Opening remarks by fr. Spadaro, Residence of the Korean Ambassador to the Holy See

24 Maggio 2018
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La Civiltà Cattolica is one of the oldest cultural magazines in the world.  Last year, on February 11, 2017, it published its 4000th issue. It comes out twice a month and is written only by Jesuits. La Civiltà Cattolica is a serious, cultural magazine, challenging but popular and it writes about everything that is human: theology, science, politics, film, economics art… Beginning in February 2017 the review comes out in 5 languages: Italian, Spanish, English, French and Korean. The magazine, in fact, was born international in 1850, became national in 1861, and becomes international again in 2017.

Why this linguistic turning point?

  1. The magazine has had an international aspiration and inspiration all along.
  2. The Pope asks us to be a bridge. A bridge is not a house. A bridge is crossed, and provides the context of a passage. We will receive many more and better articles by Jesuits from around the world.  Now imagining their translations in other languages, we know that we can develop an important connecting role.
  3. The magazine becomes international from Rome, the place where not only an important religious leader resides, but also a moral leader and, in a certain sense, a political one at the international level.

The multilingual dimension of La Civiltà Cattolica will not leave the identity of the journal unchanged because, having readers in other languages, the examples of other countries and cultures will become part of the heart of the journal as never before. And this will be our way of living today our fidelity to the request of Pope Pius IX to our predecessors with regard to their writings «to disseminate and diffuse them widely in all Nations», as he wrote in his brief Gravissimum supremi (1866).

La Civiltà Cattolica is not a stack of paper, but is a living history. And this history, made up of faces and people, is organic to the history of the Church.

We know however that a cultural magazine is mixed, is kneaded, with the times that it spans. A journalist defined it as a «barometer». I would also define it as a «thermometer». But we also recognize ourselves well in a definition made by Mons. James I. Tucek of Dallas in the 1960s. At the time of the Council he was in Rome as head of what is now Catholic News Service and called us: «a dignified, but hard punching magazine.» This is what we want to be.

Today, after 168 years, we recognize that a «Catholic civilization» is not a bubble closed-in on itself nor does it fuel resentments against a world that almost seems lost and adrift, abandoned by God.  In the editorial of the first issue of 1850, our magazine gave interpretation precisely to the word «Catholicism»: «A catholic civilization would not be Catholic, that is, universal, if it did not match itself with any form of public affairs». La Civiltà Cattolica has to involve itself with any kind of public affairs.

And — again — this is what we want to be: a magazine which is international, dignified, hard punching and deeply involved with any kind of public affairs.

Why “La Civiltà Cattolica” in Korean?

I still remember when the Jesuit Provincial asked me to start the project of our magazine in Korean. I was thrilled. I found the project exciting. He had been asked to create something like La Civiltà Cattolica in his Country. Considering the internationalization of La Civiltà Cattolica he asked himself: why don’t we publish the review in Korean? And he asked me what I thought about this idea. Of course, I immediately said yes to the project. But just with a request: to involve the Sogang University in the review through providing articles. And this cooperation is working well at the moment.

The Korean Peninsula has embodied the tensions of the cold war. The geopolitical visions of the late twentieth century are still alive in its territory. But Korea is above all a land of very old and different religious traditions, such as the shamanic, Buddhist and Confucian ones, which deeply mold the sensitivity of every religious person, but also the social life.

The Korean Peninsula is a land in which unity is not opposed to differences and does not destroy diversity, but recognizes it, reconciles it and enriches it. For this reason, Korea is called to a unity that reconciles the many political and ideological polarities it embodies. But, even for that, Korea lives strong and unresolved tensions.

In this complex reality we also find a spiritually rich Christianity, matured over time in an original way thanks to Korean lay – not clerical – scholars. From the beginning of the seventeenth century the members of the Korean embassies in China met some Jesuit missionaries with whom they discussed religious issues. From them they received the texts of evangelizers of Asia, especially the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, in particular, his Genuine notion of the Lord of Heaven (1603), in which Confucianism was presented as a way to the Gospel.

This land, so rich in contrasts and cultural harmonies, of geopolitical tensions, of walls and bridges, has today become the frontier of the world, the point of fracture and union of the geopolitical powers and blocks.

From now on April 27, 2018 is the date that will be remembered as that of the third summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Peace House at the border village of Panmunjom.

La Civiltà Cattolica, in this sense, has accompanied the dynamics of the Korean Peninsula. In the opening volume of the «Accènti» series, we have collected some articles that can help the reader understand «the» Korea. When Pope Francis went in Korea he spoke about one Korea united by its mother language. He said in the press conference flying back to Rome: «I said we have  a hope: the two Koreas are brothers, and they speak the same language. They speak the same language because they have the same mother, and that gives us hope. The suffering of the division is great, I understand that and I pray that it ends».

We want to be a witness of what the people of Korea are living: their hope and their struggle for a better future. And we want to spread out and share in different languages from the heart of Catholicism what the Korean people are living. We are doing that now thanks to Jeong Yeon Hwang, Seilh Oh, Kim Youn-su, Daniel Kister and others.

And Korea is part of Asia which is a fundamental continent for the future of the Church. La Civiltà Cattolica intends then – also thanks to the English edition – to receive contributions and reflections from Asia and to put them into circulation for the good of the universal Church. For our part, we intend to carry out a humble task to help and support the mission of the Korean Church by also providing contributions that come from the Church of other countries and continents and making them known to you. It isn’t an easy task. It is a task that sees the review as a «bridge» that allows the circulation of ideas and visions of reality in a dialectic between inculturation and universality.

In entrusting La Civiltà Cattolica to our Korean-speaking readers, relying on their generous trust, I confirm once again a thought which our journal formulated beautifully in 1851: «Between the one who writes and the one who reads runs an exchange of thoughts and sentiments which holds much by the friendship».

(l’intervento di p. Spadaro, ha seguito il saluto introduttivo dell’organizzatore e promotore dell’evento, l’Ambasciatore Giuseppe Baek Man Lee. Qui il testo del suo breve discorso introduttivo, pronunciato in italiano)