For Card Yeom, the Panmunjom Declaration represents hope for a lasting peace

“Dialogue is the first step to establishing a community of peace,” the prelate said. For divided families, it is “an opportunity to heal the wounds of separation.” At the same time, “Humanitarian aid is more than simply delivering goods; it is to meet the people, to share love and hope, and to be united as one.” The prelate offers prayers for the Church in North Korea.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – In an interview with the Pyeonghwa Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), a Catholic TV and radio broadcaster, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, praised the positive outcome of the inter-Korean summit, calling on the faithful to continue praying for dialogue and peace between North and South Korea.

Cardinal Yeom on 23 April celebrated a Mass for peace and reconciliation in Myeongdon Cathedral, praying for the success of the inter-Korean summit. The interview with PBC was aired this morning. What follows is the English translation of the interview.

Several agreements have been made during the inter-Korean summit. What do you think is the most meaningful outcome of the Panmunjom Declaration?

I think the most meaningful outcome of the summit is the dialogue between North and South Korea. Dialogue is the first step to establishing a community of peace. In this sense, the dialogue that happened during the summit has given all of us great hope for peace.

There are agreements on resolving humanitarian aids in the Panmunjom Declaration. What do you think about this part?

I think that finding ways to resolve humanitarian issues is extremely important. I especially hail the decision to arrange the reunion of separated families, which would be an opportunity to heal the wounds of separation. There were around 130,000 separated family members in the beginning, but many have passed away and around 57,000 people are still alive today. Since the majority of these people are in their 70s or 90s, I hope the reunion will not be a one-time occasion but a continuous arrangement between North and South Korea.

How about humanitarian aids to the North?

Humanitarian aid is more than simply delivering goods; it is to meet the people, to share love and hope, and to be united as one. The Archdiocese of Seoul has implemented several projects to support the North. We should put out utmost efforts to continue our support and sharing, in both quantity and quality.

To settle peace on the Korean Peninsula, what are the preparations that the Catholic Church should begin?

As always, we should begin with prayers.

For 23 years, the Archdiocese of Seoul has been celebrating Holy Mass every Tuesday at 7pm in Myeongdong Cathedral to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. We have also launched the “Remember the Parishes of the North” prayer movement to remember the 57 parishes and approx. 5,200 Catholics in North Korea.

Through prayers, we put God in the center of our lives. Through prayers, we become brothers and sisters. I ask all of you to continue to pray for North Korea as the Lord will eventually hear our prayers.

As the Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, the hostile situation between North and South Korea before must be heart-wrenching for you. How did you feel these years?

Last year we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Diocese of Pyongyang. Even though I am the Administrator of Pyongyang, I have never set foot on Pyongyang. I pray the rosary every day, and I ask that God’s grace bestow upon the North Korean church.

I believe the fire of Holy Spirit is still burning in North Korea. Perhaps it is burning even more desperately under such difficult situations. I pray, also desperately, that one day I will meet with the North Korean Catholics to talk with them and to celebrate Mass together.

What does peace mean to you?

Peace is the gift of God. Peace is realized through fraternal love. Peace is not something to enjoy alone but something to share. Peace of the Korean Peninsula becomes even more meaningful when we are able to contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of our neighbor countries and countries around the world.

Lastly, regarding the peace of the Korean Peninsula, is there anything you want to say to the Catholic faithful?

The summit is indeed an important first step towards authentic peace, but we still have a long way to go. While we should not fall into despair, we should also not fall into complacency. I ask everyone to unite our hearts and continue to pray for peace in our country.