Those who work in diplomacy play a special role in the quest for peace, the Pope noted, by replacing “the walls of distrust and hatred” with a “culture of reconciliation and solidarity,” brought about by dialogue rather than acts of retribution.
Pope Francis reminded the political and civic leaders that their work should be aimed at creating a peaceful, just and prosperous society, adding that “in an increasingly globalized world, our understanding of the common good, of progress and development, must ultimately be in human and not merely economic terms.”
He acknowledged social, political, economic and environmental challenges, urging these problems to be addressed with a spirit of dialogue and cooperation.
In addition, the Pope highlighted the need to show special concern for the poor, vulnerable and voiceless, “not only by meeting their immediate needs but also by assisting them in their human and cultural advancement.”
The Pontiff pointed to the second visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Korea 25 years ago. At the time, Pope John Paul II said that “the future of Korea will depend on the presence among its people of many 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,” Pope Francis said, emphasizing the Church’s desire to support education of the youth and solidarity with the poor.
He called the nation to become “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.”
Organizers of the Pope’s trip had invited a delegation of North Korean Catholics to attend his Aug. 18 Mass for peace and reconciliation at Seoul’s main cathedral. But late last month, North Korean authorities told the organizers that they wouldn’t participate for various reasons, a Vatican spokesman said.
North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government. The U.S. State Department says North Korea permits no religious freedom at all. Currently, there are no Vatican-sanctioned institutions or resident priests operating in North Korea.
As he arrived at an airport just south of Seoul, Francis shook hands with four relatives of victims of a South Korean ferry sinking that killed more than 300 and two descendants of Korean martyrs who died rather than renounce their faith. Some elderly Catholics wiped tears from their faces, bowing deeply as they greeted the Pope on the tarmac. A boy and girl in traditional Korean dress presented Francis with a bouquet of flowers, and he bowed in return. The Pope then stepped into a small, black, locally made car for the trip into Seoul where the official welcome ceremony and speeches took place.
Park, the South Korean president, said she hoped the Pope’s presence would heal the Korean Peninsula’s "long wounds of division," referring to the 1950-53 Korean War, which continues to divide the Koreas along the world’s most heavily guarded border.
"Division has been a big scar for all Koreans," she said.
Park credited Catholics in South Korea with playing a big part in making the country what it has become: South Korea has risen from poverty, war and dictatorship into Asia’s fourth biggest economy. She called the Korean martyrs "pioneers who spread freedom and equality," and said their sacrifice helped develop Korean society.
Reprinted courtesy of Catholic News Agency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.