(Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Thursday Fr. Federico Lombardi briefed journalists on Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Korea which will take place from August 13th to 18th. It will be his third foreign journey and it will also mark the third trip of a Pope to the Asian nation.
Philippa Hitchen reports:
Following in the footsteps of John Paul II, who travelled to the Republic of Korea twice in 1984 and 1989, Pope Francis will spend five days there, celebrating Asian World Youth Day with young people from across the continent and beatifying the large group of Korean martyrs who first brought the faith to the country.
A third important theme for the visit will be the quest for peace and reconciliation between the republic and its northern neighbour, which have been divided by a heavily armed buffer zone since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Answering journalists’ questions about the North Korean authorities declining an invitation to attend a concluding Mass in Seoul, Fr Lombardi said though the Pope is not planning to visit the so-called Demilitarized Zone, the problem of this division will be central to his thoughts throughout the visit:
The head of the Holy See Press Office noted that the leader of the Catholic Church in Seoul, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Suu-jung, is also apostolic vicar for Pyongyang and therefore has competency for the Church in the north as well. The Pope, he said, will be showing his concern with his presence, especially at the Mass in the Cathedral on August 18th, dedicated to the search for peace and reconciliation.
Altogether, Pope Francis will give eleven speeches and meet with thousands of people, including at least 5.000 who’re expected to attend the Asian Youth Day events. He’s also scheduled to meet with a delegation of families who lost loved ones in the ferry disaster last April in which some 300 people died, most of them high school students. Finally Fr Lombardi noted that at the concluding Mass before the Pope’s departure on August 18th, there will be a delegation of elderly Korean “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during the Second World War.
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