Nov 25, 2010

The 16th Korea-Japan Bishops Exchange meeting

The 16th Korea-Japan Bishops Exchange meeting was held in Cheongju in Korea from 16 to 18 November.  All together 13 Bishops from Japan and 17 Bishops from Korea participated in the program.  This year, our main theme of the program was suicide which has been one of the major social problem in both Japan and Korea recently.  As for Japan, since 1998 more than thirty thousand people commit suicide every year because of various reasons.  My diocese, Niigata, has the highest rate of suicide among elderly people.  Since Caritas Japan has been tackling with this problem in Japan, Bishop Koda who is in charge of the social enlightenment program of Caritas Japan gave a talk on the topic of "Suicide and pastoral response of the Church in Japan."  Dr. Hong Kang-eui from Korea gave a talk on the topic of "Present state of suicide in Korea and policy directions."

Caritas Japan has just published a booklet on this issue based on the survey in several Catholic communities in Japan.  This booklet in Japanese is available free of charge from Caritas Japan office in Tokyo.

It seems that the Catholic Church in Korea has been receiving quite a number of new episcopal appointments in past few years so that there were number of new faces among participants.  There are 16 dioceses in Japan.  Korea also have the same number of the diocese including the military ordinary but the total number of bishops are much more than Japan since there are several auxiliaries.  Whenever I visit the Catholic Church in Korea, I really feel overwhelmed by their size and power.  According to the statics, there are more than 4 million Catholic in South Korea which is around 9% of the population while there are around half a million Catholics in Japan which is far less than 1% of the population.  There are around 700 priests in the Seoul archdiocese while I have less than 20 priests in my diocese.      

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