By Robin Gomes
The newly-elected leader of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Korea (CBCK) has declared the Church’s continued pro-life stand in South Korea, saying abortion is unacceptable.
Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon of Suwon, elected CBCK’s new president at the Oct. 12-15 Fall General Assembly, made the statement at a press conference on Oct. 16 at the CBCK centre in Seoul.
As leaders of the Church in Korea, he said at the start of the press conference, they strive to realize the common good in society, working and cooperating with others “so that all citizens can live a just, happy, and peaceful life.”
Firmly opposed to abortion
Speaking about the culture of life in the country, Bishop Lee lamented that “the trend of neglect of life is rampant in Korea.” “To defend the dignity of life and to protect it cannot be compromised for any reason. I am firmly opposed to abortion and will continue to do so.”
He said he would urge the government to work hard to prepare a system for a culture of life, and the National Assembly to legislate for a culture of healthy life.
The new bill
South Korea’s government has adopted a draft law to legalize abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy. It adopted a bill on Oct. 7 that plans to plans to ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy except in the case of a sex crime or if it affects the mother’s health or severe congenital disabilities for the fetus. The law bans abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy, the Justice Ministry said.
Although the government has adopted the bill, citizens have been given around 40 days to submit their views before it is sent to the National Assembly for approval. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea has been opposing the move to legalize abortion since August when the government was finalizing the draft bill.
After reiterating the Church’s unequivocal stand against abortion, Bishop Lee went on to urge the government to allow conscientious objection, reported The Korean Times.
Conscientious objection to abortion is the right of medical staff to refuse participation in abortion for personal belief. “Healthcare workers,” the CBCK president said, “shouldn’t be punished just because they refuse to perform an abortion procedure.”
At Friday’s press conference, Bishop Lee also touched upon other issues. Noting the hardships that people are facing, especially employees and small business owner, because of the pandemic, he urged for solidarity with them.
He recalled Pope Francis’ recent encyclical letter Fratelli tutti on fraternity and social friendship, saying it that the church should serve humanity.
Speaking about relations between the two Koreas, Bishop Lee expressed sadness that even after 70 years of the start of the Korean War, relations between the two neighbours were still tense. For the past 25 years, the Catholic Church in South Korea has been gathering every Tuesday at the feet of the Virgin Mary in Seoul Cathedral to implore the grace of reunification. With the help of this prayer, Bishop Lee hopes to make a concrete plan for inter-Korean reconciliation.
Our “common home”
The new Korean bishops’ president took up the issues of climate change and pollution amid the pandemic and infectious diseases. “We must strive to preserve our one and only earth well,” he said citing Pope Francis’s encyclical “Laudato si'”.
He said the bishops “wish to continue the movement to preserve the ecological environment and protect the earth, our common home”.