09/07/2019, 08.00
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For Bishop Yu, church on intra-Korean border is a symbol of hope and prayer

The bishop of the South Korean military ordinariate led the first Eucharistic celebration at the JSA Roman Catholic Church, the closest Catholic church to North Korea. For the prelate, the church “is a miracle of love from God”. It will serve South Korean and US officers stationed in the area.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – The small Catholic church built near the border between South and North Korea is a symbol of hope and prayer for the peaceful unification of the two Koreas, this according to Mgr Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il (picture 2), bishop of the Military Ordinariate in Korea,

Recently completed, the JSA Roman Catholic Church in Camp Bonifas, Paju, in the South Korean province of Gyeonggi, replaced a building dating back to the 1950s, built shortly after the end of the Korean War (1950-53).

On 21 August, Mgr Yu led the first Eucharistic celebration in the new church (picture 3) with representatives from the South Korean Armed Forces and the Church in attendance, including the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Alfred Xuereb (picture 4).

In an interview with the Korea Times, the bishop of the Ordinariate noted that the new church has a special meaning because it is the closest to North Korea.

"I am really happy about the church and would like to thank those who have helped with its opening," the bishop said. “Located just 4 kilometres from North Korean territory, it is closest to the North among all the Catholic churches in South Korea.”

“We hope it will serve as the religious cradle for the believers among Korean and US officers who serve in the Joint Security Area (JSA)” as well as be “a place of rest and meditation for visitors to Panmunjom regardless of their religious backgrounds. The church also honours the 22 countries that fought with us or provided aid during the Korean War."

The bishop explained that the church is modelled after another church, the Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Assisi, Italy.

“I am very moved,” he said, “that we modelled the church after the one in Assisi as I belong to the order that the saint founded. I believe the church is a miracle of love from God and hope visitors to the church will experience His grace, particularly inner peace and blessing."

 (Photo credit: Military Ordinariate in Korea)

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