Francis: North and South Koreans are members of one family

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Francis: North and South Koreans are members of one family

By Andrea Tornielli

On the final day of his visit to Korea Francis prayed for an ever greater recognition of Koreans as members of one family. As the mass he celebrated in Seoul’s Myeong-dong cathedral, Francis said there are not two Koreas, but one family of brothers and sisters that “speak the same language”. “My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation. This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula,” marked by “division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years.”

Francis asked Christians to examine their consciences: “God’s urgent summons challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many. And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.”

In the reading from Matthews Gospel pronounced during the mass, Peter asks how many times one should forgive, to which Jesus replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven.” Forgiveness “appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to re-establish the original bonds of brotherly love,” Francis said.

The Pope called on Christians “to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life. I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land.”

Francis prayed that new opportunities would emerge “for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people.”

Before the mass Francis met and personally greeted 14 leaders of different religious faiths dressed in traditional attire, in a room adjacent to the cathedral’s sacristy. The Pope was not expected to give a speech but he wished to address a few words to the religious leaders anyway: “Life is a journey and we cannot walk long its path alone. We need to walk together with our brothers and sisters in the presence of God. This is what God asked of Abraham. We are brothers and sisters and we recognise each other as such, may God bless us and I ask you to please pray for me.

Upon entering the cathedral, the Pope saw seven elderly women sitting in the front row. These women over the age of 90 who had once been “comfort women”, used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers. The Pope embraced and blessed each one of them individually. There were also about a dozen North Korean refugees present, who had fled their country. During the ceremony, Korea’s president gave a speech, which the Pope thanked her for.

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 11:00
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