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Pope urges Koreans to become ‘prophets of peace’

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, Pope Francis called for 'a complete cessation of hostilities'

Pope Francis is seen with young people during his visit to South Korea in 2014

Pope Francis is seen with young people during his visit to South Korea in 2014. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: August 10, 2023 12:22 PM GMT

Updated: August 11, 2023 06:14 AM GMT

Pope Francis has called on Koreans for “a complete cessation of hostilities” and to become “prophets of peace” in his message on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

“I want to encourage all Koreans to become prophets of peace,” the pope said in his message.

South Korean Catholics marked the anniversary with a national program including a special Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in the capital Seoul on July 27.

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Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon Lee of Uijeongbu, chairman of the bishops’ Special Episcopal Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, celebrated the Mass, which was attended by 12 bishops, priests, religious, and laity.

South Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy also joined the Mass and read out the pope’s message.

"The numerous wars and armed conflicts that afflict the human family today, and especially our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, tragically show the need for constant vigilance to defend and promote justice and friendly cooperation within communities and between peoples," the pope’s message read.

The remembering of the war and its aftermath would bring “a bright future of reconciliation, brotherhood, and lasting harmony not only for the Korean Peninsula but also for the broader world,” Francis added.

Bishop Lee also called on both North and South Korea to end hostilities.

“The most important thing that South and North Korea need to do for peace on the Korean Peninsula is to get rid of ‘hostility,’ the heaviest stumbling block and shackle that our nation has been holding for a long time,” Lee said.

The 1950-53 Korean War left about three million people dead and about 10 million displaced.

The war ended with an armistice agreement, not a treaty, which created a heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to separate the two countries.

Tensions and hostilities between the democratic South and communist North have continued ever since and intensified in recent years, triggered by regular missile testing of North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong-Un.

Bishop Lee urged the leaders of both South and North Korea to work together and “soothe the anxious hearts of the people.”

“Listen to the voices of the people, and wipe away their tears,” the prelate said urging those present to “be Christians with a gentle smile.”

Peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula have been major priorities of the Vatican and the Church in Korea.

Every year, South Korean dioceses hold month-long prayers and other activities for peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas.

There have been efforts for peace between the two countries in recent times.

In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea president Moon Jae-in met at the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the border for an inter-Korean summit.

They adopted the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, which stated that both sides would "make active efforts to seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

The declaration was later submitted to the United Nations General Assembly.

Moon later visited the Vatican and reportedly invited Pope Francis to visit North Korea.

This report is brought to you in collaboration with the Catholic Times of Korea.


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