Church is and must be above all a family,’ says Korean prelate

Korean Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, spoke about his life experience during the opening of the synodal process convened by Pope Francis on Saturday, Oct 9

Oct 15, 2021

Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik. (Vatican News)


I was born into a family with no religious faith. I completed secondary school at a Catholic school which bore the name of our martyr, Andrea Kim Taegon. He was the first Korean priest and gave his life for others. His testimony attracted me a lot.

I was baptised on Christmas Eve 1966. I was 16 years old. I was the first Christian in my family. Knowing Jesus, I felt the urge to open my heart to others. So, for example, at school, together with my Christian friends, I carried out various services. An immense horizon opened before me.

Later, I entered the major seminary in Seoul. It wasn’t easy, because no one in my family understood my decision.

After three years in the seminary, I had to do military service. In this harsh environment, I found that love conquers everything. I experienced the power of witness: little by little hundreds of my companions were baptised.

During my 41 years as a priest and then as a bishop, the example of Jesus in the washing of the feet has always challenged me. And even more, His offering on the Cross. It was, above all, there that He was a priest.

This made me understand that living the priesthood in fullness means giving one’s life for others, putting one’s self at their service, being a man of dialogue and communion. So for me, being a priest and a bishop means walking together with others, loving them in a particular way, listening to people well. In this way, the priest is “a father” of the community, “a man” alongside his brothers and sisters who are walking towards the Kingdom of God, “a companion” who becomes one with people in difficulty.

I am convinced that the Church is, and must be, above all, a family, where each is a gift for others: men and women, young and old, priests and lay people, consecrated and consecrated. A family in which all feel co-responsible for life and for the proclamation of the Gospel, sent together to realise the dream of Jesus: “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21). Being a synodal Church for me means this: living and walking as a family, listening to the cry of humanity, at the service of the excluded.

This prompted me a few years ago to hold a diocesan synod in Daejeon. It was a great grace, because it helped us experience the beauty of walking together. It was also an antidote to clericalism.

I expect from the Synodal Way that we will learn more and more to live as brothers and sisters, listening to each other and listening to the Spirit, knowing how to grasp and make grow all the good that is found in humanity. Living as a synodal Church will not be an effortless journey, but it means opening the doors to the Spirit for a new Pentecost. LiCAS news

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