03/31/2006, 00.00
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For all Koreans John Paul is already a saint, says Cardinal Cheong

The newly-appointed cardinal tells AsiaNews about the 'great honour' the late pontiff bestowed on the 'entire Korean people'. He treated us like friends; always close to us, praying for our brothers in the North, says Cardinal Kim.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – John Paul II "was a great pope, but also a great gift to all Koreans who already think of him as a saint," Card Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk told AsiaNews on the first anniversary of the pontiff's death.

"He visited our country twice, in 1984 and 1989," said the Archbishop of Seoul who is also apostolic Administrator for Pyongyang. And "we all remember with love his first visit when he celebrated mass in Korean and canonised 103 Korean martyrs, including Andrew Kim, the first Korean priest. Even for non Catholics he was a holy man, a man of great spirituality."

During his trips, John Paul II described the Korean people as "friends from distant quarters", often quoting the famous adage from Confucius' Analects (Commentaries and Sayings): "Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters?"

"He truly treated us like friends," said Cardinal Kim, archbishop emeritus of Seoul, "always close to us, praying for our brothers in the North".

The archdiocese of Seoul and the Korean Laity Council is preparing several ceremonies and services in memory of the late pope, starting with mass in the capital's Myeongdong Cathedral that will be celebrated by the newly-appointed Cardinal Cheong. During the service a film with hitherto unseen images of the pope's trip to Korea will be projected.

A second ceremony will be held on April 6, also in the Cathedral, and will be co-celebrated by Korea's two cardinals.

A photo exhibit featuring the late pontiff will be inaugurated on April 2 at Seoul's Press Centre. It will be open for a month and proceeds from photo sales will go the archdiocese's 'Life Commission'.

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