Gwangju archdiocese last month found itself with an unusual problem: a priest who was saying Mass and administering other sacraments without approval and at the banned pilgrimage site of a woman deemed to be a false visionary and excommunicated from the Church in 2008.
The archdiocese issued a warning last month about Father Lawrence Joung Young-soo, who claims to belong to the Pontianak archdiocese in Indonesia, was in fact not permitted to administer sacraments.
He had left his religious congregation, the Korean Missionary Society, in 2008, and did not belong to any archdiocese, the notice states, adding that the papal embassy in Jakarta has confirmed that he is not incardinated in the Pontianak archdiocese.
But the mystery has deepened.
The rootless priest apparently resides at the Blessed Mother’s Mountain in Naju, a so-called Marian shrine that has been deemed illegitimate by Gwangju archdiocese, and claims that he had been sent there by Capuchin Archbishop Hieronymous Herculanus Bumbun of Pontianak.
Julia Youn Hong-sun, who presides over the banned site, was declared a false visionary and the saying of Mass at Naju has been banned since 1998, though followers continue to make pilgrimages there.
However, Albinus Kim Dong-myeong, a volunteer at Blessed Mother’s Mountain, dismisses the archdiocese’s claims, saying Fr Joung does indeed belong to Pontianak and is still saying Mass there.
“He surely belongs, so what is illegal?” he said, adding that Gwangju archdiocese should have consulted directly with the archbishop in Pontianak about the matter.
A staff member in Pontianak said last week that Fr Joung has submitted a letter of application for incardination, though the archbishop has yet to issue an official letter of approval.
The archdiocese subsequently gave him a five-year probation period, after which it would review his progress, said the staff member, who asked not to be named.
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