Jeju (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' visit to South Korea "comes at a propitious and important time, not only for the Church and Korean society, but also for the whole Asia-Pacific region. I am convinced that the pontiff will be an apostle of peace who will be able to calm the tensions of this period," said Mgr Peter Kang U-il, bishop of Jeju and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea.
For Mgr Kang, the trip's most important results will obviously be in the area of evangelisation. In fact, "I have no doubt that the visit will renew the Christian message in Korea."
"Pope John Paul II's two visits (in 1984 and 1989) took place at a happy time for the Korean Church and evangelisation," the prelate said.
On both occasions, "Many people converted, and many others became interested in the faith, motivated by the words of the missionary pope. This time, we expect the same thing."
"At present, not only are Catholics waiting for him, but so is Korean society as a whole. People have a very positive feeling toward Francis. I believe this trip will do a lot of good to people, not only to our Church."
Many people, the prelate explained, "are waiting for the papal visit, hoping that it might bring true peace to this land, a country that is divided into two parts, where we have lived under constant tensions for more than 60 years. We know very well what is happening in the North, but there is nothing we can do about in political and diplomatic terms. Everything is at a standstill."
For this reason, "We feel the need for something special to end this crisis. Francis' visit could bring an atmosphere of reconciliation not only between the two Koreas, but also across Asia, even between China, Japan and Korea, who are going through a very difficult time from the point of view of their relations. "
At the same, the pope's pilgrimage to Korea could also help dialogue within South Korea. "I hope the visit will bridge the gap between the government and the opposition," the prelate said.
"Now, a year since Park's administration took over, things have deteriorated domestically and our democracy is showing signs of deterioration. Let us hope that the pope's trip will create a new atmosphere, and provide new opportunities for peaceful dialogue on this issue. Let us hope that the government will change its minds on various political issues, and begin listening to others, opening up to proposals that are positive for everyone."