“God allows calamities and tribulations, but also gives us the strength to overcome them. In this Lenten period of penance and conversion, let us joyfully overcome these sacrifices and sufferings by looking at the Cross of Jesus and let us help each other by living in faith, in hope.”
This is what the Korean Bishops say in a message addressed to the people and faithful, published at the conclusion of their half-yearly meeting (March 16-19). In the message, the Bishops thank health workers, volunteers, and the authorities who are committed to fighting and containing, with extraordinary ability, the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the peninsula.
Contacted by Fides, News Agency, Thomas Hong-Soon Han, economist living in Seoul, former Ambassador of Korea to the Holy See, said: “While the coronavirus crisis is underway, Korean faithful participate in the Mass through online media or following the TV of the archdiocese of Seoul, which has national broadcasting. They pray the Rosary at home and many are committed as volunteers to do good to others. They earnestly pray to the Merciful God and Our Lady of perpetual help to overcome this pandemic”. Han, who was president of the Council for the lay apostolate of Catholics, notes that “the Church in Korea is fighting the pandemic by strictly observing the preventive measures issued by the authorities in the context of the national fight against the coronavirus”. In fact, all 16 dioceses suspended public masses, meetings and ecclesial events in their respective territories. The Archdiocese of Daegu began to adopt these measures as early as February 20, the most seriously affected territory.
“As for the date when public masses can begin again,” notes Han, “the Bishops gathered at their half-yearly Assembly decided to leave the topic to the discretion of each ordinary bishop, depending on local circumstances taking into account the fact that the Government has decided to postpone once again, until April 6, the opening of kindergartens, primary, junior and secondary schools”.
Cardinal Andrea Yeom of the archdiocese of Seoul, where 26 percent of the Korean Catholic population lives – overall about 6 million faithful – said that “unless something special happens, and provided that preventive measures adopted by the health authority are strictly observed, we will start celebrating mass publicly from April 2nd”. The Cardinal invited all the faithful to pray ardently for a novena from 25 March to ask “the Lord our Healer to grant healing to those suffering from coronavirus contagion, strength, and courage to health workers”. Today, March 23, the Cardinal prayed the Rosary in front of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the chapel of the diocesan curia for the same intention together with the four auxiliary bishops, priests and collaborators of the diocesan curia, observing preventive health measures. In recent days Cardinal Andrea Yeom has also urged not to politically exploit these unfortunate situations.