Pope Francis in South Korea Aug. 14 to 18, 2014
A 22 yr. Old Korean girl who overcame anorexia asked Pope Francis if she could come to lunch with him when she’s in Rome. He didn’t hesitate for a moment before saying yes. That’s a sample of how comfortable the world feels with Pope Francis.
When he was in Korea this is the menu Pope Francis ate with young people: grilled beef, fried fish, zucchini soup, and kimchi—Korean’s national dish. Loads of young people had fun taking selfies with the Pope. What a surprise it was to everyone when he decided that during his visit, he would travel in a locally built compact car, a Kia soul, instead of larger bulletproof vehicles.
It was even more surprising when at the last minute he decided to take a train ride. He said: “I’ve never been on a high speed train before”. Then he said: “anyway it gave me a chance to be with everyone else”.
That’s the image that the Pope gives to the people of the world—that he wants to be with them.
Today, for a few moments we will be with the Pope on his pilgrimage to South Korea.
You know that Pope Francis spent 5 days in South Korea from August 14 to August 21st? Why did he go there? The central reason for the Pope’s visit was to celebrate the sixth annual Asian youth day with thousands of young people from 23 countries.
At the closing mass at the end of his pilgrimage, 41,000 young people who came for Asian Youth Day, gathered together with over 800,000 people to worship Tand to bid farewell to the Pope.
The Pope had another reason for going to South Korea. He went there to beatify 124 Korean martyrs of the 18th and 19th centuries who were tortured and killed after refusing to renounce their faith.
Pope Francis made it clear from his arrival in Seoul the close connection between the legacy of the Korean martyrs and the developing faith life of young Catholics.
Referring to the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs the Pope said: “These two celebrations complement one another…. A wise and great people do not only cherish their ancestral traditions, they also treasure their young, seeking to pass on the legacy of the past and to apply it to the challenges of the present”.
There are at least 10,000 documented Catholic Korean martyrs. It’s no surprise that the Korean Catholics should be so strong and firm in their faith with the blood of so many martyrs mixed with the blood of Christ for the faith of the Korean people.
The faith came to Korea in an unusual way. The emergence of the church in Korea was the crucial work of lay people, before any missionary came to Korea.
The Korean Catholic Church began with the baptism of a Korean scholar in Beijing in 1784. This man had developed an interest in Catholicism after reading Chinese books on the Catholic religion. After his baptism, he returned to Korea and began baptizing others, so that there were already 4,000 Catholics in Korea before a missionary -- a Chinese priest named Father James Zhou, arrived ten years later..
Today, Korea stands as a special case in the phenomenal success story of Catholic growth in Asia. Catholics in Korea have been outstanding in their remarkable social work, including hospitals, homes for the elderly, schools and orphanages,
In South Korea, the Catholic congregation has grown to about 5.4 million, less than 10% of the population.
The Korean church’s explosive rise in the last 30 years has stemmed from the spiritual bounty of Pope St. John Paul II. During his visits in 1984 and 1989, his message to the world was that Asia will be the region for the evangelization of the Catholic Church in the 3rd millennium.
There are over 4 billion people in the countries of Asia. Catholicism is growing faster in that area than in any place in the world. There are over 132 million or 3% of the people of Asia who are Catholic.
With the shrinkage of the church in the western world the Pope is turning to the east where there is a renewed and deep interest in Jesus Christ. Pope Francis is planning to go to the Philippines and to sir lank in January 2015.
The greatest numbers of Catholics in Asia live in the Philippines there are roughly 80 million Catholics in the Philippines; around 85% of the national population.
India counts about 20 million believers, and the faith is believed to be growing in Vietnam.
In China, the ruling communist party maintains an official Chinese Catholic patriotic association that has to answer in part to atheist rulers. The holy see and Beijing do not have formal diplomatic relations, since China refuses to recognize the Vatican’s sway over what have been termed “underground churches” that profess loyalty to Rome. Nevertheless, a religious revival in recent years has seen the growth of underground Catholic worship.
On the way to South Korea, Pope Francis’ plane was allowed by the Chinese government to travel through Chinese air space. That permission was not granted to Pope John Paul II. Following papal tradition, Pope Francis issued a radio message to the Chinese president as his plane, occupying Chinese airspace, passed over the people’s republic, the Pope said, “I extend best wishes to your excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke the divine blessings of peace and well-being upon the nation.”
When Pope Francis landed in South Korea it was the first trip to Asia by a Pope in 15 years.
At the beginning of his journey on Korean soil the Pope said: “I ask you to join me in praying for Korea and for all of Asia.
Pope Francis prayed also for the church in North Korea. Strange as it may seem North Korea is still a communist country separated from South Korea.
In a highly emotional moment with young Koreans, the Pope said: “think about your brothers and sisters in the north. They speak the same language, and when the same language is spoken in a family there is room for hope”
He urged them to pray: “Lord, we are one family; help us. Help us to be united. You can do it”.
There are 720 million young people in Asia—ages 15 to 24. Pope Francis was reaching out to them to share with them the good news of Jesus by his own personal witness to God’s love and mercy.
Pope Francis’s trip to South Korea was a great success. This is what the cardinal of India said about the visit of Pope Francis: “he struck a chord immediately among Asians with his consistent concern for the poor and the marginalized, and by telling the church to be for the poor. Francis has sparked an atmosphere of joy, enthusiasm and excitement. “There’s life, vitality and enthusiasm for the church. Now people say this is the church that I like to belong to.”
We are proud of our holy father. And we also say: this is the church I like to belong to.