Priests’ group holds another Mass, criticize election result

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Priests’ group holds another Mass, criticize election result

A progressive Catholic association yesterday once again condemned the Park Geun-hye government during an emergency Mass, urging the president to resign and take responsibility for last year’s presidential election, which the group claimed was rigged.

“We are here today to pray for the redemption of President Park and for a thorough investigation into former President Lee Myung-bak,” said the Rev. Seo Buk-won, of Samgadong Cathedral in Yongin, who led the emergency Mass yesterday at Gisan Cathedral in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi.

Repeating the group’s demand for Park’s resignation, the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice called Park’s position an “illegal presidency” and cited various state agencies’ alleged online smear campaigns ahead of the election as integral in getting Park elected.

“There is a faction [within the government] that tries to label priests - who are fighting to fend off injustice - as Pyongyang followers,” said the Rev. Cho Han-young, of Yeoju Cathedral, who also participated in the Mass. “It has become clear that last year’s presidential election was rigged by stage agencies … The principles of democracy are not compatible with such a corrupt election.” About 300 people attended the service.

During the Mass yesterday, members of conservative groups held a rally in front of Gisan Cathedral to denounce the liberal priests’ association, claiming it is inappropriate for religious figures to have social and political agendas. No clash between the two groups occurred.

The Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice said in its statement yesterday that the government orchestrated a witch hunt against priests who opposed the government by labeling them “Pyongyang sympathizers,” a move it argued has taken the country back into the 1970s, when the country was under an 18-year dictatorship by Park Chung Hee, the father of the incumbent president.

The strongly worded sermon by members of the priests’ association came more than a month after the group ignited a nationwide stir when the Rev. Park Chang-sin, a senior member of the group, gave a sermon last November at a cathedral in Gunsan, North Jeolla. During the emergency Mass, Rev. Park urged the president to step down from office and made seemingly supportive comments toward Pyongyang, including its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, which left two Marines and two civilians dead.

“What if the Korea-U.S. joint military drills continue on an island near the controversial [Northern Limit Line]?” he said at the time. “What should North Korea do in that case? North Korea also should shoot them, and that was the shelling on Yeonpyeong Island.”

Park also raised questions in regard to the sinking of the Korean warship Cheonan, implying that the attack wasn’t carried out by the North Korean military, raising the ire of South Korea’s conservatives.

Rev. Park’s remarks prompted President Park to pledge stern action against those who she said polarize the country.

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