Sunday, August 3, 2014

Expectations On Pope Francis' Visit to Korea

The visit of Pope Francis to Korea is approaching. Listing only the formal events: the beatification of the 124 martyrs, Mass of the Assumption, visit to  the Flower Village, attendance at the Asian Youth Meeting, Peace and Reconciliation Mass, meeting with the  President-- there are over 20 events in which he will participate. The Peace column in the Peace Weekly invites us to spend time looking over the itinerary of  Pope Francis.

The columnist wonders whether there is a slight difference in what the Church of Korea thinks important and what the Vatican thinks important. The Korean Church considers the beatification on Saturday as central. In 1925, we had the beatification of the 79 martyrs, in 1984 the canonization of the 103 saints and  this year the beatification of the 124 martyrs: high points in our Catholic history.

We don't know what the pope and the Vatican thinks, but we can do some guessing.  During the five days, he will have two luncheons that have been made known publicly:  one is with 20  representatives of the young people at the 6th  Asian Youth Day on August 15th, and the other meal is with the Asian bishops on August 17th. This for the columnist seems to indicate where the pope's interest will be. The pope has shown an interest in evangelization of Asia, which would indicate the emphasis he is putting on the Asian Youth Day.

On August 18th, the Mass for Peace and Reconciliation at the Seoul Cathedral is the event the columnist shows the most interest. North Korean Catholics have been invited to attend the Mass. The North, at the least provocation is ready to shoot off rockets and missiles; one wonders if attendance is in any way possible. They will be attending the Asian Games scheduled for September in Inchon, which does hold out some hope. Unification of the peninsula is not something that we can do on our own, and the columnist believes Pope Francis will bring hope. 

Japan some 429 years ago, four teenagers in the Tensho embassy were  sent  to Rome where they met Gregory 13th.  340 years later one of our Catholics, Dr. John Chang Myun met with Pope Pius XI in the first  official visit of a Korean to the Vatican. The pope's visit to Japan was in 1981, but he has visited Korea in 1984, 1989 and this year will be the 3rd visit. Doesn't this mean that he has much to do in Korea? Pope John Paul II in visiting Eastern Europe was given some credit in bringing  about German unification.

The columnist is hoping Pope Francis' visit will help to prepare the unification of the peninsula. In the Mass at the Cathedral he will be talking to the separated families and the thought of this fills the columnist's heart with emotion. He is looking forward to the visit as a child would Christmas.

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