Monday, 24 June 2013

West meets East

Nothing was heard. It was a silent conversation. The silence was disrupted a few times by strange noises incomprehensible to other people. Throughout their conversation, the two displayed limitless respect and trust toward each other while holding hands and nodding.

World’s first and the only blind priest, Cyril Axelrod, 71, from South Africa and Asia’s first deaf priest Park Min-seo, 38, of the Catholic Mission for the Deaf met each other at the Hangang Cathedral in Ichon-dong, Seoul. Park, who can see, helped the old blind priest to move.

At one point, Park shell tears. Park, who lost the hearing after suffering measles when he was two, looked up to priest Axelrod for a long time as a comrade and teacher of his life since he resolved to be a priest. Park contributed to the publication of Axelrod’s biography titled "Father Cyril Axelrod" in Korea.

Axelrod knows sign languages of 8 countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and Hong Kong, but has to touch hands to be able to understand what others say due to visual impairment. For his interview, Choi Yeon-sook, a nun, translated questions into Cantonese, and Simon Chan from Hong Kong translated the Cantonese into Hong Kong sign language so that Axelrod can touch his hands and read. The priest’s answers were translated in the opposite order.

Two priests talked about the fall of 1997 when they first met at Gallaudet University in Washington.

“When I met Park for the first time, I felt hope, happiness and excitement at the same time. I knew he would do a great job for the deaf in Korea, which has come true. This is a miracle,” said Axelrod. “Axelrod was a humble and peaceable priest. Thanks to him, I began to have a dream to be a priest myself. My heart broke when I later learned that he also lost sight,” said Park.

Axelrod was diagnosed with congenital deafness when he was three. But since becoming a priest in 1970, he has continued pastoral activity for the deaf all over the world. The priest was diagnosed with blind deaf syndrome, Usher syndrome, in 1980 and lost complete eyesight in 2000.

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