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New cardinal vows to serve poor, isolated

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Published : 2014-01-13 20:08
Updated : 2014-01-13 20:08

Seoul archbisop Yeom Soo-jung greets priests and believers who gathered in front of the Seoul Archdiocese building at Myeong-dong in Seoul on Monday to celebrate his appointment as cardinal. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

Cardinal appointee Andrew Yeom Soo-jung said Monday that he would serve the poor and isolated and work toward peace and harmony in an increasingly polarized society.

“With my mind quivering with fear (of the immense honor given to me), I humbly obey the pope’s (words),” Yeom told the crowd that gathered in front of the Seoul Archdiocese building in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, on Monday to congratulate him on the appointment.

“I am a man of many shortcomings, but I will do my utmost to fulfill this holy task.”

Yeom, Seoul’s archbishop since May 2012, was among the 19 men named Sunday by Pope Francis to be cardinals.

Yeom is the third Korean to be appointed to the position, following the late Stephen Kim Sou-hwan (1922-2009) and Nicolas Cheong Jin-suk, both preceding Yeom as Seoul archbishop.

“The appointment of Cardinal Yeom reflects an improved status of Korea in the global Catholic communities. The Korean Catholic Church is entering a new era,” Cardinal Nicolas Cheong told the Myeong-dong gathering.

A native of Anseong, Gyeonggi Province, Yeom graduated from the Catholic University of Korea with a degree in theology in 1970. He was ordained a Catholic priest in the same year. Yeom became the archbishop of Seoul in May 2012, succeeding Cardinal Nicholas Cheong.

Pope Francis, during the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday morning, named his first batch of cardinals since he became the pontiff in March last year, which experts said once again demonstrated his emphasis on serving the destitute. The appointees come from Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Europe, including the countries of Haiti and Burkina Faso.

The official appointment ceremony, known as a consistory, will be held at the Vatican on Feb. 22.

Since Cardinal Nicolas Cheong is over 80, which is the canonical retirement age, 71-year-old Yeom will be the only Korean representative to the conclave to elect the next pope.

Sixteen of the 19 new appointees are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote for the next pontiff, which is a cardinal’s most important task. The 16 new cardinals under 80 are four Italians, two from other European countries, five from South America, one North American, two Africans and two Asians.

Cardinals, who wear red hats called galeros and red robes, are the second-most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church, ranking just below the pope.

The Catholic Church in Korea has slowly but steadily grown over the past 10 years. Now, the religion is the third-most popular in Korea after Buddhism and Protestantism, with 10.3 percent of Koreans being Catholic.

President Park Geun-hye called Yeom to offer her congratulations on Monday, saying his promotion was what South Koreans had hoped for, according to senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun.

In March, Park expressed her hope for a new South Korean cardinal when Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples at the Vatican, visited Seoul to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and the Roman Curia.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)

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