Korean nun spreads Gospel with prayer and poetry

Sister Claudia’s autobiography features her life, works, experiences and thoughts over the past seven decades

Rock Ronald Rozario

by Rock Ronaldo Rozario
Updated: February 08, 2021 04:55 AM GMT

An elderly Korean Catholic nun, highly acclaimed for authoring a series of books on poetry and prose, recently published her autobiography that highlights the goodness of life and relationships in her more than seven decades of life.

Sister Claudia Lee Hae-in, 75, from the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters congregation based in Busan, published the book in the Korean language. Its title translates into English as “The Word of Understanding.”

The book features the life, works, experiences and thoughts of Sister Claudia over the past seven decades including 57 years of religious life as a nun.  

“This book summarizes the journey of my life, the way I have lived and struggled in the past decades, and it will help dispel preconceived notions about me as many people wonder that as a nun I only write pretty, romantic poems,” Sister Claudia said.

The nun noted that in her life she has followed the motto of “Becoming everything for everyone” (1 Corinthians 9:22), which has been often challenging as she came across different types of people with different kinds of needs.

“I have always prayed to Jesus and tried to realize how I could show them real hospitality with compassion. It helped me to become mild to those people who committed sins. That helped me to achieve happiness like a calming breeze,” the nun said.

Sister Claudia was born on June 7, 1945, in Yang-gu in Gangwon province of South Korea, close to North Korea. During the Korean War, her father was detained and taken to North Korea, forcing the remaining family members to flee to Busan.

Completing secondary school, she joined the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of Busan in 1964. She pronounced her first vows in 1968 and final vows in 1976.

The Olivetan Benedictine Sisters are an international Catholic women’s religious order. The nuns are esteemed for their missionary and pastoral activism including parish religious formation, pastoral care, Catholic education and sacred arts.

In South Korea, the nuns offer missionary and pastoral services in various parishes and mission centers in the Diocese of Busan and the archdioceses of Seoul and Daejeon.

Sister Claudia graduated in English from St. Louis University in 1975 and in 1985, she graduated from the department of religion at Sogang University in capital Seoul.

From an early age, she was passionate about poetry and as a nun she explored connections between poetry and spirituality in her writings.

In 1976, Sister Claudia published her first collection of poetry titled The Land of Dandelions.

Since then, she has published 13 books of poetry, 10 books of prose and nine books of translation. Several of her poems are included in high school textbooks. She has received six awards for her outstanding contributions to literature.

She has told her confreres that she spreads the Gospel through prayer and poetry and that she harmonizes her religious life with everyday life and nature to compose intimate poems on various themes.

From 1992-97, Sister Claudia was the secretary-general of her convent in Busan. From 1998-2002, the nun carried out her extraordinary missionary works through a literary forum called “Hae-in’s Writing Room” and delivered a series of lectures in various parts of the country on the theme “Poetry and Spirituality in Life.”

The nun had a cherished friendship with prominent South Korean writer Park Wan-suh (1931-2011) and noted that Park’s life and works greatly influenced her life and works.

“Her humility, passion and love for humanity were inspirational for my writings,” she said.

In 2008, Sister Claudia faced a health crisis when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The nun undertook a courageous, successful battle as she went through prolonged treatment before returning to good health and a normal life.

In 2015, fake news spread on the internet claiming the nun had died, which the nun jokingly ignored by saying, “I could forgive the fake news, but I can’t go easy on the fake poem,” according to her interview with The Korea Times in 2017.

Recovering from cancer, the nun started using words like “happiness” more and more. As a result, she published a book of prose titled Happiness in Waiting in 2018.

The book contained words of love and encouragement she had discovered in trivial things as she fought cancer for about nine years.

Despite her advanced age and increasingly frail health, Sister Claudia smiles at anyone she meets and emphasizes happiness and love in her interactions.

“Let’s laugh first, love first, and thank you first,” she said in a recent interview with Catholic Times.

Sister Claudia says she considers herself as “a pilgrim of love and prayer” in the world.

“As a pilgrim when I make journey of love, the ordinary life becomes extraordinary with love and it ultimately leads to the Kingdom of God. When my life ends, I would like to be remembered as a poet nun who has lived happily.”

from: https://www.ucanews.com/news/korean-nun-spreads-gospel-with-prayer-and-poetry/91275

Sister Claudia Lee Hae-in explores connections between poetry and spirituality in her writings. (Photo: Olivetan Benedictine Sisters)

Philippines cheers bishops’ offer to help allay COVID-19 vaccine fears

MANILA: The Philippines’ health ministry on Sunday (Jan 31) welcomed the offer of the country’s group of Catholic bishops to help in the coronavirus vaccination drive of the government, which is struggling to persuade many Filipinos to get the shots.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has offered to transform church facilities in the country into COVID-19 vaccination sites, and said its members were also willing to get vaccinated in public to help build confidence in the campaign.

“We are happy with the CBCP’s offer,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a statement. “Churches really can be alternative sites to areas that lack facility, especially those in hard-to-reach municipalities.”

The health ministry has acknowledged they face an uphill struggle to persuade many people to take the vaccine shots, on top of the logistical difficulties in reaching 2,000 inhabited islands with precarious health systems.

“We can offer our church facilities to help in this massive and complicated and very challenging programme of vaccination,” Archbishop Romulo Valles, CBCP president, was quoted as saying on Thursday by the official news service of the CBCP Media Office.

The Southeast Asian country, among the world’s laggards in its vaccination rollout, aims to start immunisations next month. It has the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the region with more than half a million infections and over 10,000 deaths.

The church remains influential in the Catholic-majority country, although its relationship with the current administration has not been as cordial as with previous leaderships.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly lambasted the church, which had criticised him over his bloody war on drugs.

from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/philippines-cheers-bishops–offer-to-help-allay-covid-19-vaccine-fears-14080464

A health worker pretends to inject a volunteer as they still wait for vaccination during a “COVID-19 Vaccination Dry Run” in Taguig, Philippines on Jan 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Catholic agency wants rich nations to help poor with Covid vaccines

Rich countries have already secured more vaccines than they need, while nations in the South don’t have enough.

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporterUpdated: January 18, 2021 08:29 AM GMT

The head of a leading Catholic organization has called on the European Union to help provide rapid access to Covid-19 vaccines following reports that rich countries have already cornered half of the supply.

Pirmin Spiegel, director-general of Misereor, the social development organization of German bishops, told Vatican Radio of his concerns following a report that 13 percent of the world’s population has secured about half of the Covid vaccines.

Such lopsided vaccine distribution will be a stumbling block to achieve universal vaccination, which will take years unless wealthy nations pump in more money, he added.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” Spiegel warned. “The world will only be able to deal with the Covid-19 crisis if we fight it everywhere, not just at home.”

He quoted Tilman Rüppel of the Medical Missionary Institute in Würzburg, which works closely with Misereor.

Rüppel had warned against a “vaccination nationalism” that focuses only on one’s own country and fails to recognize the pandemic’s global implications. He said the aim should be to bring the virus under control in all countries as early as possible. 

If this task is not undertaken on a priority basis, the coronavirus gets time to mutate, change genetically and become an even more difficult health problem, he noted.

Spiegel said: “The inequality in our world is also mapped in the issue of access to vaccines. That’s why vaccines are a global public good. Therefore, there must be quotas for the entire world population to distribute them proportionately to the respective populations and to take into account levels of risk and vulnerability.”

Spiegel sought a temporary suspension of patents on Covid-19 vaccines so that they can be produced and purchased easily. 

Critical situation 

In many poorer countries, the situation is critical with vaccines inaccessible.

More than 8 million people are infected in Brazil, while more than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19, said Spiegel. 

In Manaus, capital of Brazilian state Amazonas, hospitals are overcrowded and lack protective equipment. No vaccine has been approved by the national health authority in the Latin American country.

The situation is similar in Mexico, where more than 134,000 people have died from Covid-19 and more than 1.5 million people have been affected. With a population of 130 million — the 10th-largest in the world — up to 45 percent of Mexico’s low- and middle-income people are at risk of poverty. The government is merely appealing to curb the pandemic, he said.

Other Latin American countries like Bolivia and Argentina lack sufficient financial resources to purchase reliable vaccines. As a result, they have opted for the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine, which has been less extensively tested and controversial.

Misereor’s partners reported that rural regions in Bolivia lack infrastructure (cooling systems, etc.) and qualified personnel. The government also refuses to allow civil society groups to take part in pandemic management.

While rich countries have already secured more vaccines than they need, many nations in the South, however, will have to wait “a long time before enough vaccine is available,” Spiegel said. 

“Let’s make sure that all people who want it can be vaccinated quickly,” the Misereor leader urged.

“In the spirit of universal brotherhood and solidarity, the poorest and most vulnerable need special attention. And we must not lose sight of other serious and growing crises in the South despite the pandemic.”

from: https://www.ucanews.com/news/catholic-agency-wants-rich-nations-to-help-poor-with-covid-vaccines/91038

A health worker administers the Sinovac vaccine against the coronavirus at a community health center in Lambaro in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Jan. 18. (Photo: Chaideer Mahyudddin/AFP)

Holy See calls for just and equitable distribution of vaccines

A joint document from the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life re-affirms the need to make Covid-19 vaccines available and accessible to all.

By Amedeo Lomonaco/Vatican News staff

Vaccines were developed as a public good and must be provided to all in a fair and equitable manner, giving priority to those who need them most.

This is what the Vatican’s Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life have highlighted in a joint document that discusses the essential role of the anti-covid vaccine to defeat the pandemic.

Referring to the Pope’s recent Christmas Message, world leaders are exhorted to reject the temptation to promote “various forms of nationalism” regarding the vaccine, and to cooperate in its distribution. As he said on 25 December, “for these lights to illuminate and bring hope to all, they need to be available to all.”


Justice, solidarity and inclusion are the main criteria to be followed in order to meet the challenges posed by this worldwide emergency.

The Note describes the criteria set out by Pope Francis in his General Audience on 19 August for positively evaluating companies that deserve our support: that they “contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the least, to the common good and the care of creation”.

The indispensable guide, therefore, is the “broad horizon that evokes the principles of the Church’s Social Doctrine, such as human dignity and the preferential option for the poor, solidarity and subsidiarity, the common good and the care of the common home, and justice and the universal destination of goods.”

Research, production and biological materials

It is not only the final moment of vaccine administration that needs to be considered. Its entire “life cycle” must be taken into account.

The first steps along this path concern research and production. One often-raised question concerns the biological materials used in vaccine development. “According to the available information, some of the vaccines that are now ready to be approved or applied use cell lines from voluntarily aborted foetuses in more phases of the process, while others use them in specific laboratory tests.”

Recently the Pontifical Academy for Life addressed this issue in two notes that exclude, amongst other things, a morally relevant cooperation between those who make use of these vaccines and the practice of voluntary abortion. Therefore, the document reads, “while the commitment to ensuring that every vaccine has no connection in its preparation to any material originating from an abortion, the moral responsibility to vaccinate is reiterated in order to avoid serious health risks for children and the general population.”


The issue of production is also linked to that of vaccine patents, because a vaccine is not an existing natural resource, “but an invention produced by human ingenuity.”

Given its function, the document notes, “it is appropriate to consider the vaccine as a good to which everyone should have access, without discrimination, according to the principle of the universal destination of goods highlighted by Pope Francis“. As he said in his Christmas Message, “We [cannot] allow the virus of radical individualism to get the better of us and make us indifferent to the suffering of other brothers and sisters … letting the law of the marketplace and patents take precedence over the law of love and the health of humanity.”

The sole purpose of commercial exploitation, according to the document released by the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy of Life, is not ethically acceptable in the field of medicine and healthcare.

“Investments in the medical field should find their deepest meaning in human solidarity.” Thus, it continues, “we ought to identify appropriate systems that favour transparency and cooperation, rather than antagonism and competition. It is therefore vital to overcome the logic of ‘vaccine nationalism’, understood as an attempt by various States to own the vaccine in more rapid timeframes”. It also points to the industrial production of the vaccine as a “collaborative undertaking between states, pharmaceutical companies and other organizations”.

Approval and administration

After the experimental phases, another crucial step is regulatory approval, under emergency conditions, of the vaccine by the relevant authorities, enabling it to be placed on the market and used in different countries. “It is necessary to coordinate the procedures necessary to achieve this objective and promote mutual recognition between the relevant regulatory authorities” the document says.

With regard to administration, the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life support the convergent positions on the priorities for vaccination, which would give precedence to professionals “engaged in services of common interest, in particular health personnel” as well as those involved in “activities that require contact with the public (such as school and public security), vulnerable groups (such as the elderly, or people with particular pathologies)”.

This criterion, the document points out, “does not resolve all situations. A grey area remains, for example, when defining the priorities of vaccine implementation within the very same risk group”.

Vaccine distribution also requires a set of tools to allow “universal accessibility”. A distribution programme needs to be developed that “takes account of the collaboration needed to deal with logistical-organizational obstacles in areas that are not easily accessible (cooling chains, transport, healthcare workers, the use of new technologies, etc.)”.

The document adds, “The World Health Organization remains an important reference point — to be strengthened and improved — regarding the emerging problematic issues”.

Vaccines and ethical questions

Regarding the moral responsibility to undergo vaccination, the Vatican Covid-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life reiterate that this issue involves “involves the relationship between personal health and public health, showing their close interdependence…. Refusal of the vaccine may also constitute a risk to others. This also applies if, in the absence of an alternative, the motivation is to avoid benefiting from the results of a voluntary abortion”.

“On the other hand, becoming ill leads to an increase in hospitalizations, with subsequent overload for health systems, up to a possible collapse, as has happened in various countries during this pandemic. This hinders access to health care which, once again, affects those who have fewer resources”.

Action plan

A safe and effective vaccine, available to all and priced so as to allow fair distribution: these are the priorities to ensure a global treatment that also takes into account and enhances local situations: “we aim to develop resources to assist local Churches in preparing for this vaccine initiative and treatment protocols to those in their particular communities”.

Spread across the globe, the Church places itself at the service of “healing the world” by using its voice “to speak, exhort and contribute to assuring that quality vaccines and treatments are available to the global family, especially the vulnerable”.

Building a post-covid world

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (DPIHD), who leads the Vatican Covid-19 Commission said, “We are grateful to the scientific community for developing the vaccine in record time. It is now up to us to ensure that it is available to all, especially the most vulnerable. It is a matter of justice. This is the time to show we are one human family”.

“The interconnectedness that binds humanity has been revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy of Life. “Together with the Commission, we are working with many partners to point out lessons the human family can learn and to develop an ethics of risk and solidarity to protect the most vulnerable in society”.

Monsignor Bruno Marie Duffé, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development describes this as a crucial phase. “We are at a turning point in the Covid-19 pandemic and have an opportunity to start to define the world we want to see post-pandemic”.

“The way in which vaccines are deployed – where, to whom, and for how much – ” Father Augusto Zampini, Adjunct Secretary of the Dicastery adds, “is the first step for global leaders to take in committing to fairness and justice as the principles for building a better post- Covid world”.

29 December 2020, 12:55

from: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2020-12/holy-see-calls-for-just-and-equitable-distribution-of-vaccines.html

A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a Covid-19 vaccine (AFP or licensors)

US development fund helping religious cope during the pandemic

Funds granted by the US government’s foreign aid agency support 2 Rome-based Catholic organizations that assist the poor amid the Covid-19 pandemic. They are the Community of Saint Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General, whose Executive Secretary speaks of the reality faced by so many religious during the crisis.

By Linda Bordoni 

Nuns and religious sisters across the world work on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic in many capacities and have been deeply impacted by the crisis.

They care for people in hospitals, in homes, in parishes, in communities, in shelters and wherever they are called. Their communities have been hard-hit with Covid-19 infections spreading through religious houses and monasteries. Many elderly or frail nuns and sisters have died.

Thanks to the allocation of funds amounting to $900,000 by USAID, the U.S. government agency for international development, much needed financial support has reached people – including religious – struggling to cope.

A fruitful collaboration

Here in Rome, a collaborative effort on the part of the US Embassy to the Holy See, the Community of Saint Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) has resulted in the distribution and utilization of these funds.

Speaking at a video press conference on Thursday, Sr Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary of the UISG thanked the US Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, for having facilitated the collaboration, and shed light on the reality of so many nuns and religious during this very difficult time:
Listen to Sr Patricia Murray, Executive Secretary of UISG

“In the past when we read about pandemics,” Sr Pat recalled, “especially for example during the time of the Spanish flu, the sisters were very visible and very present on the streets, in the homes and the hospitals. Very early on during this pandemic, we received a letter at UISG from a medical doctor here in Italy who said: ‘Where are the sisters? We need your help!’”

The impact of the pandemic on religious communities

The sisters, she continued are still there: helping in parishes and shelters and many other places of need. However, another reality, she added, is that many of the sisters are today among those most vulnerable to the virus because of their age and frail health. 

“During this time of covid, I’m sure you’re all aware of the many deaths that occurred of elderly sisters and priests,” she said.

This is a time to reach out and support those thousands of sisters here in Italy, Sr Pat said, who have been teachers and doctors and nurses and social workers and catechists and pastoral ministers… not only here in Italy, but as missionaries in many different parts of the world.

Today, “many of them are in care homes in their congregations,” she said, “praying for the needs of the world and offering their suffering for those who are fearful or anxious at this time.”

Sr Pat revealed that in her role as Executive Secretary of the UISG she has been very touched by the witness of the sisters “whose lives have been utterly changed and who live with the same fears and anxieties as others.”

Drawing on their faith and praying for the world 

“They draw on their faith in Christ and they also rely on the goodness of others to help them in this difficult time,” she said.

She noted that the nuns and sisters are certainly not living in some protected situation, but are fully immersed in the current reality.

She said many elderly sisters have lived in isolation during this time, “even within their religious communities, often separated from those who are in active ministry, and who work outside the community and must self-isolate when they return home.”

“This period of isolation has cut them off from members of their parish, their families and their friends, and they look to find new ways to connect like everybody else,” she said.

In many religious communities, she continued, it is a small number of sisters who are well enough, who look after the others.

“I’ve heard of some communities where everyone has tested positive for covid and then it falls to a small group of sisters who are well to care for the sick among them and to do the cooking and cleaning and all the household tasks associated with large institutions,” she said.

The situation, she continued, has been so difficult that some communities have brought in sisters from other parts of the world to care for the elderly and frail members.

Their gratitude, she affirmed, is enormous and they pray for the protection not only of the workers in their facilities but also for those, throughout Italy, who are on the frontlines.

“One sister said to me: I pray to the Lord that he would take me rather than take someone with a young family,” she said.

How the Grant is helping

Sr Pat said the USAID Grant support has allowed Italian Communities of Sisters to purchase the cleaning materials and the protective materials that they require.

It has also given them the capacity to help over 42 communities and different entities, providing safety and protection and care. 

The majority of those who are being cared for, she revealed, are elderly sisters, “but they also include women who have been trafficked into Italy, women who have come as migrants and refugees with their young children and are looking for support and help to build a new life.”

Sr Pat concluded quoting the words of Pope Francis from his encyclical Fratelli tutti where he prayed to the Lord of Creation:

“May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth. May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us, and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects, and shared dreams,”

“This collaborative initiative between Saint Egidio and the International Union of Superiors General supported by the US government,” she said, “is a shining example of goodness that can build a common project that recognises the dignity of each person. 


A Camillian sister at the convent where she lives just outside Rome where 40 religious tested positive for Covid-19 (ANSA)

Pope at Audience: Prayer is rudder to guide course of our lives

At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis says Jesus shows us that we must pray early, often, and in silence, and urges everyone to pray for those who are ill with Covid-19 and the medical personnel working to treat them.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis began his Wednesday General Audience noting that the event must “unfortunately” be held once again in the library of the Apostolic Palace without the presence of the faithful.

He called it a reminder of the importance of respecting the directives laid out by political and health authorities.

He also invited everyone to pray for those who are ill with Covid-19 and for the medical personnel working hard to treat them.

“Let us offer the Lord this distance between us, for the good of all,” he said. “And let us think often about the ill, those who are already considered left behind. Let us think about doctors, nurses, volunteers, and the many people who are working with the sick right now, who risk their lives but do it out of love, their vocation, and love for their neighbor. Let us pray for them.”

Mysterious reality

The Pope then continued his catechesis on Jesus’ example of prayer.

“Jesus’ prayer is a mysterious reality, of which we intuit only something, but which allows us to interpret His entire mission from the right perspective.”

Jesus, added the Pope, immersed Himself often in intimacy with God the Father, “in the Love that every soul thirsts for.”

Rudder that guides His course

Pope Francis focused his reflections on a passage in the Gospel of Mark (1:32,34-38), in which Jesus heals many sick people late one evening before rising early to pray in a deserted place alone.

After the disciples find Jesus to say the whole village of Capernaum is looking for Him, Jesus declares that He must preach to the other towns as well.

“Prayer is the rudder that guides Jesus’ course.”

This, said the Pope, means that Jesus lets God guide His path, and not the desires and adulation of others.

He went on to draw four lessons from Jesus’ witness of prayer.

Dawning of the day

Jesus, said Pope Francis, teaches us above all that prayer should be “the first desire of the day.”

“A day lived without prayer risks transforming into a bothersome or tedious experience: all that happens to us could turn into a badly endured and blind fate.”

However, Jesus demonstrates the need to be obedient and to listen, since prayer is first of all “an encounter with God.”

“The problems of everyday life, then, do not become obstacles, but appeals from God Himself to listen  to and encounter those who are in front of us.”


Secondly, said the Pope, Jesus teaches us that prayer is an art that must be practiced “with insistence.”

Though anyone can pray sporadically, Jesus reminds us that prayer requires discipline, practice, and constant effort.

“Consistent prayer produces a progressive transformation, makes us strong in times of tribulation, gives us the grace to be supported by Him who loves us and always protects us.”

Solitary and silent

Thirdly, Jesus’ prayer is always solitary.

“Those who pray do not escape from the world, but prefer deserted places.”

In the silence of prayer, said Pope Francis, our innermost desires and truths emerge into the light.

But most importantly, he added, silence is where God speaks. “Every person needs a space for him- or herself, to be able to cultivate the inner life, where actions find meaning.”

To and fro in God

Finally, Pope Francis said, prayer as taught by Jesus is the place where we find that “everything comes from God and returns to Him.”

He noted that prayer helps us to rediscover “the right dimension in our relationship with God, our Father, and with all creation.”

Peace and joy, concluded the Pope, is what we will find if we follow Jesus’ example of prayer.


Pope Francis holds the General Audience in the Vatican Apostolic Library

Cardinal Bo: “Fratelli tutti” talks to Asia at crucial crossroads

The president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) writes to his fellow bishops on the relevance of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Fratelli tutti”, in the current Asian context and looking to the future.

By Robin Gomes

Amid the numerous social pandemics that Covid-19 has exposed, the Catholic Church in Asia is called to develop the “vaccines of compassion, solidarity and justice” in the spirit of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, on fraternity and social friendship. 

“May the call of our Holy Father to solidarity, encounter, and gratuitousness find an echo in your lives and communities. May you take up the insistent invitation of Pope Francis for dialogue, respect and generosity towards every human being.”  

Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), makes the appeal in a letter to his fellow bishops and their Churches in Asia.   

Common good

“Our Asian realities are echoed in theurgent message Fratelli tutti”, the cardinal notes in his letter dated 12 October. Asia is at the crossroads, he says, adding that the path “we take will decide the inheritance we leave to our next generation”. 

“Will it be wasted or saved? Will Asia choose individual greed or commit to the common good?” he asks Church leaders, politicians and governments. Much, he says, depends on how we rebuild society after Covid-19.  

He laments that “many governments in Asia are attempting to return to tried and failed economic and social models”. He thus calls for a politics for the common and universal good; politics for and with the people; politics that seek human dignity; politics of women and men who practice political love; politics that integrate the economy and the social and cultural fabric into a consistent, life-giving human project.

Rising above the crisis

With Covid-19, the year 2020 has been a time of chaos, fear and loss for the people, Cardinal Bo points out. Yet, Pope Francis urges bishops never to stop being on mission, stressing: “If the Church is alive, it must always surprise.”

The 71-year old cardinal urges his fellow bishops not to let the joy of the Gospel diminish in their hearts, giving way to the culture of indifference.  Despite all the pain surrounding us, he says, the Holy Father insists on the overwhelming, immense, surprising and unmerited gift of fraternity. 

“Fraternity, which means care and respect for our sisters and brothers,” the Archbishop of Yangon says, “is the foundation and pathway to peace.”  “Fraternity is solidarity and dialogue; it is true religion. Without fraternity, liberty and equality do not make sense.”

Many underlying pandemics

According to Pope Francis, Cardinal Bo says, Covid-19 has exposed underlying systemic pandemics in society such as racism, inequity, hate speech, disregard for the poor, the elderly and the unborn, trafficking of women and children, and the culture of death.

The death penalty, the cardinal notes, is legal in at least 18 Asian countries and the continent has some of the longest running wars in the world.  Millions have no choice but to leave their families and go abroad to find work.

The Good Samaritan

Against all of this, the cardinal urges, “we must develop the vaccines of compassion, solidarity and justice,” as indicated by the Pope in the person of the Good Samaritan. In the parable, Pope Francis “charts a common course for humanity through a commitment to peace, the rejection of war and capital punishment, encouragement of forgiveness and reconciliation within societies and care for our common home.”

With the eyes of the Good Samaritan, the cardinal says, we are called to critique the culture of waste and to defend the human rights of people made vulnerable by society: women, children, racial minorities, refugees, the unborn, the aged and many others. Respect for persons and for the common good only grows from true fraternity, Cardinal Bo stresses. 

Inter-religious relationships

In his message, the president of Asian bishops’ conferences also speaks about fraternal relationships between religions in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and on the dangers and opportunities it creates.   

In this regard, the Holy Father “urges us to look courageously and creatively for opportunities to build, here and now, the world that God desires. “The society that will rise again from Covid-19 is a society where fraternity is valued,” Cardinal Bo added.

from: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2020-10/bo-fabc-letter-asian-bishops-fratelli-tutti.html

Pope Francis and Cardinal Charles Bo in Yangon, Myanmar in November, 2017

“Euthanasia is a crime against human life, incurable does not mean end of care”

“Samaritanus bonus” (The Good Samaritan), a newly published letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by the Pope, reiterates the condemnation of any form of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and advocates support for families and healthcare workers.

On Tuesday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced the publication of a Letter approved by Pope Francis on 25 June and entitled Samaritanus bonus (“The Good Samaritan”): On the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life”. It bears 14 July as its publication date, in honor of St Camillus de Lellis, the patron saint of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians.

“Incurable cannot mean that care has come at an end” – those who are terminally ill have the right to be welcomed, cured, loved. This is affirmed in Part One of Samaritanus bonus. The Letter aims to provide concrete ways to put into practice the parable of the Good Samaritan, who teaches us that “even when a cure is unlikely or impossible”, medical care, nursing care, psychological and spiritual care “should never be forsaken”.

Incurable, never un-care-able

“To cure if possible, always to care”[1]. These words of Pope Saint John Paul II explain that incurable is never synonymous with un-care-able. To provide care until the very end; to “be with” the sick person; to accompany, listen to, make him or her feel loved: this is how loneliness and isolation, the fear of suffering and death can be avoided. The entire document is focused on the meaning of pain and suffering in the light of the Gospel and of Jesus’s sacrifice.

Inalienable dignity of life

“The uninfringeable value of life is a fundamental principle of the natural moral law and an essential foundation of the legal order”, the Letter states. “We cannot directly choose to take the life of another, even if they request it”. Citing Gaudium et spes, the document reiterates that “abortion, euthanasia and wilful self-destruction poison human society” and “are a supreme dishonor to the Creator” (no. 27).

Obstacles that obscure the sacred value of human life

The document cites several factors that limit the ability of apprehending the value of life, such as when life is considered “worthwhile” only if certain psychic and physical conditions are present. One of these obstacles the Letter notes is a false understanding of “compassion”. True compassion, it explains, “consists not in causing death”, but in affectionately welcoming and supporting the person who is sick, and providing the means to alleviate his or her suffering. Another obstacle it lists is a growing individualism that provokes loneliness.

The teaching of the Magisterium

It is a definitive teaching that euthanasia represents “a crime against human life”, and, therefore, is “intrinsically evil” in every circumstance. Any “formal or immediate material cooperation” constitutes a grave sin against human life that no authority can “legitimately recommend or permit”. Those who approve laws in favor of euthanasia “become accomplices” and are “guilty of scandal” because these laws contribute to the malformation of consciences. The act of euthanasia must always be rejected. However, the Letter acknowledges that the desperation or anguish of the person requesting it might diminish or even make “non-existent” his or her personal responsibility.

No to aggressive treatments

The document also explains that protecting the dignity of death means excluding aggressive medical treatments. Therefore, when death is imminent and inevitable, “it is lawful…to renounce treatments that provide only a precarious or painful extension of life”, without, however, interrupting necessary ordinary treatments the patient requires, such as food and hydration “as long as the body can benefit from them”. Palliative care is a “precious and crucial instrument” with which to accompany the patient. Palliative care must never include the possibility of euthanasia, the Letter emphasizes, but should include the spiritual assistance of both the person who is sick and the members of their families.

Support for families

It is important in caring for a sick person that he or she is not made to feel like a burden, but that they “sense the intimacy and support of their loved ones. The family needs help and adequate resources to fulfil this mission”. State governments need to “recognize the family’s primary, fundamental and irreplaceable social function (…) [and] should undertake to provide the necessary resources and structures to support it.”

Care in the prenatal and pediatric stages

From the moment of conception, children affected by malformation or other chronic illnesses are to be accompanied in a “manner respectful of life”. In cases of “prenatal pathologies…that will surely end in death within a short period of time”, and when no treatment exists to improve the child’s condition, the child “should not be left without assistance, but must be accompanied like any other patient until they reach natural death”, without suspending food and hydration. The Letter states that “recourse to prenatal diagnosis” is “obsessive” in today’s society and notes that it sometimes results in the choice for abortion or other “selective purposes”. Both abortion and the use “prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes” are “unlawful”, the Letter asserts.

Deep sedation

To alleviate pain, medication is used that may “induce the loss of consciousness”. The Letter affirms that it is morally licit to sedate “to ensure that the end of life arrives with the greatest possible peace and in the best internal conditions”. This also applies to types of sedation that hasten “the moment of death (deep palliative sedation in the terminal stage)”. But it is not acceptable that sedation be administered that “directly and intentionally causes death”, something the Letter defines as a “euthanistic practice”.

The vegetative state

Even in the case when the patient is not conscious, he or she “must be acknowledged in their intrinsic value and assisted with suitable care”, which includes the right to food and hydration. There may, however, be cases in which “such measures can become disproportionate” because they are no longer effective or because the means of administering them “create an excessive burden”. In this case, the Letter states that “adequate support must be provided to the families who bear the burden of long-term care for persons in these states”.

Conscientious objection

The Letter requests that locals Churches and Catholic institutions and communities “adopt a clear and unified position to safeguard the right of conscientious objection” in contexts where morally grave practices are allowed by law. It also invites Catholic institutions and healthcare personnel to witness to the values the Church professes regarding life issues.

Specifically in the case of euthanasia, the document states that “there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection”. It is important that doctors and healthcare workers be formed in accompanying the dying in a Christian way. The spiritual accompaniment of a person who chooses to be euthanized requires that of “an invitation to conversion”, and never any gesture “that could be interpreted as approval”, such as remaining present while the euthanasia is being performed.

[1] John Paul II, Address to the Participants in the International Congress on “Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas”.


Incurable does not mean un-care-able