Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The whole Church" must unite in prayer for "all the persecuted Christians in the world, particularly in Iraq. And also for those religious non-Christian minorities who are also being persecuted". This was Pope Francis' appeal during his greetings to French speaking pilgrims at today's General Audience, dedicated to a reflection on his recent journey to Korea.
Speaking to almost 10 thousand people present in the Paul VI Hall - the audiences are moved here to escape the August - Francis spoke of a visit to "a young and dynamic Church, founded on the testimony of the martyrs and animated by a missionary spirit in a country where ancient Asian cultures and the perennial newness of the Gospel meet".
"The significance of this apostolic journey - he continued - can be condensed into three words: memory, hope, testimony. The Republic of Korea is a country that has had a remarkable and rapid economic development. Its people are hardworking, disciplined, ordered, and must maintain the strength inherited from their ancestors. In this situation, the Church is a guardian of memory and hope: it is a spiritual family in which adults convey the torch of faith received from their elders to young people, and the memory of the witnesses of the past becomes the new testimony in the present and hope for the future. This is the context for the two main events of this trip: the beatification of 124 Korean Martyrs, in addition to those already canonized 30 years ago by St. John Paul II, and the youth meeting on the occasion of the Sixth Asian Youth Day. The young person is someone who is always searching for a meaningful life and the martyr bears witness to something, indeed, to someone for whom it is worth giving one's life. This reality is Love, it is God, who took flesh in Jesus, the Witness of the Father. In the two moments of the trip dedicated to young people the Spirit of the Risen Lord filled us with joy and hope, which these young people will bring to their respective countries and which will do so much good".
"The Church in Korea also preserves the memory of the primary role that the laity had both in the beginning of the church and in the work of evangelization. In that land, in fact, the Christian community was not founded by missionaries, but by a group of young Koreans in the second half of 1700, who were fascinated by some Christian texts, who studied them thoroughly and chose them as a rule of life. One of them was sent to Beijing to receive Baptism, was baptized and returned to his companions. That first group developed into a large community, which from the beginning and for the next century suffered violent persecution, with thousands of martyrs. Hence, the Church in Korea is founded on faith, on mission and the martyrdom of the lay faithful. The first Korean Christians are a model of the apostolic community of Jerusalem, practicing fraternal love which transcends all social difference. Therefore I encouraged the Christians of today to be generous in sharing with the poor and the excluded, according to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25: "so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me".
"Dear brothers and sisters, in the history of the faith in Korea we see how Christ does not negate culture ... He does not suppress the march of peoples that through the centuries and millennia seek truth and practice love for God and neighbor. Christ does not abolish what is good, rather ... He brings it to completion. Instead, what Christ fights and defeats is the evil one, who sows discord between mankind, between people, who generates exclusion because of the idolatry of money, who sows the poison of emptiness into the hearts of young people. This yes, Jesus Christ has fought and won with His sacrifice of love. And if we remain in Him, in His love, we too, like the martyrs, can live and witness His victory. With this faith, we prayed, and even now we pray that all the children of the Korean land, who suffer the consequences of wars and divisions, are able to make a journey of brotherhood and reconciliation".
There were two nostalgic moments for Francis from his homeland, one happy one sad. The happy moment was the presence of managers and players of his favorite soccer team, the San Lorenzo, winner of the Copa Libertadores, the most important continental trophy, brought to the Pope. This was a greeting with kisses and hugs. The Pope had spoken of the San Lorenzo victory on his return flight from Korea, terming it "more than good news after the second place in Brazil," but certainly "not a miracle" procured by his prayers. He had recalled that "the San Lorenzo is the team that my whole family supported." "My father - he added - was basketball player in the same sports club and together with my mother and we always went to San Lorenzo games." "So - he concluded - the victory in the Cup is a joy... But not a miracle".
However, Pope Francis also sadly recalled a recent car crash in which the wife and children of his nephew were killed. "I thank you all - the Pope said - for the prayers condolences for what happened in my family. Even the Pope - he added - he has a family, five siblings, sixteen nieces and nephews. One nephew had a car accident: his wife and little ones, his children are dead. He is in critical condition. Thank you so much for your messages of condolence and prayer".