04/06/2005, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA - VATICAN

The missionary Pope, a great friend of all Koreans

by Thomas Hong-Soon Han

Seoul (AsiaNews) – In a memorial mass for Pope John Paul II in Seoul cathedral, Card Steven Kim, Archbishop emeritus of Seoul, said the Pontiff was a 'great missionary' who brought the Gospel to the 'four corners of the earth' and a "true friend of the Korean people, North and South".

The Eucharistic celebration saw the cathedral overflowing with people, many of whom could not get inside and had instead to follow the functions from TV screens set up outside the building.

It was concelebrated by the Emil Tscherrig, the Apostolic Nuncio, all Korean bishops, as well as many priests and religious men.

In the pews sat former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, the current Minister of Culture and Tourism Chung Dong-chae, leaders of other Churches and religions as well as many members of the diplomatic corps.

In his homily Card Kim said the Korean people, both Catholics and non Christians, hold the Pontiff in high esteem and affection, above all because of his two trips to the country in 1984 and 1989.

The prelate urged those present to live John Paul II's legacy, "giving oneself to Christ by opening one's heart and living the love of Christ without fear".

The Nuncio, Mgr Tscherrig, said that the Pope "saw world peace threatened by continued violations of human rights, first among them religious rights."

"This," he added, "explains the Pope's interest and concern for peace on the Korean peninsula. On more than one occasion, he encouraged political leaders to persevere in the quest for peace through dialogue".

On April 3, the day following Pope John Paul II's death, a mass was celebrated in Seoul's cathedral. In the course of the ceremony, Mgr Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul, said that the Pontiff "loved Korea very much so much so that he spent considerable time learning Korean before his visits".

"The significant growth of the Korean Church in the last 20 years," the Archbishop noted, "owes much to John Paul II, because the Korean people valued him as a witness to dialogue, someone who made a preferential choice for the poor, promoted peace and justice, and defended life and human rights".

In every one of South Korea's 16 dioceses, a chapel has been set aside—decorated with flowers, a photo of John Paul II placed in clear view—for the celebration of mass and the recitation of prayers for the soul of the late Pope.

A steady stream of the faithful of every age, often with children, has formed in front of these chapels. Inside, traditional litanies are being recited.

The faithful of other Churches and religions as well as ordinary citizens have also joined the queues to pay their respects.

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