South Korea's Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders have together declared 2009 as the Year of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The Catholic bishops' Committee for Promoting Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue and the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) announced last week that South Korean churches will hold ecumenical activities such as prayer services, forums and exchanges throughout this year.
"During 2009 we hope all Christians in Korea find their mission to be 'salt and light' in the world," said the Christian leaders in a joint statement released at the press conference on Dec. 29, according to the Union of Catholic Asian News.
It will be the year Korean Christians "together sow the seeds of true unity and reconciliation, and overcome division," it added.
Auxiliary Bishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Kwangju, a city about 150 miles south of Seoul, noted during the press event that, "Catholicism and Protestantism came to Korea about 220 and 120 years ago, respectively."
But despite the two Christian traditions long history in Korea, they have not only had a distant relationship, but have even been in conflict at times, Kim admitted.
"2009 will be the year of confessing our faults to God and forgiving our brothers," he said.
Through ecumenical unity, Korean churches hope to be "the stepping-stone" for a society that is suffering from "tensions and discord" in the political, economic, and social sectors.
NCCK chairman Kim Sam-hwan agreed saying, "Unity will give hope not only for the churches but for the whole society."
The Christian unity year will kick off with a prayer service on Jan. 18 at the Olympic Hall in Seoul, which will launch the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will be observed by believers worldwide Jan. 18-25. An ecumenical forum featuring world-renowned theologians is set to be held sometime in May.
Other ecumenical prayer services will be held at different locations throughout the year.