Seoul ( AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' five-day visit to Korea seems to be increasingly rich in important events and gestures, not only for the country but for all of Asia . In addition to the Asian Youth Day and the beatification of the 124 Korean martyrs (Paul Yun Ji- chung and his companions), the Pontiff is planning a mass for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, a visit to a home for disabled children and a great celebration of the Eucharist at the Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul ahead of his departure for Italy .
The president of the Korean Bishops Conference , Msgr. Peter Kang U-il , said: "The visit will be a great opening to world peace. I believe that Francis' choice of Korea, divided in two, as the first Asian nation to visit is a clear expression of his aspiration for peace. Pope wants to pray with young Asians so that they know that they can be apostles of reconciliation in the world". The spokesperson for the Blue House , the presidential residence in South Korea, adds: " The pope is a universal symbol of fraternal love. His visit is an opportunity to send messages of peace and love not only throughout the Korean peninsula, but throughout the entire region. "
Francis arrives in Seoul on August 14. At the international airport in Seoul, he will be welcomed by President Park Geun-hye (baptized a Catholic choosing the name Giuliana but since lapsed in the faith ), by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo- jung, the bishop of Daejeon Msgr. Lazzaro You Heung-sik and the President of the Episcopal Conference. A private meeting between the pope and the president should immediately take place at the Blue House.
Thefollowing day - August 15, feast of the Assumption of Mary - the Pope will meet with young Catholics at the shrine of Solmoe, South Chungcheong Province (diocese of Daejeon). The shrine was erected on the site where Taegon Saint Andrew Kim , the first Korean priest and martyr for his faith, was born . His canonization, along with that of other 102 companions, was presided by Pope John Paul II during his trip to Korea in 1984. After meeting with the youth, Francis will celebrate Mass at the Stadium built for the World Cup.
On August 16, he will preside over the ceremony of beatification of Paul Yun Ji- chung and his 123 companions, martyrs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The venue for this ceremony is still not fixed: options being studied are the international airport or Gwanghwamun square one of the central squares of Seoul. In the afternoon of the 16th, the Pope will travel to view the Flower Neighborhood in Eumseong, one of the most famous Catholic works of the country: it is a shelter for homeless people with disabilities and directed by Fr.Oh Woong-jin , who has already met Francis in Rome (see photo).
The program of 17 August is not yet set, but some sources tell AsiaNews that the Pope will visit the "Cathedral of Reconciliation" in Paju, on the border with North Korea, which was inaugurated June 25, 2013 by Archbishop Emeritus of Seoul Card. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk . Inside the building of worship are mosaics commissioned by artists of the Mansudae Art Studio, located in the North: the works depict the martyrs of Pyongyang and of the province of Hwanghae, the areas most affected by religious persecution. The exterior was instead designed to replicate Jinsadong cathedral, built in 1926 and destroyed by the communists.
The Center for National Reconciliation is located beside the church, managed by the Church, where refugees fleeing the Pyongyang regime are welcomed and can take courses for social inclusion and to help them find a job. New missionaries to be used in religious dialogue and exchanges with the North are also trained here. Also on August 17, Francis will celebrate a mass at the Seosan's Fort Haemi, the place of martyrdom of many of the new Blessed.
On August 18, before leaving for Italy, the Pope will celebrate a solemn Mass of thanksgiving in the Myeongdong cathedral in Seoul. The Mass, say other sources, "will be dedicated to the Korean peninsula. The pontiff will send a message of peace to North Korea, and pray for the reconciliation of the nation and of the Korean people".