When I was a kid, I noticed that a lot of people were flying POW/MIA flags. I found this odd because I had been told that all of the POW’s and MIA’s to date had been (or were on their way to being) classified as KIA by the government. I thought that the sign of solidarity for those whose status was unclear (but who were most likely dead) was misplaced and Pollyanna-ish, the stuff of Rambo fantasies and conspiracy garbage. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood that the motivation shown by folks flying the now-ubiquitous black flag was not a display of their own hope, but rather for the sake of the memories of missing themselves; that the awful thing that happened to them in pursuit of freedom would not be left in doubt forever, and that there were still people at home who would not rest until every single man was definitively accounted for. In this way, the forces of evil would not have victory over their memories. In the end, the brave will find their true home, and the valiant will, at last, have their rest.
Which brings me to the point of this post. There are thousands of unaccounted-for clergy behind the Bamboo Curtain, and one remarkable case of a Catholic “MIA” bears retelling, if for no other reason than that Holy Mother Church has been keeping solidarity with the memory of Francis Hong-yong Ho for decades. In October, he will celebrate his 102nd birthday, and he is currently be the oldest reigning bishop in the world, if not the entire history of the Church.
The Most Rev. Francis Hong Yong-Ho (born 12 October 1906) was made Vicar Apostolic of P’yong-yang, Korea, by Pius XII in 1944, and ordained Bishop the same year. When the Chi-Cons invaded and installed their puppet, Kim Il-sung (the father of the present butcher in charge of North Korea), Bishop Hong was, first, imprisoned in 1949, and then later disappeared. In solidarity with Korean Catholics suffering under the Red Yoke, Pope Bl. John XXIII errected P’yong-yang as a diocese and named Bishop Hong as its first (and, to date, only) ordinary on 10 March 1962.
The sign of solidarity against the Communist outrage is ongoing. The Pontifical Yearbook continues to list Bishop Hong as Ordinary of P’yong-yang, with a footnote: “(missing)” Bishop Hong has been the bishop of record in P’yong-yang for 46 years and counting.
See also: Wikipedia.