S+L logo

Meet the Cardinals: Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, Seoul

February 17, 2014
SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) -- When a cardinal dons his red robes for the first time and is given his red hat, he usually is reminded that the color of the vestments is a call to devote himself completely to Christ and his church, even to the point of shedding his blood if necessary.
For 70-year-old Cardinal-designate Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, such sacrifice is part of his family history as well as the history of Catholicism in his country.
He is a direct descendant of Joseph Yeom Deok-sun, who was among the first Koreans to embrace Catholicism in the late 1700s. Another direct ancestor, Peter Yeom Seok-tae, died in 1850 during the anti-Catholic persecutions of the Joseon or Choson dynasty.
Pope Francis will induct the Korean archbishop and 18 other men into the College of Cardinals Feb. 22.
As part of the 2012-13 Year of Faith, the cardinal led Seoul priests on a walking pilgrimage to churches and shrines connected to the story of the Korean martyrs; 103 martyrs have already been canonized and another 125 should be beatified this year.
The Seoul pilgrimage also marked the 60th anniversary of the Korean War and a time of prayer for reconciliation between North and South Korea. The cardinal-designate is the apostolic administrator of the North Korean Diocese of Pyongyang, a diocese that exists only in name since the country is officially atheist.
Visiting a shelter run by Caritas Seoul Jan. 19, just a week after Pope Francis announced he was making him a cardinal, Cardinal-designate Yeom told the sick and the homeless: "From now on, I will be wearing scarlet garments. The blood-like color symbolizes martyrdom, my willingness to die for faith. I need your prayers. Your prayers are strong, because they are made under difficult circumstances."
In an interview with Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the cardinal-designate said he saw his appointment to the College of Cardinals as a further encouragement to be bold in proclaiming the Gospel throughout Asia.
"I have to admit I am a bit afraid and worried, but I accept with humility and with joy the Holy Father's invitation and the Lord's call," he told Fides. "I would like to be a gentle shepherd who cares for every lamb of the flock, capable of holding together the whole flock."
Born Dec. 5, 1943, in Ansong, he studied at the Seoul seminary before earning a master's degree in counseling psychology from Korea University.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1970, he spent most of the first years of his ministry working in parishes and teaching at the Seoul archdiocesan minor seminary. He became chancellor of the major seminary in 1987 and chancellor of the archdiocese in 1992.
In 2001, Pope John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop of Seoul, and he became head of the archdiocese in 2012. Among other posts within the Korean bishops' conference, he serves on the Commissions for the Reconciliation of the Korean People and the Special Commission for Promoting Beatifications and Canonizations.
Related posts
Deacon-structing Martyrdom Part 1: A Grain of Wheat
This week, fifth Sunday in Lent, the Gospel reading is about the grain of wheat that must die in order to bear fruit. Read Deacon Pedro's reflection on the meaning of Martyrdom. ...read more
SLHour: From Star Wars to Superman
What do Luke Skywalker, Superman and Jesus have in common? This week we speak with author Jim Papandrea about Christ figures in science fiction. Billy Chan has a ‘confession’ to make for D ...read more
Gauging The Francis Impact
Read Sebastian Gomes' reflection on Pope Francis. What are his greatest accomplishments? What opportunities have been missed? ...read more
Pope Francis’ First General Audience: Open the doors of your heart
Pope Francis gave his first General Audience on March. 27, 2013 at St. Peter's Square. Let's look back at his first General Audience, as we continue to celebrate the Popes 5 Year Anniversary since his ...read more
March 13 2017, marks the four year anniversary of the election of the relatively unknown Cardinal Bergolio, from Argentina, to the Chair of St. Peter, who, as Pope Francis, has gone on to become one o ...read more