» 05/04/2006, 00.00
NORTH KOREA - SOUTH KOREA
Joint visit to pope proposed by Catholics from north to those in south
The proposal "does not have a clear objective". "To obtain such a privilege, you'll have to show there is religious freedom. They told me this would be difficult".
Seoul (AsiaNews) The Catholic Association of North Korea has suggested to the Commission for National Reconciliation of the archdiocese of Seoul that the two "go to the Vatican together" to participate, together, in a papal audience. This was confirmed by Mgr Thomas Choi Chang-hwa, director of the Commission, set up in 1995 with the aim of "taking God's love to our North Korean brothers"; he has just returned from an official visit to the north.
"The proposal was made during a dinner on 28 April, but the association in the North [an official body that serves to register and control the very few Catholics in the country] never made clear what the objective of such a visit would be," the bishop said.
The visit made at the end of April was the first official one by the Commission to the Communist country. A delegation of 61 people, including lay and priests, visited health structures that the Commission had funded, and farms and wheat granaries built thanks to the collection of offerings from the faithful, most of them foreigners, in Pyongyang.
A similar proposal had already been mooted last year to the archdiocese of Seoul and the Korea Nunciature but it came to nothing precisely because "they did not clarify the purpose". Mgr Choi added: "I told them, 'You'll have to show at least one priest living in North Korea and demonstrate that there is religious freedom and freedom to spread God's message for such a visit to be possible. But the North responded that that would be 'difficult.'"
The Association delegates asked the prelate to bear their "heartiest congratulations" to the archbishop of Seoul, Mgr Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, for his recent appointment as cardinal. "When I asked if they were going to invite the cardinal they said, 'We'll discuss it,'" he said.
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