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    » 06/28/2014, 00.00

    KOREA - VATICAN

    Korea is preparing for Francis' visit amid "security" issues and the desire for mission

    Bernardo Cervellera

    When the pope excommunicated the mafia during his visit to Cassano all'Jonio, it raised concerns in the South Korean government about possible repercussions for his trip to the peninsula. Asian Youth Day is vocational in nature and the pope is set to meet 2,000 young people preparing to enter the seminary and 500 young men already studying for the priesthood. Mgr Basil Cho Kyu Man, 59, auxiliary bishop of Seoul and one of the organizers of this great event, talks to AsiaNews.

    Seoul (AsiaNews) - More than 1,000 volunteers and 300 employees are working to prepare in every detail Pope Francis' visit to Korea between 14 to 18 August. He is coming to Daejeon to meet young people for Asian Youth Day, and to Seoul to beatify 124 Korean Martyrs.

    Mgr Basil Cho Kyu Man, 59, auxiliary bishop of Seoul heads the organisation. He welcomed us into his office, which is full of papers, documents, secretaries. He told us that among Koreans, expectations are high.

    In every parish banners have been raised and prayers are being recited that this visit may bear fruit. Catholics are not alone. Most people, most Koreans are interested and want to attend.

    "Pope Francis is a very famous personality," he said. "All Koreans know his way of doing and speaking, what he does for the poor, the sick. In recent months many of the pope's books have been translated In Korea".

    The area chosen for the beatification Mass on 16 August is Gwanghwamun Square, near the ancient imperial palace, one of the most beautiful places in the capital.

    Gwanghwamun ("the gates of light") Square, which opens into a wide 10-lane road, is the symbol of Korean identity, embellished by the statues of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who in the late 16th century defeated the Japanese fleet several times, and that of King Sejong the Great, a reformer of the fifteenth century.

    Bishop Cho said that there were doubts about the location, whether a larger venue near the river was better. Eventually, "we decided for Gwanghwamun because it is in the centre, in the ancient city. The martyrs lived in that place and some were martyred and beheaded in the same place."

    "Right near the place where the pope's altar will be placed, there is a church that commemorates the martyrdom of the blessed. In ancient times, there was also the police station, where the martyrs were likely locked up. The place is also the heart of the city, an expression of the history of Korea, inside the city, in the central business district, which is where we need to evangelise."

    "The cordoned off area can contain only 200,000 people," he explained. "Many more can stand outside the police perimeter but we do not know how many." However, Bishop Cho does not expect the same crowds as in 1984, when John Paul II came. "Back then, his visit drew a million people. Some expect that in mid-August it will be too hot, too tiring and too expensive to come to Seoul."

    The other issue will be security. "The government," Mgr Cho said, "is very nervous." In fact, "After Pope Francis publicly excommunicated the mafia in Italy, the government became concerned that there might be some repercussions. Behind the scene there is talk that the Koreans want tight security and a bullet-proof car, whilst the Vatican does not want obstacles preventing the pope from meeting people."

    The meetings in Daejeon will also be important as well. "Young people from 23 countries will be present. So far, 6,000 people have registered: 4,000 Koreans and 2,000 from abroad. But I think many more will come without being registered; young people from the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, Mongolia, and perhaps even China. We have sent letters of invitation to China, and we know that young Chinese are coming, but we do not know how many they will be."

    "So far we know that the largest group will come from the Philippines, a neighbouring country, with many Catholics. Then we have the Vietnamese and then those from Hong Kong."

    "The meeting will have a very vocational character with 2,000 young people who are preparing to enter the seminary; plus more than 500 seminarians."

    "On 15 August, 20 representatives from each country will go to lunch with the pope. In the afternoon they will all go to Solmoe, near the martyrs' shrine, to celebrate the Day."

    "Later some sort of festival of cultures will be held, in which each group will prepare a small representation. Two young people will introduce the event, telling the pope their situation, then the pope will deliver his speech."

    The last question for Mgr Basil was about his hopes for Pope Francis' visit. Walking the streets of Seoul one sees a developed country, an affluent society, where God does not seem to be important and where practical atheism is growing.

    "We hope," he told me, "that seeing the Pope will lead to a new flowering of religiosity and discovery of the Catholic faith. When John Paul II came (in 1984 and 1989), there was a sharp increase in conversions to Catholicism. This pope's visit will be a missionary visit. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said that in the Church we are all missionaries. He will push everyone, priests and laity towards the mission. Precisely for this reason, some Protestant missionaries are concerned a little about his visit, fearing his 'competition'."

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    See also

    11/03/2014 KOREA - VATICAN
    Francis in Korea, five days for young people and for peace in Asia
    The program of the papal visit is not yet official, but several sources tell AsiaNews that in addition to the Asian Youth Day and the beatification of the 124 Korean martyrs, the Pope will visit a home for the disabled and homeless, the birthplace of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and the fortress where the first Korean Catholics were martyred. A planned visit to the "Cathedral of Reconciliation " in Paju, on the border with the North.

    16/08/2014 KOREA - VATICAN - AYD
    Baptised by the pope, father of a Sewol victim chooses Francis as his name
    As expected, this morning Francis baptised Lee Ho-jin, a man who lost a son in the ferry sinking of 16 April. After the ceremony, the two talked briefly. Francis Lee says he is "grateful for the pope's love and closeness".

    20/03/2014 KOREA - VATICAN
    For Jeju bishop, the pope's visit will renew political dialogue and evangelisation in Korea
    "The pope is coming at a very important moment. The whole of society is waiting for him in order to respond to his call for peace with the North and among us," Mgr Peter Kang U-il, head of the Bishops' Conference of Korea, told AsiaNews. Francis "also brings reconciliation between Korea, Japan and China."

    18/08/2014 VATICAN
    For pope, in Iraq "It is lawful" to halt an "unjust aggressor", but the decision belongs to the UN
    During the flight that brought him back to Rome, Francis spoke of his "respect" for the Chinese people, reiterating the importance of the Letter by Pope Benedict XVI. "If I felt I could not go on, I would resign," he said. As preparations for the encyclical on safeguarding creation continue, the pope plans future trips, including one to Albania, which has "important reasons".

    04/02/2014 VATICAN - KOREA
    Peace with the North, youth and martyrs on pope's agenda in Korea
    Pope Francis' trip to the Korean Peninsula is "pretty sure", this according to Vatican sources. In addition to activities related to Asian Youth Day, the beatification of the 124 Korean martyrs and a special Mass for the reunification of the two Koreas are also planned.



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    IRAN
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