In his first address in South Korea, Pope Francis called for tolerance and forgiveness to achieve a lasting peace in the Korean conflict. North Korea fired five missiles into the sea in an open display, which seemed like an immediate test of tolerance. Pope Francis’ journey to Asia will be the first papal visit in 25 years. According to Vatican spokesman, Padre Federico Lombardi, one of the Pope’s vital missions is to “go to Korea and pray for the reconciliation and peace.”
North Korea was quick to use the high-profile event to garner attention. According to the AP, about an hour before Pope Francis arrived, North Korea launched three short-range missiles into the ocean. Then, after the Pope’s plane landed, they fired an additional two projectiles.
Although it isn’t clear if the North was trying to send a message, the “hermit kingdom” has a history of Catholic oppression. Whereas the Catholic community is thriving in South Korea, in the North, it is believed that most Catholics have been eradicated while a small number continue to practice the faith in secret. The crimes against Catholics and South Koreans are difficult to stomach, yet Pope Francis remained strong in his call for peace.
Pope Francis said in his address:
“Peace is not simply the absence of war, but ‘the work of justice’ (cf. Is 32:17). And justice, as a virtue, calls for the discipline of forbearance; it demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation.”
The Pope never directly mentioned the missile launches in public, and his call for dialogue instead of displays of force seemed relevant to the events in his trip. Pope Francis did attempt to reach out to the North, inviting a delegation of North Korean Catholics to come to Mass in Seoul’s central cathedral. North Korean officials refused the invitation.
Nevertheless, the Holy Father seems ready to wait:
“For diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force.”
Pope Francis also used the address as an opportunity to discuss his concerns for the poor, saying:
“It is likewise important that special concern be shown for the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice, not only by meeting their immediate needs but also by assisting them in their human and cultural advancement.”
A transcript of Pope Francis’ full address can be found here.
[Image Credits: Facebook and AFP]