In 2017, the Catholic diocese of Pyongyang celebrates its 90th anniversary of foundation: for the occasion the Archdiocese of Seoul has organized a series of initiatives, like a special Mass and a photo exhibition.
The Mass was held in Seoul Cathedral on March 18 and
was dedicated to all Catholics in North Korea, in particular to all
the baptized (priests, religious, lay people) who lived in Pyongyang in
these 90 years and to all those who offered their lives for their faith.
The Mass was
presided by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who is Archbishop of Seoul
and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang; next to him there was the
Archbishop Victor Yoon-hee Gong, born in Pyongyang; Archbishop Osvaldo
Padilla, Apostolic Nuncio in Korea; Fr. Matthew Hwang In-Guk, Episcopal
Vicar of Pyongyang, and Fr. Gerard Hammond, missionary of Maryknoll
still engaged in cooperative activities with North Korea.
also the participation of religious congregations that have continued
to support the diocese of Pyongyang, such as the Society for Foreign
Missions of Paris, the Maryknoll Fathers, the Sisters of St. Paul of
Chartres, and the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
During the Mass, a painting of the 24 martyrs of Pyongyang was
brought to the attention of the assembly, in front of the altar. The
artwork was created by Fr. Jerome Chang Keung-sole, director of the
Study and Iconography laboratory in the Archdiocese of Seoul.
Keung-sole is also the executive secretary of the group of priests born
in Pyongyang and former director of the Committee for the Reconciliation
of the Korean people.
The 24 martyrs depicted in the painting include
Bishop Francis Borgia Hong Yong-ho, a victim of the North Korean regime
in 1949, and now included in the group of new Korean faithful (214 in
all, including bishops, priests and laity) for whom there is an ongoing
process of beatification.
The celebration of the 90th anniversary also includes a photo exhibition
on the life of the parish of Pyongyang with images taken between 1920
and 1950. The theme of the exhibition is "Get up, let us go (Matthew
26:46)", based on the episcopal motto of Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho.
"As time passes, our memories of Catholics who lived in North Korea tend
to disappear", says Cardinal Yeom in his introduction to the
exhibition. "What we see in these photos does not happen any more today
in North Korea.
Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the diocese,
therefore, is important for us to keep the memory alive and not to
forget how many brothers baptized in Pyongyang struggled right to the
end to keep their Catholic faith".