“The whole country is in an atmosphere of funeral” – South Korea bishop

Bishop Peter Kang U-il in an e-mail to Catholic in Asia on Easter Sunday wrote, “The whole country is in an atmosphere of funeral” for passengers of the ship that sank off South Korea on Holy Wednesday on its way to his island that has been billed as Korea’s Hawaii.

“Everybody is praying for the dead and the missing persons. Many from the Coast Guard, Police force and civil officials as well as volunteers are (doing) their best to save those who are still missing, but no one could be optimistic at this point,” shared Bishop Kang who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea.

He adds, “Since so many teenage school students were included in this incident, many people feel a great compassion and pity on their death.”

Media reports two days after the bishop’s letter said 58 bodies of confirmed dead have been taken back to land and 248 people remained missing after Sewol Ferry carrying mostly school children going on holiday to Jeju (Cheju) seemed to have smashed into rocks, tilted and sank as it tried to make a turn.

[Prayers and messages for the passengers, their relatives and friends and for everyone involved in the accident, rescue, probe and healing efforts are welcome in the comments section below.]

“At this moment many raise the question on an appropriate measure which should be taken by relevant authority. Government source (has not issued an) overall official statement yet on why and how this could happen,” Kang reported.

He echoed people’s criticism of government’s failure to “execute an effective and integral leadership to cope with this disaster,”  including mobilizing a crisis team composed of  expert professionals that could take needed action for rescue, recovery and probe of the disaster.

He recommends the country use the “good occasion” the accident offers for them to review the system of safety and “security in every level of society.”

“It seems that it will take still some more time to analyze and make clear the exact cause of this incident and all the elements which gave impact to it,” Bishop Kang concedes.

Cheju was created an apostolic prefecture in 1971 and elevated to diocese with Missionary Society of St. Columban Bishop Harold Henry as its first bishop. Bishop Kang is its fourth bishop.