South Korean Archbishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik, the newly appointed Vatican prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, said he will work toward arranging a visit to North Korea for Pope Francis if he is given the opportunity to do so.
“The pope had expressed his willingness to go to North Korea,” You, 69, said at a press conference held Saturday at the Daejeon Diocese in Sejong, following the Vatican’s announcement of his appointment Friday. “If North Korea invites the pope during these times when the country seems to face severe economic difficulties precipitated by international isolation, it will be a golden opportunity for the country to overcome the hardships.”
Along with his appointment as a Vatican prefect, You was conferred the title of archbishop and bishop emeritus of Daejeon by Pope Francis.
Responding to speculation surrounding his appointment as a Vatican prefect at this time and whether the appointment is related to the situation in North Korea and China, You said the pope had told him while offering the post, “there are two secretaries from African countries, but only one Asian prefect.” The Vatican also recognizes the elevated status of Korea and the continent of Asia, according to You.
“The minister is also a cleric, whose role is to assist and help priests around the world carry on their lives, and (to know) in what aspects they suffer, while looking after seminarians who are preparing to become priests,” You said.
He added that he would work to engage in dialogue with others, play an active role in situations when necessary and make sincere efforts to train priests, looking beyond the borders of ethnicity and religion.
Meanwhile, Italian daily La Repubblica ran an article Friday with a headline that read: “South Korean cleric enters the Vatican, along with Pope Francis’ hopes to visit North Korea.”
The article also pointed out that the appointment reflects the pope’s intention to expand the role of churches in the East Asian region. In addition, it stated that You had built an amicable friendship with two Chinese bishops invited to the synod.
You was born in 1951 in South Chungcheong Province. He earned a doctorate degree in the field of dogmatic theology at Pontifical Lateran University in 1983 and was ordained a priest for the Daejeon Diocese. You became the bishop of the Daejeon Diocese in 2005, after serving two years as the coadjutor bishop of Daejeon. Previous to that he served as a professor and president of Daejeon Catholic University. He traveled to North Korea on four occasions while serving as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.
You will leave for Rome in late July and begin serving as a Vatican prefect in early August. A prefect’s formal tenure is five years.
By Kim Hae-yeon