02/04/2014, 00.00
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Peace with the North, youth and martyrs on pope's agenda in Korea

Pope Francis' trip to the Korean Peninsula is "pretty sure", this according to Vatican sources. In addition to activities related to Asian Youth Day, the beatification of the 124 Korean martyrs and a special Mass for the reunification of the two Koreas are also planned.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Although "no official confirmation can be made," Vatican sources told AsiaNews that Pope Francis' trip in South Korea is "pretty sure".

The visit should take place in mid-August and last about seven days. During this time, the pontiff will meet government officials in Seoul and lead celebrations organised by the Diocese of Daejeon for Asian Youth Day. He is also expected to beatify 124 Korean martyrs and hold a special Mass for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Asian Youth Day will be held in Daejeon, central South Korea, on 13-17 August, on the theme 'Asian Youth! Wake Up! The glory of the martyrs shines on you', in accordance with the world edition.

Organised by the local diocese and the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, the event is expected to draw tens of thousands of young people from across the continent. The cardinals of Hong Kong and Manila are urging their faithful to participate en masse.

The Pope, Vatican sources said, "should celebrate the Mass opening Asian Youth Day (on 13 August) as well as the one bringing the event to a close. On 15 August, feast day of the Assumption of Mary, he is expected to preside over the ceremony beatifying 124 Korean martyrs."

On 18 August, before the pope returns to Italy, a Mass "dedicated solely to North Korea is planned. It represents a direct appeal to Pyongyang for peace and reunification."

In Korea, martyrdom is deeply felt. This is especially true in the diocese hosting Asian Youth Day, said Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, when he spoke at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

"Many Korean martyrs are from my diocese," he explained, "and are exemplary figures in the life of the faithful. They should be imitated for their faith in God and for the sacrifices they made."

Several historical sites related to the life of early Korean Christians can also be found in Daejeon.

"I hope," the bishop said in concluding, "that the young people who come in August will be inspired by these stories. I am very happy to welcome them because they are the hope of the Church and humanity. Young people are the champions of the new evangelisation".

The pope's visit to Korea shows his concern for the local Church, which is one of the most dynamic and vibrant not only on the continent but also across the Catholic world.

The Korean Church is also the only example of a Church founded by lay people because foreign priests were banned under the Joseon Dynasty. At the same time, Church members experienced a century of persecution over a period of 230 years.

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