Cardinal Yeom vows efforts to actualize a church for poor

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's newly appointed cardinal, Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, on Monday vowed efforts to realize Pope Francis' vision of a church serving the poor.

The 71-year-old archbishop of Seoul was one of the 19 new cardinals named by Pope Francis on Sunday. He is South Korea's third-ever cardinal after late Stephen Kim Sou-hwan (1922-2009) and Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk.

"I will make efforts to realize Pope Francis' vision of a church toiling for the poor and those on the margins of society and to make it a church serving the community," the new cardinal said during a congratulatory ceremony hosted by the Archdiocese of Seoul to mark his promotion to the rank of cardinal-priest.

"I think the pope appointed me to the post to make me effectively carry out the mission of the church," he said during the ceremony at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul. "I respect efforts made by late Cardinal Kim and Cardinal Cheong and will add mine to them though they may be little."

He also pledged efforts to "gather scattered sheep" and "heal confrontation and rift."

Cardinal Cheong said in his speech at the ceremony that the appointment of a new South Korean cardinal opened a new chapter for the local church, drawing the attention of the world's church.

"I hope Cardinal Yeom will perform his duty well, honoring God's will," Cheong said.

The two cardinals hugged each other warmly after the speeches.

About 300 Catholic faithfuls and journalists braved the chilly winter weather to congratulate the appointment of a new cardinal.

Some of them shouted, "We love you, Andrew Cardinal Yeom!" while handing him bouquets of flowers.

South Korea has a Catholic community of more than 5 million, a sizable portion of its nearly 49-million population whose religious heritage is largely based on Buddhism.

The news from Rome drew celebration from not only Roman Catholics but also other believers and nonbelievers.

President Park Geun-hye called on Yeom to offer congratulations after his appointment was made public.

"I sincerely congratulate Yeom on the appointment and believe what the people as well as the local catholic church had hoped for came true," Park was quoted as telling by her senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun.

The Buddhist Jogye Order, South Korea's largest Buddhist sect, issued a congratulatory message, expressing hope that the Catholic church will serve for the poor as the new cardinal has said.

"Religion is for pursuing the common good of happiness and peace, and reducing humankind's conflict and pain, as well as befriending those who are marginalized and in difficulties," the Venerable Jaseung, the head of Jogye Order, said in the message. "This path would be what all religious figures, including Buddhism and Roman Catholicism, must pursue," he added.

"The appointment of the country's third-ever cardinal is the reflection of the South Korean Roman Catholic church's status and a happy occasion for the country's entire religious circle," Namgung Seong, the head of Won Buddhism, said in a congratulatory message.

Lee Jeong-min, a 26-year-old office worker in Seoul, said she hopes Yeom will pay special attention to the socially vulnerable as he pledged.

"Although he is known to be a conservative centrist, I hope he would walk the straight and narrow, without being one-sided, as he is now cardinal," she said.

Yoon Min-soo, a college student, expressed hope that the emergence of the nation's third cardinal will serve an occasion to resolve the country's ideological rift.

"I think the birth of South Korea's third-ever cardinal itself is meaningful," Yoon said. "I hope this would serve as a chance to remove the country's social conflict because an uneasy mood caused by various issues grips the nation these days."

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