese occupation in 1945. The group returned to Pyongyang on March 3.

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