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[Newsmaker] Archbishop rebukes political activity

Archbishop of Seoul Andrew Yeom Soo-jung.(Yonhap News)
Archbishop of Seoul Andrew Yeom Soo-jung.(Yonhap News)

The Catholic Church is distancing itself from controversial remarks seen as sympathetic to North Korea made by a group of progressive priests.

On Sunday, Archbishop of Seoul Andrew Yeom Soo-jung spoke out against priests’ involvement in politics, citing the church doctrine and guidelines issued by late Pope John Paul II.

“The Catholic doctrine prohibits priests from making direct political and social intervention,” Yeom said at a Mass.

“It is not the role of priests to directly intervene in political or social organizations.”

The comments are in contrast to his usual tendency to refrain from commenting on controversial social issues.

He made the remarks two days after members of the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice called for President Park Geun-hye’s resignation in a Mass held in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province.

Park Chang-shin, a senior priest of the Jeonju diocese, also defended North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeongdo Island in the West Sea in 2010, suggesting that it may have been taken against threatening military exercises by South Korea and the U.S. The attack left two civilians and two marines dead.

As controversy widens, even the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice has attempted to distance itself from the developments, saying that the Jeonju diocese made the decision to hold the Mass on its own.

Despite the Catholic Church’s efforts to contain the situation, conservative nongovernmental organizations held protests, while ruling the Saenuri Party’s Rep. Ha Tae-keung directly attacked the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice.

Calling the organization the “Unified Progressive Party diocese,” Ha called on the concerned priests to remove Park from their ranks.

The minor left-wing opposition UPP has long been attacked as being pro-North Korea, a claim that was strengthened by the arrest of Rep. Lee Seok-ki on suspicion of planning a revolt.

Ha, a North Korean human rights activist turned conservative lawmaker, also called on Catholics to campaign to have Park Chang-shin removed from their religion.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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