[EDITORIALS]The new cardinalNicholas Cheong Jin-suk, the archbishop of Seoul, was named Korea’s second cardinal. This is not just a joy to the 4.5-million Roman Catholics in Korea, but a matter of blessing and auspiciousness to the entire public. As the newly named cardinal said, “This acknowledges Korea’s standing in the world and Korean Catholics’ standing in the world.” Roman Catholics in Korea, with 200 years of history here, now have two cardinals. Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1969.
The naming of Archbishop Cheong as a cardinal has several implications. It was a long-cherished hope of Catholics here: With a tradition of indigenous missionary activities here that is rarely found in other parts of the world, Korea has seen one of the fastest increases in the number of Roman Catholics in Asia in recent years.
But Korea’s Roman Catholics seem to have been taken for granted. In Japan, for example, there are two cardinals in a population of only 1 million believers.
Archbishop Cheong, when he is elevated, will be eligible to participate in the conclave that selects a new Roman Catholic pontiff. Cardinal Kim has not been eligible since he reached the age of 80. Therefore, Korea’s standing in the world’s Roman Catholic scene is expected to be much enhanced.
In Korean society, a cardinal is not only a religious leader. In the past dark military regimes, a cardinal was a light that brightened the darkness and a lighthouse that illuminated the future. A cardinal was a reliable supporter of democracy activists and the conscience that contemplated the pain of the times. The Catholic leader provided a shelter for those suffering from heavy burdens.
Korea is now democratic, they say, but social conflicts have worsened. North and South Korea also remain divided, and the South is fracturing itself along lines of left versus right and haves versus have nots.
We hope that Archbishop Cheong, as cardinal, will be faithful to his calling, smooth conflicts and help us exchange disunity for reconciliation as a social elder. He also has the responsibility to take the lead in the recovery of the dignity of human beings at a time we face an increasing tendency to take life lightly.
Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed Archbishop Cheong, was keenly interested in missionary work in communist countries. We take note of another important duty of Archbishop Cheong, who is also the acting Archbishop of Pyongyang, namely missionary work in North Korea.