[FOUNTAIN]A nationalist and cleric still calls for peaceA prophet is honest with himself. He would not invent or elaborate stories to impress others. If he deceived himself, he would be deceiving God. If a self-proclaimed prophet changes his words depending on whom he is talking to, he is a pretender. A true prophet would make the authorities nervous and dare to go against the dominant values.
Jesus Christ said in the Book of Luke, “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan said he was reminded of Jesus’s words when he confronted President Park Chung Hee during his administration. He confided to the Catholic newspaper Pyonghwa Ilbo that he was personally lonely and tormented at the time. “I dare say I felt the pain of the prophet unwelcome at home,” he said. He added that the most painful criticism came from church insiders, who blamed his vanity and desire for power for bringing a crisis to the Catholic community.
As a young man, Cardinal Kim was simple and honest. In 1940, when the country was under Japanese colonial rule, he was a senior at Dongseong Commercial High School. For an ethics exam, he was supposed to write his opinions about being a citizen of the Japanese empire. Nationalistic pride stirred the rebellious teenager. He sat still for an hour, and just before the bell rang, he wrote two short sentences. “I am not a citizen of the empire. Therefore, I have nothing to write.”
When his uncompromising character combined with religious conviction, Cardinal Kim became a prophet of the times in the 1970s. In his 50s, Cardinal Kim was called in by President Park. When the president glared at him and asked why the Church was meddling in politics, Cardinal Kim responded that it was the duty of the Catholic Church to stand against evil that trampled on the dignity of the people. He prayed for a world where politics need not be mentioned in the pulpit.
Cardinal Kim is now 82. He has an old man’s composure and wisdom. The times have changed, but he is concerned about pro-Pyeongyang, anti-American sentiment here and the famine and human rights infringements in the North. His comments might sound sharp, but let’s not put ideological or political interpretations on them or try to find hidden meanings. In an age of feuds and antagonism, let Cardinal Kim speak from a demilitarized zone.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.