Pope Francis speaks to religious communities at the Training Center 'School of Love' in Kkottongnaeon, South Korea, in August of last year (Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA)
His trip last August to South Korea was on Pope Francis' mind Thursday when he met with the nation's bishops, who are visiting Rome for their ad limina meeting.
“Your presence today brings to mind fond memories of my recent visit to Korea, where I experienced first-hand the goodness of the Korean people, who so generously received me and shared with me the joys and sorrows of their lives,” the pope wrote in his March 12 address to the bishops of South Korea, delivered in the Vatican's Consistory Hall.
The Korean bishops were joined by Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, who serves the Church in Mongolia.
“My visit to your country will remain a lasting encouragement for me in my ministry to the Universal Church,” the pope said.
He explained that he wanted to continue reflecting on the nature of episcopal ministry as service, “by highlighting three aspects of my visit: memory, youth and the mission of confirming our brothers and sisters in the faith”.
The memory of the martyrs Paul Yun Ji-chung and his companions is important to Francis, who said their beatification was “one of the most beautiful moments of my visit to Korea … in enrolling them among the Blessed, we praised God for the countless graces which he showered upon the Church in Korea during her infancy, and equally gave thanks for the faithful response given to these gifts of God”.
These early Korean martyrs “not only fostered their personal relationship with Jesus, but brought him to others … their example is a school which can form us into ever more faithful Christian witnesses by calling us to encounter, to charity and to sacrifice,” the pope said.
“The lessons which they taught are particularly applicable in our times when, despite the many advancements being made in technology and communication, individuals are increasingly becoming isolated and communities weakened.”
In light of this isolation, Pope Francis urged the bishops to “work together with the priests, religious men and women, and lay leaders of your dioceses, to ensure that parishes, schools and centers of apostolate are authentic places of encounter: encounter with the Lord who teaches us how to love and who opens our eyes to the dignity of every person, and encounter with one another, especially the poor, the elderly, the forgotten in our midst”.
“When we encounter Jesus and experience his compassion for us, we become ever more convincing witnesses of his saving power; we more readily share our love for him and the gifts with which we have been blessed.”
The pope then turned to the theme of the Korean youth, “who greatly desire to carry forward the legacy of your ancestors”.
He said that “just as the witness of the first Christians calls us to care for one another, so our youth challenge us to hear one another”.
Young people “challenge us to share the truth of Jesus Christ clearly and in a way that they can understand,” he noted, and “test the authenticity of our own faith and fidelity … the young very quickly will call us and the Church to task if our lives do not mirror our faith. Their honesty in this regard can be a help to us, just as we seek to assist the faithful to manifest the faith in their daily lives.”
Pope Francis encouraged the bishops “to keep before you the young whom you serve” in the process of formulating and revising pastoral plans for dioceses.
“Be close to them, and show them that you are concerned for them and understand their needs. This closeness will not only strengthen the institutions and communities of the Church, but will also help you to understand the difficulties they and their families are experiencing in their daily lives in society.
In this way, the Gospel will penetrate ever more deeply the life of the Catholic community as well as that of society as a whole.”
He finally turned to the topic of confirming the brethren in the faith, saying that “I ask you, above all, to be servants, just as Christ came to serve, and not to be served. Ours is a life of service, freely given, for each soul entrusted to our care, without exception.”
The pope exhorted his fellow bishops to support one another, and to serve their priests, religious, and laity.
He then turned particularly to Bishop Padilla, who shepherds the roughly 1,000 Catholics in Mongolia, who live amid a population of 2.9 million.
“Though a small community in a vast territory, it is like the mustard seed which is the pledge of the fullness of God’s Kingdom,” Pope Francis said. “May these reflections encourage the continuing growth of that seed, and nourish the rich soil of the Mongolian people’s faith.”
He concluded, saying, “I would like to express my appreciation in a particular way to the Catholic community in Mongolia for their efforts in building up the Kingdom of God. May they remain fervent in their faith, always trusting that the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit is at work within them as missionary disciples.”
Source:Catholic News Agency