Pope: Reconciliation key to development and peace in Korea and Asia
Seoul (AsiaNews) - The heat of the day and the darkness of the night "have always given rise to the calm of the morning", that is, an "unchanged hope for justice, peace and unity." Playing with the nickname of South Korea (the "Land of the Morning Calm"), Pope Francis began his apostolic visit to the peninsula with an invocation: "The great gift of hope must always remain in the hearts of all those who strive for pursue these goals". Reconciliation between generations, nations and social strata, tradition and modernity "is the key to peace in Korea and throughout Asia."
The first official event of the apostolic visit in Korea is the meeting with the political leaders of the country, which takes place at the "Blue House", the residence of South Korean President Park Geun-hye. She was joined by ministers, state officials and representatives of the Armed Forces as well as a large diplomatic representation, with approximately 70 ambassadors accredited to Seoul.
The "great hall" was decorated with flowers, and behind the raised dais, a blue screen with the logo of the pastoral visit. The Pope gave the guest a "Map of Rome" - etched on copper and printed following the traditional methods of copperplate engraving - made by the Vatican Library on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year Two Thousand.
In her welcome address, President Park - christened with the name of Giuliana but who has since distanced herself from the Catholic faith - bid the Pope a "sincere welcome": "I hope that your visit will bring comfort to those who need it and can serve to open a new era of peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula". Francis smiled and nodded his head. Both were wearing headphones to hear the instant translation of the speeches, as were most of those present.
Speaking in English - for the first time in his pontificate - Francis said: " It is a great joy for me to come to Korea, the land of the morning calm, and to experience not only the natural beauty of this country, but above all the beauty of its people and its rich history and culture. This national legacy has been tested through the years by violence, persecution and war. But despite these trials, the heat of the day and the dark of the night have always given way to the morning calm, that is, to an undiminished hope for justice, peace and unity. What a gift hope is! We cannot become discouraged in our pursuit of these goals which are for the good not only of the Korean people, but of the entire region and the whole world".
After thanking the authorities present for their efforts in organizing the visit - "you made me feel at home among you " - the pontiff explained the meaning of his apostolic trip: "My visit to Korea is occasioned by the Sixth Asian Youth Day, which brings together young Catholics from throughout this vast continent in a joyful celebration of their common faith. In the course of my visit I will also beatify a number of Koreans who died as martyrs for the Christian faith: Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions". These two celebrations - news of which has been somewhat overshadowed in Korean media of late - "complement one another. Korean culture understands well the inherent dignity and wisdom of our elders and honors their place in society. We Catholics honor our elders who were martyred for the faith because they were willing to give their lives for the truth which they had come to believe and by which they sought to live their lives. They teach us how to live fully for God and for the good of one another".
The risk however is that this love will turn into generational stratification, a kind of paralysis. That's why, Francis noted, "a wise and great people do not only cherish their ancestral traditions; they also treasure their young, seeking to pass on the legacy of the past and to apply it to the challenges of the present. Whenever young people gather together, as on the present occasion, it is a precious opportunity for all of us to listen to their hopes and concerns. We are also challenged to reflect on how well we are transmitting our values to the next generation, and on the kind of world and society we are preparing to hand on to them. In this context, I think it is especially important for us to reflect on the need to give our young people the gift of peace".
The appeal for peace "has all the more resonance here in Korea, a land which has long suffered because of a lack of peace. I can only express my appreciation for the efforts being made in favor of reconciliation and stability on the Korean peninsula, and to encourage those efforts, for they are the only sure path to lasting peace. Korea's quest for peace is a cause close to our hearts, for it affects the stability of the entire area and indeed of our whole war-weary world.
The quest for peace also represents a challenge for each of us, and in a particular way for those of you dedicated to the pursuit of the common good of the human family through the patient work of diplomacy. It is the perennial challenge of breaking down the walls of distrust and hatred by promoting a culture of reconciliation and solidarity. For 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.
Peace is not simply the absence of war, but "the work of justice" (cf. Is 32:17). And justice, as a virtue, calls for the discipline of forbearance; it demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation. It demands the willingness to discern and attain mutually beneficial goals, building foundations of mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation. May all of us dedicate these days to peace, to praying for it and deepening our resolve to achieve it".
But we must not understand peace as a simple economic and social factor: to achieve it, we need a revolution in our understanding of humanity. "Like most of the developed nations - said the pope - Like most of our developed nations, Korea struggles with important social issues, political divisions, economic inequities, and concerns about the responsible stewardship of the natural environment. How important it is that the voice of every member of society be heard, and that a spirit of open communication, dialogue and cooperation be fostered. It is likewise important that special concern be shown for the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice, not only by meeting their immediate needs but also by assisting them in their human and cultural advancement. It is my hope that Korean democracy will continue to be strengthened and that this nation will prove to be a leader also in the globalization of solidarity which is so necessary today: one which looks to the integral development of every member of our human family".
Before leaving to go to the headquarters of the Korean Bishops' Conference, where he will meet the bishops and representatives of the Maryknoll missionaries in the country, Francis recalled St. John Paul II's second visit to Korea 25 years ago. On that occasion, the late pontiff said he was convinced that the future of Korea would depend on the presence among its people of wise, virtuous and deeply spiritual men and women: "In echoing his words today, I assure you of the continued desire of Korea's Catholic community to participate fully in the life of the nation. The Church wishes to contribute to the education of the young, the growth of a spirit of solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged, and the formation of new generations of citizens ready to bring the wisdom and vision inherited from their forebears and born of their faith to the great political and social questions facing the nation".
At the end of the speech, the Pope and Park left the dais together to the applause of those present. Then, still together, they made their way through a side door in the "great hall" for a private meeting. From here, the pope moves to the headquarters of the Korean Bishops' Conference about 10 miles away to the meet with the nation's bishops.