Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bishop John Kudo Yoshio (1901-1996) A humble servant of the Lord

I have been sorting through some old photographs and came across this one taken nearly thirty years ago when I was Rector of Skipton in the Diocese of Ballarat. It is of the sanctuary party and singers just after Sunday Mass. 

The adjacent parish to the south of Skipton is Camperdown where, just a couple of years before, Father Michael King had established the Benedictine Monastery of St Mark, bringing his little community from the inner city of Melbourne. My parish and I had quite a bit to do with the Benedictines, and that is how I got to know a wonderful servant of the Lord, Bishop John Kudo (mitred in the photograph). 

Bishop Kudo, already in his eighties when I first met him, was an Oblate of Nashdom Abbey in England, and he had taken to visiting the Camperdown Benedictines. He was the real deal, or as we say in Australia, a “fair dinkum Anglo-Catholic.” Twice he spent time with me in my parish, and the people loved him. I recall one Sunday afternoon saying that I wanted to dash around to a party where a couple were celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. “Better have a bishop”, he said to me, and asked if he could come. He didn’t disappoint! After a drink and some socialising, I suggested that we pause for prayer and ask “our friend the Bishop” to bless the couple in Japanese! He did so, with the couple kneeling before him, and receiving the laying on of his hands. Bishop Kudo stole the show. He was, in fact, not in the best of health, and the people were amazed that he would want to come with me to drop in on them! 

From its beginning the Anglican Church in Korea was well and truly in the Catholic tradition. It included Japanese families as well as Koreans, so it was significant that Bishop Mark Trollope sent the Japanese John Kudo and the Korean Paul Kim to study theology at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, U.K., and ordained them deacons in Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell (London) in 1930. 

The Bishop and two deacons returned to Korea together by sea, but the Bishop died in Kobe harbour when the Japanese ship in which they were travelling was rammed by another vessel. So it fell to the two deacons, and more particularly John Kudo, who as a Japanese, related more easily to the administration of the country, to accompany the Bishop's corpse to Seoul. Ordination as priests, in separate Japanese and Korean services, followed in September 1932, after Bishop Cooper had been enthroned. 

It was 1941 when Bishop Cooper had to leave Korea on account of World War II. Father Kudo was left as Vicar-General of the diocese. Bishop Yashiro of Kobe visited Korea for the Japanese Church as well as in connection with the Japanese Army. Seeing the situation he reported to the Japanese bishops and they consecrated John Kudo a bishop in the Church of God on 1 March 1942. Strictly speaking, this was uncanonical and Bishop Kudo was never legally appointed as a bishop of the Korean Church, but at great personal sacrifice and under the most difficult wartime conditions he held it together and protected it for the next three-and-a-half years. 

When the war ended in 1945, Bishop Kudo had to leave Korea for Japan with all other Japanese civilians - symbols of shameful defeat to their countrymen, and stripped of all their earthly goods. In addition, at that time the Anglican Church in Japan was extremely unsympathetic to Anglo-Catholics. So, with his perfect Oxford English, Bishop Kudo got a job translating for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), while working as an unpaid missionary and pastor among tuberculosis patients in a terminal care home. This was a ministry which he created and performed with great devotion, in due course building them a beautiful little church with an atmosphere modelled on the old chapel at Nashdom. Eventually he retired, though he paid many visits to Nashdom. The ex-Korea congregation came to his Mass from all over Tokyo. 

When Bishop Kudo died, aged 96, Richard Rutt, who also served the Korean Church as a priest and bishop, wrote, “His charm and devotion to Christ were extraordinary but his life and ministry were a tale of discouragement and rejection by his Church (because of his Catholic Faith). Friends of Korea should pray for him with gratitude and love.” 

(Paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 of this post are a conflation of two short articles by Richard Rutt in different issues of Morning Calm, the newsletter of the Korean Mission Partnership.)


Anonymous said...

Interesting story thanks!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we Korean Anglicans should know of his charm and devoteion to Christ!
Francis Song

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