Korea: Catholic priests, Buddhist monk, embark on 74-day pilgrimage

 Two Catholic priests and a Buddhist monk have begun a 230-kilometre pilgrimage, bowing to the ground every few steps, to help people cherish life and peace, UCAN reports.

On March 28, Venerable Sukyung and Fathers Paul Moon Kyu-hyon and Simon Chun Jong-hun started their ochetuji pilgrimage at Sinwonsa Temple on Gyeryongsan, a western mountain.

The three religious figures aim to cover 230 kilometers on their way to Imjingak, about 40 kilometers north of Seoul, where they expect to conclude their pilgrimage on 9 June.

They will prostrate themselves after every three steps they take, and keep silent throughout their journey. The prostration, or ochetuji, is part of Buddhist tradition and involves touching one's elbows, knees and forehead to the ground. If they stick to the 74-day timetable, they will cover just more than three kilometres a day, on average.

This is the second such pilgrimage the priests and monk are making. Last year, they covered about 175 kilometers, beginning at Jirisan, a southern mountain, on 4 September and ending at Gyeryongsan Mountain on 26 October.

"Our pilgrimage is to find the way of peace amid the struggles surrounding us - among people, between people and nature, and between North and South Korea," they said in a statement before they began their latest journey.

Fr Chun is president of the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice and Fr Moon its former president. Venerable Sukyung is head monk of Hwagyesa Temple in Seoul.

Venerable Jigwan, a member of a team of 20 people providing logistical support for the pilgrimage, told UCA News it is not an act of protest. "It is a time of self-reflection and prayer," he said, adding that the pilgrims will pray for people and nature, the well-off and the less well-off, to be able to coexist peacefully.

Chang Kyung-hoon, a Buddhist, commented: "Now our life is hard, but this comes from our competitiveness in every aspect of life rather than from economic hardship." The ochetuji performed by the three religious figures shows a way of living peacefully together, he added.

The pilgrimage is open to anyone to join at any time on any stretch. About 300 people joined in the first day.

At the end of their pilgrimage, the three religious figures plan to cross the de-militarized zone to Myohyangsan Mountain in North Korea to pray for peace and reunification of the country, after getting the necessary approvals.

Imjingak, the endpoint of their pilgrimage, is just south of the Truce Village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.

In 2003, Fr Moon and Venerable Sukyung completed a similar pilgrimage of about 310 kilometres to protest a controversial land reclamation project.

Source: UCAN

Tags: Buddhist monk, embark on 74 day pilgrimage, Korea: Catholic priests

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