Catholics seeking peace on the Korean Peninsula have called for the need for "repentance and atonement" between Pyongyang and Seoul. The call came at a three-day symposium on the role of Catholics in fostering peace in the region, held in Paju City in South Korea, which ended Dec. 3. It also came just before the United States and South Korea launched military air exercises
and amid heightened tensions between the two Koreas The event was the first international symposium organized by the Catholic Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Institute
and was attended by more than 320 clergy and laypeople, including delegates from the United States and Japan. Bishop Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu Diocese in South Korea told delegates that repentance and atonement were needed if peace was to be achieved in the region. "I desperately realize it is repentance and atonement that is needed for reconciliation of the two Koreas, genuine forgiveness and peace," said Bishop Lee. "We are the proud descendants of martyrs who sacrificed themselves for justice and truth, while we haven't been strong enough to arbitrate [between] the two Koreas in the context of peace within the tragic history of the nation." Symposium participants agreed tensions could be addressed peacefully and that South Korea and the U.S. needed to step back from taking military action against North Korea. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, one of the participants, stressed that all parties must work to lessen nuclear proliferation and that peace efforts should focus on the Korean people, not outside nations. He said there was "great desire to begin new initiatives to foster unification," that included formulating a comprehensive strategy to build bridges between societies in the two countries.