Surprising Korea

Martyrs 20th September

You may be amazed to discover that by 2015 the Catholic Church in South Korea had 5,560,971 members (10.6% of the population) with 4,901 priests and 1,668 parishes.

A Portuguese Jesuit was possibly the first Catholic missionary in Korea, arriving in 1593. However, Catholicism in Korea really began in 1784 when a layman Yi Seung-hun was baptized in China. He returned to Korea with religious texts, and baptized many fellow countrymen. Interestingly the Church continued without formal missionary priests until clergy from France arrived in 1836. During the 19th century, the Church was targeted by the government chiefly for its opposition to ancestor worship, important to Korean culture. Despite a century-long persecution that produced thousands of martyrs – 103 were canonized by Pope St John Paul in 1984, including the first Korean priest, St Andrew Kim, ordained in 1845 and martyred in 1846 – the Church in Korea expanded.

Current surveys show that more than 45% of South Koreans practice no religion, that about 22% are Buddhists, and that 28% are Christians with just under 11% being Catholics and 18% being Protestants, meaning that Christianity is the largest religion. The Catholic Church in South Korea has seen prodigious growth in recent years, increasing its membership by 70%. In 2014 alone, the Church grew by 2.2% as over 98,000 Koreans became Catholic. There has also been an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Part of this growth can be attributed to the Church’s positive perception by the pubic because of its role in the democratization of South Korea, its participation in works of social welfare, and its respectful approach to interfaith relationship and matters of traditional Korean spirituality.

There are now 15 dioceses in the South, but in North Korea all Christianity is officially suppressed, and unofficial estimates by South Korean Church officials place the number of Catholics there at only 5,000. Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, when he beatified 124 more martyrs. An invitation for North Korea’s Catholics to be allowed to attend was declined.

Fr Matthew

Racing, shopping and Saint Denial

St Deiniol (feast day Monday) seems to have been the first Bishop of Bangor in Gwynedd, North Wales. The present Bangor Cathedral (now Anglican) is dedicated to him, and is said to be on the site where his monastery stood, possibly the oldest cathedral site in Britain.

Deiniol was from an old family who lost their land in the North of England but were given land by the King of Powys in Wales. One member joined the Celtic religious life and founded the monastery at a different Bangor, on the river Dee, now better known for horse racing!

Deiniol is said to have studied under St Cadoc at Llancarfan, not far from Cardiff and site of the famous rediscovered frescoes. He also spent part of his early life as a hermit in Pembrokeshire, but was soon called to be a bishop. He soon left Powys for Gwynedd where he founded the monastery of Bangor which was later raised to be the official seat of a bishop, whose diocese covered the principality of Gwynedd. Deiniol would spend the remainder of his days there as Abbot and Bishop.

He attended the famous Synod of Llanddewi Brefi in Carmarthenshire in c. 545 with St David, and was apparently consecrated Bishop by him. It is said he died in 584 and was buried on Bardsey Island the so-called Island of the Saints off the Llyn peninsula. St Deiniol was venerated across North Wales and is also venerated in Britanny as Saint Denoual. In English and Latin his name is sometimes rendered as Daniel.

Prime Minister Gladstone dedicated to him St Deiniol’s Library, a residential library in Hawarden, Flintshire for arts students, in 1896, and is buried at St Deiniol’s Church there. Rather more prosaically, Deiniol’s name, rather like St David in Cardiff, has also been given to the Deiniol Centre, a shopping centre in Bangor!

3 churches newsletter, 27 August & 3 September 2017 (double edition)

Download our double newsletter covering two weeks for the 21st and 22nd Sundays in Ordinary Time (issue 32/17).

3 churches newsletter – 27 August and 3 September 2017 (32/17)

Note also that there are a few adjustments to times and locations of weekday Masses. Please remember that there are several other churches within easy reach. Over the next few weeks we will welcome various visiting priests to cover first Fr Gareth’s holiday and then Fr Matthew’s. Fr Richard Aziati from Africa, Canon Reardon, the Rosminians from St Peter’s, Fr Ray O’Shea and the Archbishop will all help on weekends. Fr Alex from Nigeria may drop in just to visit (last year’s supply!)

Dear Mrs Fitzpatrick…

These are the opening words of a letter to my great-great-grandmother sent 31 August 1917. Her first husband, and father of her three children, George Goodwin, had drowned in Cardiff’s East Dock back in 1881 when baby George was 2 and my grandmother not yet 1 year old, and she had remarried a Thomas Fitzpatrick. The letter continues…

“It is with deep sympathy that I write to tell you of your son’s death, G. Goodwin, 23232. A short time ago he gave up his three stripes at his own request. Just before he went into the Battle in which he was killed, he came to confession to me, and I gave him Holy Communion, so he went well prepared to meet Our Divine Lord, and I know this will be a great solace to you in your grief.

Always brave and regardless of danger when a stretcher was required to carry a wounded comrade, he immediately volunteered and started to cross to the Aid Post over the ground which was absolutely swept by machine gun bullets. Thus he was killed by a bullet, and so gave his life for a comrade. I shall offer Holy Mass for him the first time I have a chance.
 Yours in sincere sympathy
 M. Mac Kenna C.F. [Chaplain to the Forces]”

And so the body of great-uncle George was lost in the mud of Passchendaele, the 3rd Battle of Ypres on 27 August 1917 – 100 years ago today. You may have seen on TV a few weeks ago events to remember this appalling battle which claimed about 500,000 lives from both sides.

Some 35,000 bodies of British soldiers, including George, were never found, and are commemorated on a great wall monument at Tyne Cot Cemetery. These kind of numbers can be just that – figures that numb. George was just one – but he was my great -uncle, and like all those others he was not just 23232 but somebody, an individual with a loving mother and family back here in Cardiff. This Sunday I offer Mass for him, and remember all those lost in the mud of Flanders. If you have lost, family or friends in armed conflicts, stop to say a prayer for them now. World War I was hoped to be the last, yet 21 years later it all erupted again, and wars and conflicts continue. So let us pray for peace, justice and reconciliation in an increasingly fraught world.

Fr Matthew