At the end of celebrations marking the first anniversary of the pontiff's death, he was remembered by the Catholic authorities of Korea, ambassadors and believers.
Seoul (AsiaNews) South Korean Catholics have launched a prayer campaign for the beatification of John Paul II. The launch came at the end of celebrations to mark the first anniversary of his death, when images of the dead pontiff were distributed together with a "prayer to implore graces through the intercession of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II", proposed by the Vicariate of Rome and signed by Cardinal Ruini.
Celebrations were held between 4 and 6 April across the country, but the most important was a commemorative event organized on the last day of the Council of the Apostolate for the Laity, in Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul. Ambassadors and diplomatic councillors from 23 countries participated, as well as several representatives of church and faiths other than Catholicism, and more than 500 faithful.
The neo-Cardinal, Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop of Seoul, recalled John PAul II as a "great defender of life and freedom" and he called on all the faithful to "love themselves and others on the basis of the respect for life he preached". Mgr Stefano de Paulis charge d'affaires remembered his priestly formation and urged the congregation to "arise and to go towards Christ, following in the footsteps of John Paul II".
Thomas Han, chairman of the organising council, remembered the deceased pope as a "great missionary and witness to hope for Koreans". He attributed the growth of the Church in the peninsula to him. He said: "The number of Korean Catholics doubled from 1,320,000 to 2,750,000 in the eighties, during which time John Paul visited Korea twice, first in 1984 and then in 1989." Currently, the country's Catholics number more than 4,500,000 and account for 9.3% of the population.
Andrzej Derlatka, Polish ambassador in Seoul, recalled how the words spoken by the deceased pontiff in Warsaw in 1979, on the occasion of the first pilgrimage to his homeland, "changed the geopolitics of central and eastern Europe, marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War". The diplomat described John Paul II as a "sign of the times and of opposition to crimes of those times, a genius and a visionary, who taught courage and heroism as well as the value of compromise in public life, a man who always warned the world against the fatal logic of revenge."
Francesco Rausi, Italian ambassador in Seoul, added: "The most striking feature of the pontificate of John Paul II, well before the tragedy of 11 September 2001, was a tireless effort to try to do away with any kind of 'religious alibi' for terrorism, wars, hate and violence profaning the name of God. After the tragedy in America, he was a restraining influence on the use of new juridical concepts of international law, like the right to defence, and he opposed attempts to strengthen a doctrine of pre-emptive war."
After these interventions, a group of youth, a sister and a priest who met John Paul II shared their personal memories.Sr Claudia Lee Hae-in, one of Korea's most well known poetesses, recited a commemorative poem. The cathedral choir closed the ceremony with songs and pro-defunctis litanies set to traditional Korean music