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

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora