Friday, May 01, 2009

Grand Opening

With 1,200 beds and a staff of 3,500, yesterday saw the opening of the new, "eye-popping" St Mary's medical center in Seoul -- now the largest church-run hospital in the world, and the largest of any kind on the Korean peninsula:
Hwang Tae-gon, president of the hospital, said in his welcoming address during the April 30 official opening that the hospital’s motto is "Kindness to patients."

"This grand opening is possible today thanks to people's trust and support," he added. Construction of the new building started in May 2005. It was completed last December and received its first patients on March 23 this year.

Dignitaries attending the function included Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul; Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, apostolic nuncio to Korea; Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; four local bishops and South Korean Prime Minister Daniel Han Seung-soo.

Archbishop Padilla read a congratulatory message from Pope Benedict XVI in which the pontiff said he prays that "the physicians, nurses, administrators and staff ... respond generously to the Lord's commission to heal the sick and thus bear witness to the presence of God's kingdom among us."
The opening comes two months after the 6 million-member Korean church experienced a wave of national sympathy -- and a surge of potential new converts -- following the death of Cardinal Stephen Kim, the peninsula's first son ever elevated to the "papal senate."

Termed the region's "moral leader," coverage of the 86 year-old cardinal's passing also led to an uptick of Koreans considering organ donation in imitation of Kim's "lifelong wish" to donate his eyes.

In the cardinal's lifetime, the number of Korean Catholics -- persecuted until recent times -- increased sixfold.