In a statement signed by the presidents of the Commission for Reconciliation and the Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church rejects military escalation and reiterates that peace is through dialogue and economic development in both Koreas. Pope Francis words at the Blue House are cited.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The Korean Church is concerned that the peninsula could become "the centre of a new cold war" if the South Korean government, in cooperation with the United States, goes ahead with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) initiative.
The two countries agreed to build the system, which is meant to stop short and medium range missiles. But, in a statement dated 15 July and released a few days ago, South Korea’s bishops note that that "peace is never achieved with weapons but through faith."
Signed by Archbishop Peter Lee Ki-heon, president of the Episcopal Commission for Reconciliation (between the two Koreas), and Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, president of Commission for Justice and Peace, the statement quotes extensively from Pacem in Terris, John XXIII's encyclical, which says that "true and lasting peace among nations cannot consist in the possession of an equal supply of armaments but only in mutual trust " (cfr. Pacem in Terris, 110, 113).
The statement also cites the Council document Gaudium et Spes – “Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies” (GS, 78) – to oppose THAAD, which is likely to turn the Korean peninsula into "the centre of a new cold war" and lead to what Pope Francis called a “piecemeal third world war”.
The bishops also cite Pope Francis’s speech at the Blue House (South Korea’s presidential palace), during his visit to South Korea in 2014.
On that occasion, the pontiff said that “diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force.”
For this reason, the Catholic Church wants South Korean authorities to stop THAAD and Pyongyang to halt its nuclear enrichment projects. In fact, competition and military escalation carry "dangers for humanity” and cause “economic suffering among the poor."
At the same time, the two prelates bemoan the shutdown of the Kaesong industrial complex, which benefitted both Koreas, and wonder about THAAD’s "negative impact on the economy".
Instead, the bishops want South Korea to find a way to make Korea a nation of “reconciliation and life in cooperation, rather than a dangerous place of clashing states. [. . .] Dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation” are the way, not “military pressure”.
Since “Development is] the New Name for Peace” (Populorum Progressio, 76), only development “can bring us true peace."
Yet, for the bishops, "achieving peace will be very difficult if economic and political situation worsens because of international tensions."