Korean Catholics see themselves as friends of Jesus

Korean Catholics prefer to be known as "Church companions" implying friendship with Jesus rather than as "laity", an online survey shows.

Almost two-thirds of 469 Catholics who responded to the poll want to change the word the Korean Church usually uses to refer to them, UCA News reports.

Asked whether pyeongsindo, the Korean term for "laity," needs to be changed, 63 per cent said the term should be changed.

Among three possible alternatives proposed by the poll, 65 per cent selected the term Gyo-u which means "Church companion" and is based on an early Chinese term for Christians.

26 per cent preferred to be known as sin-ja (believers, or the faithful) while 9 per cent opted for sin-do (follower or believer).

Benedict Park Young-dae, 45, director of the lay-centered Woori Theology Institute, told UCA News he voted for change and chose gyo-u as a better term.

"First of all, pyeongsindo, or sindo, means people who follow, passively, but gyo-u means companions or friends. Jesus said he wanted to call his disciples friends," he explained. A change in terminology, he continued, would make people think about and understand better the status of laity.

According to the Korean Catholic Encyclopedia, gyo-u is the Korean form of jiao-you, introduced by the early Chinese Church to mean "Christian." The Chinese Church uses jiao-you and ping-xin-tu (pyeongsindo). The Japanese Church uses shin-to (Korean sin-do) or shin-ja (sin-ja).

Pyeong means "ordinary," so pyeongsindo literally means "ordinary follower."

The results of the survey conducted early this month by the Catholic Times weekly and Seoul archdiocese's Good News Internet portal, were published in the Catholic Times on 19 November.

Fr Patrick Joo Ho-sik of the Seoul archdiocese told UCA News the poll was conducted for the 39th Laity Sunday, observed by the Korean Church since 1968 on the third Sunday in November.

A variety of reactions were coursed through the poll's space for comments. Some people did not see pyeongsindo as discriminatory, while others did not see any good alternative.

Some said that helping laity realize their role in the Church is more important than changing terms.

What's in a name: are Korean catholics equal in the church of communion, some wonder? (The Indian Catholic/UCA News, 24/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Who were Jesus' friends? (The Standards Site)
Jesus' friends (Gospel Chapel)
Woori Theology Institute

27 Nov 2006