News / Asia

Pope to Bring Message of Peace to South Korea on First Asia Trip

FILE - Catholic nuns attend mass at the Jesuit Apostolic Center in Seoul.
FILE - Catholic nuns attend mass at the Jesuit Apostolic Center in Seoul.
Simone Orendain

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit South Korea next week, where he is expected to meet with the president, spend time with Asian youth and put 124 Catholic Church martyrs on track toward sainthood. This is the first visit by a pope to any Asian country in almost 20 years.

South Korean officials describe the visit of the pontiff to their country for the first time in 25 years as “very significant.” 

Kim Hyunjun, director of the culture and sports division at South Korea’s Office of Government Policy Coordination, said the popular pope has often mentioned the need for amity between North and South Korea.

“I view that his visit has an implication of wishing peace on the Korean peninsula and reconciliation between the two Koreas, and I expect a mood of harmony, sharing and peace to be created through his visit,” said Kim.

But this week, church officials in Seoul said a state-run Catholic group from the North declined an invitation to attend the pope’s Mass for “peace and reconciliation.” Media reports say the North Korean Catholic Association, which is not part of the Vatican structure, cited upcoming joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea as a provocation. The exercises start around the end of the pope’s visit.

Pope Francis is scheduled to call on President Park Geun-hye. He is also expected to meet with family members and victims of the Sewol ferry accident in April that left more than 300 people dead.

The overloaded vessel overturned in waters along the southwestern coast. Most of the dead were high school students on a field trip. Their families have demanded that the government pass a law that would allow for an independent inquiry into the accident. Dozens of people have been on a hunger strike for several weeks at a major square in Seoul where Francis is set to celebrate Mass with one million faithful.

The Vatican says it has also invited women who were victims of sex slavery during World War II to the Mass for peace and reconciliation.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea says there are more than five million Catholics in the country - about 11 percent of the population. Korea is believed to have one of the faster growing Catholic populations in Asia.  

The pope will spend time with young people during the Asian Youth Day events in Chungcheong province, more than 100 kilometers south of Seoul. 

South Korea-based Lay Missionary Monika Jaruga is on the preparatory committee for Asian Youth Day. She said even non-Christians inquired about the weeklong conference on leadership and spirituality of young Catholics.

“They wish to see [the] pope. They would like to participate in some of the events… There was a man he started to tell me, ‘Ah… it will be really a good time for Korea.  We are expecting to see [the] pope!’” said Jaruga.

The youth day events will be taking place in the Daejeon Diocese, which is where most of the persecution of Korean Catholics took place. During a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries the government executed 10,000 Catholics for their beliefs, which went against the king’s rule and flew in the face of the Confucian-based society.

Unlike in other countries where Christianity spread, Korean nobility, not foreign missionaries, founded the Catholic Church. They learned about the faith through Catholic writings that were translated into Chinese. 

During this trip Pope Francis is scheduled to beatify 124 of the original founders.  Beatification places a candidate in the last stage before sainthood.

Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said the pope has an affinity toward Asia and he has told the cardinal that he wanted to share in the suffering of those who were persecuted.

“I remember the Holy Father saying how much he admired, admired, those who suffered on account of their faith. In fact he said, ‘If I meet any one of them I will kiss their hands or kiss their feet.’ And he was talking about Asia,” said Tagle.

Tagle told VOA that Asia is “very important” for the Catholic Church, which is tracking the growth of its ranks in the region. In 1910, the World Christian Database estimated about 14 million Catholics were living in the Asia Pacific region, accounting for 5% of the Church. A century later, that number has grown to 121 million, accounting for about 12% of Church members.

The pope’s first overseas visit of 2015 will include the Philippines and Bangladesh in January.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More