Pope calls for Korean peace and reconciliation in final message of trip

(Photo: REUTERS / Jung Yeon-je / Pool)Pope Francis (C) poses for a photograph with South Korea's religious leaders at Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul August 18, 2014.

Pope Francis has called for peace and reconciliation on the divided Korean peninsula, completing a five-day trip to South Korea.

The Pope participated at a final mass in Seoul's Myeong-dong cathedral in which he prayed for healing and unity on the divided Korean peninsula in the first papal visit to Asia in 15 years.

At the beginning of the mass Francis also had special words of support for a group of elderly "comfort women" forced into prostitution for the Japanese military during the Second World War.

"Today's Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family," Francis said. This followed a prayer on Friday when he urged Koreans to work to unite as one family, "with no victors or vanquished."

He said, "May Christ's followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God's richest blessings of harmony and peace."

The Korean War from 1950 to 1953 has never had a ceasefire and ended in an armed truce that still leaves North Korea and South Korea technically in a state of war.

Defectors from North Korea and relatives of South Koreans abducted by the North attended the mass along with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

North Korea spurned an invitation from the South Korean Catholic church for members of its State-run Korean Catholic Association to attend Monday's Mass, citing joint U.S.-South Korean military drills which were due to begin on Monday.

During his visit Pope Francis urged Asian Catholics to engage in real and fruitful dialogue with others, reminding them they cannot do so unless they are sure of their identity rooted in their living faith in Christ.

"It is our living faith in Christ which is our deepest identity," said the Pope at Haemi shrine in Daejeon Diocese on Sunday during his five-day visit to South Korea.

"It is from this that our dialogue begins, and this that we are asked to share, sincerely, honestly and without pretence, in the dialogue of everyday life, in the dialogue of charity, and in those more formal opportunities which may present themselves."


The day before Pope Francis led a service to beatify 124 Korean martyrs, focussing on the history of a church that is growing rapidly in South Korea.

The Pope had arrived in South Korea on Thursday morning on a 5-day visit to South Korea, and he flew back to Rome on Monday.

The Pope met representatives of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, headed by their president, Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, who welcomed him on behalf of the bishops.

In his message, the Pope noted that the vast continent is home to a great variety of cultures, hence "the Church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all."

However he acknowledged that expressing one's Christian identity is not all easy because as "sinners" followers of Christ are tempted by the spirit of the world.

In this regard, Francis urged Catholics to watch out against three temptations: relativism, superficiality and apparent security.

One pitfall threatening the Christian identity, the Pope explained, is superficiality - a ‎tendency to toy with the latest fads, gadgets and distractions, rather than attending to the things that ‎really matter.

By relativism, Pope Francis said he did not mean so much the system of thought or philosophy as the "everyday practical relativism which almost imperceptibly saps our ‎sense of identity."

In a world of rapid and disorienting change, the Pope noted, Christians are tempted to forget that "there is much that is ‎unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, and today, and ‎forever."

This, he noted, can present a serious pastoral problem, especially for the ministers of the Church.

They can be enchanted with pastoral programmes and theories, to the detriment of ‎direct, fruitful encounter with the faithful, especially the young who need solid catechesis and sound ‎spiritual guidance.

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