03/08/2019, 15.18
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Card Yeom calls for prayers for fellow Koreans in the north, hungry and without religious freedom

by Thomas Han

The archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang celebrated the 1,201st reconciliation Mass in the cathedral, a practice inaugurated by the late Card Stephen Kim Sou-hwan. He appealed to political leaders and called on the faithful to pray. A choir of refugee children from the North sang.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Card Andrew Yeom Soo-Jung, archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, celebrated the 1,201st Mass for reconciliation and unity of the Korean people.

In his address, he called for prayers in favour of reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Above all, he called for prayers for "our northern brothers and sisters" afflicted by "extreme poverty" and without any "freedom to serve God".

The solemn liturgy was held last Tuesday, on the eve of Lent, in the cathedral of Myeong-dong in Seoul.

The Mass was also celebrated to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Card Stephen Kim Sou-hwan (1922-2009), who set up the Committee for National Reconciliation and started the services for reconciliation and unity of the Korean people in 1995. Since then, a Mass has been celebrated in the cathedral uninterruptedly every Tuesday at 7 pm.

The Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Alfred Xuereb, some bishops emeriti and auxiliary bishops, Fr Gerard Hammond, superior Maryknoll in Korea, Fr Achilles Chung Se-Teok, head of the Reconciliation Committee, took part in the ceremony.

Some ambassadors were also in attendance: Raul S. Hernandez and his wife (Philippines), Luis Henrique Sobreira Lopes (Brazil), Piotr Ostaszewski (Poland), Milton Alcides Magaňa Herrera (Salvador), and Vladimir Vazquez Hernandez (deputy chief of mission of Mexico).

Card Yeom told the faithful who filled the cathedral that, at the beginning, the establishment of the Committee for National Reconciliation went against the trend because a climate of hostility existed at the time towards national reconciliation in Korean society.

However, the Church did it anyway because the right path to unification and peace is through reconciliation and unity of our people and reconciliation and union with God. For the prelate, without forgiveness and reconciliation, there is neither unification nor peace.

The Mass comes at a time of seeming failure in attempts to reduce tensions between North and South, especially between Washington and Pyongyang after the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Vietnam.

The cardinal urged the political leaders of the North and the South, and of neighbouring countries to achieve denuclearisation and peace "with a firm determination to promote the common good of all the peoples of the Korean Peninsula, overcoming the personal desire for power and political, party and national interests."

He especially emphasised prayer, "the most effective means available to us" and mentioned the "actions" of the Reconciliation Committee, such as aid to northern refugees and "humanitarian aid for North Korea", which have never stopped.

"My thoughts,” said the cardinal, “go to our northern countrymen who are denied justice and peace, under the yoke of nuclear weapons, afflicted by extreme poverty, and therefore unable to live a truly human life, in a way worthy of a human being. My thoughts go above all to the People of God in the North who have no freedom to serve God."

"Surely our Lord will reward our prayer and our sacrifice for the reconciliation and unity of our people "a hundred times more now in this present age [and] eternal life in the age to come’ (Mk 10:30).”

One of the most moving moments came after communion, when the Unitas Angels, the children's refugee choir created by the Committee for National Reconciliation, sang.

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