Korean synod document urges pro-poor, reformed Church

The Church today is increasingly a structure inaccessible to the poor, noted diocesan submissions

Jun 12, 2024

Father Peter Lee Yong-hyun of Moraenae Church in Incheon, South Korea prays for the elderly after a Mass that he celebrated at a house of an elderly Catholic on March 6, 2024. (Photo: Catholic Times of Korea)

SEOUL: The Catholic Church must aim for a personal encounter with the poor, place them at the center of the Church’s mission and accept reform for inclusiveness, says a South Korean Church's synod document.

The 39-page document, Comprehensive Opinion of the Korean Church in Preparation for the Second Session of the Sixteenth Ordinary Assembly of the World Synod of Bishops, was released on May 29 by the Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCK).

It consists of a synthesis and reflection of the opinions of each of the Korean dioceses based on the outcomes of the first session of the Synod on Synodality and to prepare for its upcoming session in October this year.

The CBCK compiled the diocesan submissions and summarized their suggestions.

A common theme that frequently appeared in the submissions from the dioceses was a “poor Church for the poor.”

“The Church today is increasingly becoming an environment and structure that is inaccessible to the poor,” the document said.

The Church community has not been able to recognize the “reality of the marginalization of the poor in the Church,” and make efforts to stand with them, the document said.

Based on this observation, the document urged the Korean Church to “have a personal encounter with the poor and to provide support and accompaniment based on this encounter.”

It urged Catholics including its clergy to go beyond the pastoral care provided during Sunday Mass and church activities, but to “change and decide to go deeply into the lives of the poor.”

The document also reminded the Korean Church that mission was not just a means of church expansion, but “the essence of the Church's proclamation of the Gospel” and “the core of the identity of the Christian believer.”

It called for institutional and structural changes to redirect the Church “wholly for mission.”

The Korean Church was urged to keep in mind the importance of the family, the sanctification and renewal of the home, and pastoral efforts for families.

The document also urged the Church to strike a balance between its digital mission efforts and its analog or physical mission efforts.

The synod document also took note of the entrenched culture of assigning stereotypical roles for women in liturgy-related activities and administration in pastoral councils which are primarily male-dominated.

The document called for “conscious efforts” in expanding women’s participation and roles in parish pastoral councils and actively expanding women's access to leadership positions in Church institutions.

The problem of clericalism was highlighted by several dioceses, the document said.

They pointed out that the decision-making process is clergy-centered, Church operations are bureaucratic, and immunity from accountability for the clergy is commonplace in the Church.

“These authoritarian attitudes and practices of clericalism are not limited to priests, but also to religious and lay people,” the document said.

The document suggested introducing procedures to verify the performance of priests, emphasize the collective responsibility of the priesthood, and initiate district-level meetings for priests.

It was also suggested that bishops themselves should also strive to live a life of “Synodal Spirituality,” and “have a passion for implementing the spirit of the synod in all areas.”

The document also suggested a synod-based formation for priests before and after ordination with laity involvement not only as the objects of the formation but as “co-responsible agents.”

An overall structural change in parish pastoral and finance councils was recommended in the document.

The current councils “do not reflect the diversity of God's people in their membership and that they do not provide enough information for discussion and do not reflect the opinions of the faithful,” the document said.

The document also pointed out that at the episcopal conferences level, there is a need to reflect on the environment and culture that impede the realization of synodality.--ucanews.com

Total Comments:0