Thousands of Catholics pray in Seoul for reconciliation with the North (photos)
by Thomas Han

The Archdiocese of Seoul organised the event as part of the Day marking the outbreak of the Korean War. Card Yeom emphasised the importance of prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation, entrusting "this critical moment of our nation” to Mary, Queen of Peace.


(AsiaNews) – A prayer meeting was held two days ago in the auditorium of Dongsung High School, in the Archdiocese of Seoul, for reconciliation, unity and peace in the Korean Peninsula.

The Archdiocese’s National Reconciliation Committee organised the event as part of the National Prayer Day established by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK) in 1965. It is held every year on 25 June, the day when North Korea launched its attack against South Korea, starting a tragic fratricidal war.

About 3,000 people packed the auditorium for the whole event: Mass, Rosary and a lesson on the Church in North Korea.

At the end, a dozen Mongolian Catholic boys and girls performed traditional Mongolian songs and dances to show their gratitude for the aid received from the Church of Korea, as well as the solidarity of Mongolian Catholics for unity and peace on the Korean peninsula.

Card Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang concelebrated Mass, along with Mgr Matthew Hwang, vicar of the Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, Fr Achille Chung Se-Teok and Fr Luke Lee, respectively chief and deputy chief of the National Reconciliation Committee of the Archdiocese of Seoul, and a dozen priests from the archdiocese.

In his homily, Card Yeom stressed the importance of prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula. “In the face of stark realities that the efforts made for the past one year to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea and the peace on the Korean peninsula have not brought forth any tangible result worthy of special mention, we are all the more keenly aware that it is very urgent for us to pray with all our heart and with all our strength for these objectives. Such prayer is also an important service our Church can and must render for our nation and for the people of the whole world.

Card Yeom then talked about the prayer campaign, titled Keeping in my heart a parish of the North, which the Archdiocese of Seoul has been conducting since 2015 to put into practise the advice given by Pope Francis during the homily of the Mass that ended his visit to Korea, in 2014, namely pray for the North’s 57 parishes and 52,000 believers who existed before the country’s division.

“We are conducting this campaign, firmly believing that ‘as long as we remember them, they must be alive, and as long as we pray for them, our wishes shall be made come true’. Yes, indeed. We want to keep remembering and praying for our brothers and sisters in the North who suffer from the suppression of human rights including religious freedom in order to ask God to take care of those who must have been living their lives in faith clandestinely even amid situations of persecution.

“And, in doing so, we also want to ask Him to lead us to spiritually unite us with them in their suffering”, which “has been offered as a sacrificial offering of reconciliation for the salvation of our nation, with a view to [. . .] evangelize all people of South and North. [. . .] In this perspective, this campaign ‘Keeping in my heart a parish of the North’ must be a very effective movement of solidarity which unites, although invisibly, the South and the North by means of prayer.”

The Archbishop of Seoul underscored the power of prayer, as it manifested itself in recent history. Card Yeom attributed the collapse of the Soviet communist regime to the fact that the Church had offered the prayer of the Rosary, other supplications and sacrifices, as requested by Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 and during the Marian Year 1987-88.

“Even though we have not yet had any tangible results of the efforts to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea, the humanization and the evangelization of the North Korean society, and furthermore the true peace on the Korean peninsula, we will never lose hope. It is because as long as we pray constantly with ‘immense trust in God, the Lord of history, who carries the human heart in his hands,’ we are sure to be able to win over the forces of evil and accomplish the miracle of peace.”

Card Yeom pointed out that true peace is possible only through forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiving is not easy, but it is inherent in the Christian identity and is an indispensable condition for being forgiven by God. As Pope Francis said, “All of us ‘must ask the Lord to give [us] the grace to forgive, because knowing how to forgive is a grace’.”

“If we pray and work hard together, forgiving and reconciling one another and thus with one mind and one heart, for the denuclearization of North Korea, the humanization and the evangelization of the North Korean society, and furthermore the true peace on the Korean peninsula, God will surely hear our prayer,” the cardinal added.

Last but not least the archbishop of Seoul entrusted to Mary, Queen of Peace, and to her intercession “this critical moment [in the history] of our nation, and the efforts that are being made and will be made, even amid serious difficulties, often facing impasses, in order to achieve the true peace and development in the Korean peninsula.”

* Prof Thomas Hong-soon Han is a member of the Council for the Lay Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Seoul.