Videos with his homilies in Spanish get an average of 100,000 visits per week. The prelate takes to heart the Gospel’s call to preach to everyone, because Christ “changes the life of those who receive him in their hearts”. He is a bridge between Asian and Latin American cultures. He is close to Pope Francis. For him, “With the pandemic we are returning to the basics, i.e. life.”
Buenos Aires (AsiaNews) – Han Lim Moon is a bishop in Argentina, where he arrived 44 years ago from his native South Korea. He feels Asian as well as Latin American and wants to reach out to all cultures through his preaching.
His homilies in Spanish, subtitled so far in six languages, are posted online and receive 100,000 visits on average per week. He knows Pope Francis very well and is one of the founders of the Association of Korean Missionaries in Latin America.
He takes at face value the Gospel’s call to preach to all because he is convinced that Christ changes the life of those who receive him in their hearts.
A group of friends from different countries translate his homilies into English, Italian, Portuguese, French and Korean, and the videos are posted on Facebook and the bishop’s YouTube channel.
Like the prophet Jeremiah, he felt that God called him even before his birth. At the age of 12, he entered the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Seoul, very close to Suwon where he was born. When he was 21, after completing his third year of theology, he moved with his family to Argentina.
Four months after arriving, he enrolled with the Buenos Aires Seminary where, with great effort, he was able to overcome one of the greatest difficulties of his life: studying theology in Spanish without knowing that language.
He took a little longer than the others, but he was finally ordained in 1984, graduated from the Argentine Catholic University with a specialisation in pastoral theology and then did a specialisation in Spiritual Theology at the Gregorian University of Rome.
He learnt the language so well and became so absorbed with Latin Americans that wherever he goes he is warmly welcomed. More than once his homilies or lectures have been interrupted by or ended with sustained applause.
“I’m an oddity in Latin America because they have never seen a Korean bishop,” he humbly says. “If God put me here, maybe it’s to serve as a link between Asian and Latin American cultures”
That same desire led him, just over two decades ago, to be one of the founders of the Association of Korean Missionaries in Latin America. With the recognition of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, it includes some 130 religious from that country who meet annually. For Bishop Moon, “It’s like going home for a few days.”
Han Lim Moon knows Pope Francis well, noting that the largest Korean community in Argentina is in Flores, a Buenos Aires neighbourhood where Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born and raised, and where he returned as bishop. Local “Koreans invited him to their events and he always attended,” Bishop Moon said.
For the Korean bishop, this care for his former neighbours may have influenced Francis’s decision to make his second trip outside of Rome to South Korea.
Moon personally met Jorge Bergoglio in the 1990s when he had to ask him for authorisation so that the Little Servants of the Holy Family, from Seoul, could assist the sick at the hospital where Moon was chaplain, in Buenos Aires.
Moon remembers a curious anecdote from that occasion. The future pope prayed to Saint Therese to help him make a decision about the Korean nuns, and when the Sisters arrived and the current Pope celebrated a thanksgiving mass, he found a white rose on the tabernacle. He took it as a sign from the saint that his decision was the right one.
Moon has been the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Martín since 2014, one of the areas in the Greater Buenos Aires region most affected by the coronavirus.
“This pandemic is a misfortune for all humanity but it can become an opportunity for personal and social conversion, a profound change towards what is most essential. For example, I take more care than ever of my 89-year-old mother and my brother who is sick. We are going back to the basics, i.e. life.”