On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed a member of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.), Fr. Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, to the post of Korean military ordinary. He will be in charge of the pastoral care of soldiers in South Korea, where military service is mandatory for all men.
With the appointment, Fr. Yu Soo-il will become the first Franciscan bishop in Korea, and just the second religious to be made bishop in the nation after his Jesuit predecessor, Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon.
Student of patrology at the Franciscan's International College of St. Anthony in Rome, Fr. John Hack Jun Oh, O.F.M., who knows the bishop-elect, explained the significance of his appointment to CNA.
In a country where the population is ten percent Catholic and all men are required to serve in the military, he said that the role of the military ordinary is "very important." He was pleasantly "surprised" that it would be Fr. Yu Soo-il to take on the position.
Fr. Oh explained that seminarians are not exempt from the obligation to complete nearly two years of military service. Often, he said, after they have completed two or three years in the seminary, they take a "break" to fulfill their duty as Korean citizens. Religious brothers are also expected to do so.
The bishop-elect brings extensive experience to the role. He has been serving as vicar in the Franciscan house of formation in Seoul, South Korea, where he is also the spiritual assistant and guardian of the O.F.M. community.
He has also been the province's general counsel to Rome, president of the Korean Conference of Major Superiors and O.F.M.'s Korean provincial.
Military ordinariates are Church juridictions in which the bishop, or military ordinary, is assisted by a chaplain corps in providing pastoral care to soldiers and other military personnel.