» 05/21/2014, 00.00
Card. Yeom goes to the North: Only a pastoral visit, the Pope's trip has nothing to do with it
The Archbishop of Seoul is the first Korean Cardinal to cross the border that divides the peninsula. The trip will last less than 24 hours and will only take in the inter-Korean industrial complex of Kaesong. A source for AsiaNews : "No connection with Pope Francis’ visit. Hopefully the Pope will celebrate Mass in Pyongyang soon, but that does not depend on us. And his visit is already a big step forward towards peace".
Seoul ( AsiaNews) - The Archbishop of Seoul, Card. Andrew
Yeom Soo- jung, is in North Korea for a quick visit to the inter-Korean
industrial complex of Kaesong. The Cardinal left early this morning (local
time) and will return to Seoul by the evening: A press conference has been
scheduled for 7pm local time. The purpose of the visit is to meet with South
Korean workers who are employed in the area . However, Card. Yeom's "is
not in any way connected " with the visit of Pope Francis to the Korean
August 14 to 18 next.
Since the division of the peninsula - in 1953 - the
Archbishop of Seoul has held the position of Apostolic Administrator of
Pyongyang. The North's capital was once known as the " Jerusalem of Asia"
for the large number of Christians who lived there: before the seizure of power
by Kim Il-sung, Catholics numbered about 100 thousand; Protestants were almost
double that figure. After the purges of the Stalinist regime, the numbers dropped
to almost zero. Today it is impossible to estimate the number of believers of
any religion who live in the North: Some AsiaNews sources speak of
"about 200 maybe 2 thousand Catholics and Protestants", all forced totally
Card. Yeom's visit to North Korea was planned at first
for Christmas 2013: the prelate had expressed a desire to celebrate Christmas
Mass in Kaesong , but the political instability of the regime and the fall
of the "number 2" Jang Song- taek blocked the project. The
archbishop is "the first serving cardinal to visit the North". His
predecessors - the late Cardinal Stephen Kim and emeritus Nicholas Cheong -
both crossed the border, but before being created cardinal by the Holy See.
Spokesman for the South Korean Ministry for Unification, Park
Soo -jin said this morning that "there are no meetings of a political
nature during the visit" and stressed that the cardinal "has no plans
to visit Pyongyang". In addition, both the Archdiocese of Seoul and Park deny
that the Papal visit has anything to do with the trip. A Catholic source for AsiaNews
in the South says : "Francis is coming to Korea, but the possibility he
may visit the North , unfortunately, does has nothing to do with us. Hopefully
sooner or later, the pontiff will celebrate Mass in Pyongyang, but we have to
be realistic. His visit is already a huge step towards peace".
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