CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Korean deacons on pilgrimage to embrace other religions

SEOUL (UCAN): Over 100 Catholic deacons in South Korea joined an Ecumenical and Interreligious Pilgrimage of Catholic Deacons, a June 20 to 22 pilgrimage to places of worship for other religions in Seoul to promote religious tolerance and understanding organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK).
 
The 108 transitional deacons visited CBCK headquarters, the Vatican Apostolic Nunciature in Korea, St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, Seoul Anglican Cathedral, Hwagyesa temple of the Buddhist Jogye Order, the Won Buddhist Temple in Gangnam, and the Seoul Central Masjid (mosque).
 
“The CBCK organised the pilgrimage so the deacons could better understand the different religions in Korea,” said Father Stephano An Pong-hwan, the communications director of the bishops’ conference.
 
“By visiting (these places of worship) and experiencing the culture of other religions, they can widen their undaerstanding of other religions and different Christian denominations.”
 
During the visit to Song Bo-ra, Korea’s largest mosque on June 22, an official with the Korea Muslim Federation, said Islam is often misunderstood due to its association with extremist groups like the Islamic State (IS).
 
“The Qu’ran says, ‘Whoever kills a person (unjustly)—it is as though he has killed all mankind’,” he said.
 
“But Islam is a religion of peace not violence. That’s why we always greet people with the salutation, ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ which means ‘peace be upon you’.”
 
Jesuit Deacon John Lee Heun-kwan said the visit to the mosque was an effective way of creating greater understanding.
 
“It was a good chance to experience another religion and break down barriers and prejudices,” he said.
 
“Especially when talking about Islam, I feel we can co-exist harmoniously through dialogue as we have many things in common. I don’t see it as a threat.”
 
Imam Lee Ju-hwa, who preaches at the mosque, hailed the pilgrimage as a example for others to follow.
 
“We feel graced to have had the soon-to-be ordained Catholic deacons visit us with such open minds,” he said.
 
“Their efforts to understand other religions will serve as a small step toward world peace.”

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