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From North Korea to Catholicism: Mi Jin’s answered prayer

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 16, 2018 / 09:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During her childhood in North Korea, Mi Jin Kang never believed in the existence of God, until one person began to spark her curiosity.

“From school education, I learned that religion is a drug,” Mi Jin told CNA, “However, I heard the story of God from a girl that I met in North Korea before my escape. This was the first step to belief.”

“Before escaping North Korea, the story of God was a curiosity and miraculous,” said Mi Jin who decided to escape North Korea in 2009, at the age of 40.

“When I escaped from North Korea, I prayed with my two hands,” remembered Mi Jin, “When my prayer to God at the moment of escape was answered, I decided to be a child of God.”

“It was especially this prayer to God at the moment of escaping from North Korea that led me to be a believer during the process of settling in South Korea.”

Though she did not share details of her escape, many North Korean defectors are helped to South Korea by a network supported by Chinese Christians.

In South Korea, an order of Korean religious sisters taught Mi Jin and other North Korean defectors about the Catholic faith. Mi Jin learned about Saint Therese the Little Flower from the sisters.

At her baptism, Mi Jin took a new Christian name, as is the custom for Korean Catholics. She became Teresa.

“I wanted to be like Saint Teresa, who lived a faithful life,” Mi Jin said.

When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, Mi Jin was invited by the Korean bishops to see  Pope Francis face-to-face, in the front row of the beatification Mass for 124 Korean martyrs. She also attended to Pope’s Mass in Seoul’s historic Myeongdong Cathedral.

“I got to experience the glory of a Mass close to the Pope,” said Mi Jin.

Mi Jin now works as a journalist in South Korea at the Daily NK, helping others to understand what life is like inside the world’s most opaque country.

Mi Jin told CNA that American Catholics can help North Koreans. “I think it is necessary to provide humanitarian assistance for people who are in need in North Korea. I also hope that support for organizations who are broadcasting to reach out to residents in North Korea, such as Daily NK, can help it go smoothly.”

Mi Jin especially encouraged prayer for North Korea. “I hope that Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea realizes economic democratization for North Korean's true freedom and life by giving up nuclear weapons.”

She also “hopes to see the unification Korea as the relationship between North and South Korea has developed in a positive way like recently.”

Mi Jin told CNA that she has been watching the Pyeongchang Olympic Games everyday. Her favorite event to watch is skiing.

Hyo Jeong Kim assisted with translation for this story.

Priesthood isn't an assignment – it's a mission, Pope tells seminarians

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis met with the community of the Pontifical Maronite College, explaining how their seminary formation isn’t about them or even for them, but for the people they will eventually serve in their parishes and dioceses.

“The human, intellectual and spiritual enrichment you receive in these years is not a reward for you, much less a good to be earned for your career, but a treasure for the faithful who await you in your Eparchies and to whom your life looks forward to being donated,” the Pope said Feb. 16.

“You will not be called to exercise, even well, an assignment – it is not enough! – but to live a mission, without savings, without many calculations, without limits of availability.”

Pope Francis held an audience at the Vatican with around 45 seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome, which was founded in 1584 by Pope Gregory XIII as a place of study for Catholic seminarians of the Maronite rite.

The Maronite Catholic Church traces its roots to the early Christians of Antioch, the first believers to be called Christian. In its liturgy, the rite still uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.

The rite takes its name from the fourth century hermit St. Maron, whose way of life inspired many monks and laity to follow him, eventually resulting in the distinctive Maronite rite.

During the encounter, Pope Francis told the priests and seminarians that as pastors, they will need to listen to people a lot, and that God will “confirm you through their lives, through many encounters, through its unpredictable surprises.”

“And you, as pastors in close contact with the flock, will savor the most genuine joy when you bend over them, making yours their joys and their sufferings, and when, at the end of the day, you can tell the Lord the love you have received and given,” he said.

Pointing to the Maronite Church’s recent Feb. 9 celebration of St. Maron, the Pope praised the monastic life of the saint, saying it shows a proper discontent with living only a moderate or mediocre faith, but wants “to love with all its heart.”

“It is by drawing on these pure sources that your ministry will be good water for today's thirsty people,” he explained.

Our heart is like a compass: It orients and directs itself toward what it loves, Francis said, quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.”

He explained that these years of study, spiritual formation, and community life in Rome are a good time to “arrange the heart well.”

“All this you are called to live in a time not without suffering and dangers, but also pregnant with hope,” he said, pointing out how the people they will be called to serve will be unsettled by the instability which continues to plague the Middle East.

They “will search for, in you, pastors that console them: pastors with the word of Jesus on their lips, with their hands ready to wipe away their tears and caress suffering faces,” he continued.

“Pastors forgetful of themselves and their own interests; pastors who are never discouraged, because they draw every day, from the Eucharistic Bread, the sweet power of love that satisfies; pastors who are not afraid to ‘be eaten’ by the people, as good bread offered to brothers.”

Senator: Extreme EEOC nominee puts religious liberty at risk

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2018 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s re-nomination of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission puts religious liberty and marriage in danger and should be withdrawn, one U.S. Senator said this week.

“If Feldblum were a typical Democrat, it might make sense to let her nomination proceed through the Senate along with her two Republican colleagues,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote in a Feb. 14 commentary at The Daily Signal.

“But Feldblum is no typical Democrat. Her radical views on marriage and the appropriate use of government power place her far outside even the liberal mainstream.”

Lee objected that Feldblum, a former law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center appointed to the EEOC by President Barack Obama, opposes religious exemptions where they would conflict with LGBT advocates’ goals.

In 2006, writer Maggie Gallagher reported in the Weekly Standard that, in Feldblum’s words, “there can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

In Lee’s view, this differs from the Supreme Court’s view of an all-embracing tradition of religious freedom.

“Rather than a ‘zero-sum game’ that pits Americans against each other, we should work to build an America where ‘all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship’, as George Washington wrote in 1790,” the senator said.

He contended that Feldblum’s position contrasts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision mandating the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the First Amendment “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama named Feldblum to the EEOC as a recess appointment, later confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She was re-appointed in 2013.

In December 2017, the Trump White House said Feldblum’s nomination had been forwarded to the Senate. Feldblum’s current term expires in July 2018. If confirmed, she would serve until 2023, Reuters reports.

Lee said President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats should find “a more mainstream candidate” who “respects the institution of marriage and religious freedom for all Americans.”

Senator Lee’s commentary cited Feldblum’s doubts that marriage is “a normatively good institution” and her support, which she later withdrew, for the 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.” That document advocated the equality of polygamy and monogamy, praising “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

Current EEOC publications have held that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee's gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Lee noted that Feldblum has said that even though the EEOC only has jurisdiction over employment, other federal agencies that enforce sex discrimination provisions look to the EEOC for guidance.

 

Slander lawsuit against Guam's suspended archbishop dismissed

Hagatna, Guam, Feb 16, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Guam court has dismissed part of a defamation lawsuit against Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, who is facing several accusations of sexual abuse in the 1970s.

The archbishop had publicly renounced the sexual abuse charges in a 2016 statement soon after the accusations were made, saying there were “intentional lies.”

The archbishop’s accusers brought a two-part defamation case against him shortly after his 2016 statement. Guam Pacific Daily News reported that the plaintiffs were seeking $500,000 each for a total $2 million in defamation charges.

In recent decision, Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo dismissed the slander case but will allow the libel case to stand.

“It dismissed half the suit essentially...the complaint is two-fold: it's a defamation suit. One for libel. One for slander. The slander was dismissed so all that's remaining is libel,” said the archbishop’s attorney, Jacque Terlaje, according to Kuam News.

The court instructed the defendant to “seek dismissal of the suit based on the affirmative defenses of qualified privilege,” Terlaje said.

“If someone accuses you of sex abuse, and in this context in a public forum… every person has the right to defend against that, to repel the allegations of abuse is the language that is used by many courts.”

Archbishop Apuron has been accused by four former alter boys of sexual molestation in the 1970s, when Apuron was a parish priest at Mount Carmel Parish in Agat. The allegations were made public in 2016.

In January 2018, the archbishop’s nephew accused him of rape around 1989 or 1990.

Archbishop Apuron continued to deny all allegations. “God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me include this one,” he said in January, according to Guam Pacific Daily News.

 

Priest in Idaho faces drug, child pornography charges

Boise, Idaho, Feb 15, 2018 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A retired priest of the Diocese of Boise is facing multiple charges involving child pornography and drug possession, which has sparked a feeling of shock and betrayal in the local bishop.

“When I heard the news for the first time, certainly sadness entered my heart, followed by shock and a sense of betrayal,” said Bishop Peter Christensen in a Feb. 11 announcement from the Diocese of Boise.

“I wish I could take away the pain that follows such horrific stories, but I cannot,” Bishop Christensen continued, saying that “we live in troubled times.”

The allegations were brought against Fr. W. Thomas Faucher, a 72-year old retired priest, who spent 20 years as the spiritual head of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School in Boise. Fr. Faucher retired three years ago, and is now facing charges for allegedly possessing or distributing child pornography, as well as being in possession of marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy.

According to the Idaho Statesman, there had been no previous complaints against Fr. Faucher, who was arrested after authorities had received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last week.

As Faucher faces court, Bishop Christensen said the Diocese of Boise will not be funding Faucher’s legal defense or financially contributing to a bond for the priest's release, which is currently set at $250,000.

Christensen also said that the diocese will not be paying for Faucher’s housing, further noting that the church is working towards evicting Faucher from his church-owned home for the safety of the surrounding neighbors.

Faucher’s preliminary hearing will take place on Thursday at the Ada County Courthouse.

According to local reports, Christensen addressed the scandal at St. Mary’s parish last Sunday, where he thanked the current priest, principal of the school, law enforcement, and media. The bishop also called child pornography “the work of the devil,” and lamented the alleged crime.  

Christensen also noted how the alleged scandal affects the universal Church, saying that such crimes “breaks the morale for the priests.”

“I do not know what the eventual outcome of Fr. Faucher’s legal case will be. Regardless, damage has been done to so many who have put their trust in his past leadership and friendship,” Christensen said.

“I encourage our Catholic community to seek God’s healing presence in each of our lives, placing our dependence and trust in Him. Let us pray for all children who are victimized by all forms of abuse and exploitation. Let us also pray for each other, and for our Church.”