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Guam, target of North Korea’s threats, has a majority Catholic population

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Pyongyang's statements about mid-August plan met with pleas for calm and prayers.

If North Korea makes good on its threat to fly missiles to the island of Guam by the middle of August, many residents of the island may be in church when it happens.

That’s because a holy day of obligation for Catholics falls in the middle of the month: August 15, feast of the Assumption of Mary. And 85 percent of the 163,000 residents of Guam are Catholic.

On Wednesday, North Korea threatened a strike that would create “an enveloping fire” around the U.S. territory in the middle of the Pacific, saying an attack would come this month. The island, ceded to the United States by Spain after the Spanish-American War in 1898, is the home base for nuclear-equipped bombers that have the capacity to strike North Korea.

Guam officials have issued statements urging calm, and the Archdiocese of Agana has advised residents to “look to God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened.”

“This is the time for all of us to come together,” a statement from the archdiocese said. “If a family member, co-worker or neighbor is troubled, take time to talk to them, pray for them and remind them of the providence of Our Lord. We place our complete trust in our God.”

The archdiocese also asked Catholics to “pray that the Holy Spirit will instill in the leaders of our country and all nations the virtues of wisdom and understanding to promote peace rather than war.”

In the wake of several successful North Korean long-range missile tests earlier this summer, an escalating war of words between North Korea’s leader and U.S. officials has heightened worries of a nuclear conflict. On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump promised “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea if it didn’t stand down from its threats against the United States. Pyongyang responded by saying that the its military would finalize a plan by mid-August to fire four midrange missiles into the waters off of Guam to create a “historic enveloping fire.”

The territory, which is about 2,100 miles southeast of Pyongyang and 3,800 miles west of Honolulu, is 12 miles at its widest point. Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam house an estimated 13,000 military members and their dependents. One-third of the island is owned by the United States military, according to the New York Times.

The Archdiocese of Agana covers the entire island. Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes, a native of Detroit and former vice rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary there, was appointed coadjutor archbishop last October.

 

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