Actors dressed as a Korean War-era soldiers hold doves to be released during a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War at Baengmagoji War Memorial in Cheorwon on June 25. (Photo: AFP)
Masses were held across South Korea on June 25 to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
Catholics prayed for lasting peace on the divided Korean Peninsula. The two Koreas are still technically at war because the war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
The 16 dioceses in South Korea held Masses in succession on the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 conflict, according to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK).
Churches followed strict safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by taking temperatures and providing hand sanitizers and distanced seating, Yonhap news agency reported.
The Archdiocese of Seoul, the biggest diocese in South Korea with 1.52 million followers, held its Mass at 10am at Myeongdong Cathedral. It was attended by 230 Catholics.
"I wanted to state that although achieving true peace that we all want is a very difficult thing, it is absolutely not impossible," Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the archbishop of Seoul, told the Mass.
His comments came amid increased border tensions after North Korea recently called South Korea an "enemy" and cut off all cross-border communication lines. Last week it blew up an inter-Korean liaison office opened after a 2018 summit between the two Koreas.
"When the politics of forgiveness is spread, justice becomes more humane and peace more everlasting," Cardinal Yeom said.
He prayed for all political leaders to "overcome personal, partisan and national interests" and strive for universal common peace by realizing the common good for both South and North Korea.
The Church's parishes in Suwon, Wonju, Daegu and Daejeon held similar Masses in the morning. Catholics in Chuncheon, Incheon, Uijeongbu and Masan were to hold Masses in the afternoon.
Bishop Lee Ki-heon, head of the CBCK’s Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, issued a statement calling for South Korea’s government to find ways to expedite inter-Korean exchanges without violating international sanctions.
"Progress in inter-Korean relations have not been made due to the UN sanctions towards North Korea and the Covid-19 situation," he said.
"As the government suggested, we ask that the government find ways which do not collide with economic sanctions towards the north and actively pursue them."