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Posted : 2009-04-21 15:24
Updated : 2009-04-21 15:24

Ritual Is Confucian, Not Shamanistic

Dear editor,

John Huer's article ``Koreans Are Soulful People" published on April 20, had two statements contrary to fact that are troublesome for Catholic readers.

``Catholic Koreans mix their religious practices with those of shamanism in ancestor worship, as they pay homage to their ancestors' graves on Chuseok holiday, Korea's largest holiday" and ``Even the Catholic Church unofficially sanctions the acceptability of shamanistic ancestor worship."

First of all, the ritual is Confucian, not shamanistic. Secondly, ``worship" is too strong a word; ``veneration" would be better. Thirdly, the Church officially sanctions the rite. A brief history is in order:

Catholics were barred from practicing the ancestral rite in what came to be known as the Chinese Rites Controversy of the XVIIth century.

The Catholic Church, under the influence of Jansenism, rejected the learned opinion of Father Matteo Ricci, S.J., the great missionary to China, who held that the rite was not religious in nature.

Venerable Pope Pius XII corrected this on Dec. 8, 1939, and the Confucian ancestral rite has been allowed ever since.

Joshua Snyder
Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province

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