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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs