KOREA NEWS Pope hails 60 years of Vatican-Korea diplomatic ties

Pope hails 60 years of Vatican-Korea diplomatic ties


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Francis expressed ‘heartfelt good wishes’ and assurance of his ‘spiritual closeness’ to Korean people in a telegram message

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Alfred Xuereb (3rd from right) and Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-Taick of Seoul (2nd from right) open an art exhibition at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on June 14 to mark the 60th anniversary of South Korea-Vatican diplomatic relations. (Photo: Seoul Archdiocese)

Published: December 12, 2023 08:44 AM GMT

Updated: December 12, 2023 09:41 AM GMT

Pope Francis has sent a message to greet Korean Catholics and their bishops on the 60th anniversary of Vatican-Korea diplomatic relations.

Pope has expressed “heartfelt good wishes” and assurance of his “spiritual closeness” to Korean Catholic bishops and people in a telegram to Bishop Matthias Ri Iong-Hoon of Suwon, the president of the Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCK), on Dec. 11, Vatican News reported.

“This significant celebration is a moment for giving thanks to Almighty God for the many graces received by the Catholic community and the Korean people over these past decades, and I readily associate myself with your gratitude expressed in this solemn eucharist,” Francis said in the message read out during a special Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul to mark the anniversary.

Korean bishops and government officials joined the Mass presided over by Bishop Ri.

“In a particular way, we can be thankful for the spread of the Gospel, the growth of the local Church and its contribution to the wellbeing of Korean society,” Francis said, adding that he trusts “this influence will continue to bear cultural and spiritual fruits, especially for those marginalized, impoverished and without hope.”

Francis said he hopes that South Korea and the Holy See will continue to develop their friendly ties and work together for peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula.

He recalled his visit to Seoul in 2014 on the occasion of Asian Youth Day and presiding over the Mass for the beatification of the Korean Martyrs who, he said “out of love for Jesus and their desire to spread God’s Kingdom gave their lives in this land and sowed the seeds for what has become a blossoming and vibrant Church.”

Francis said he looks forward to visiting South Korea in 2027 for the World Youth Day (WYD), saying that he prays that young people will continue to bear “this precious witness to Christ” as they prepare for the event in Seoul.

Seoul is the second Asian city to hold the global Catholic youth event after Manila, Philippines in 1995.

In his closing remarks, Francis said he entrusts Korea “to the intercession of the Korean Martyrs and Mary, Mother of the Church, and imparted his blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Meanwhile, another Mass was celebrated in the Vatican on the same day to mark the anniversary.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state of the Holy See, attended by top South Korean government delegate and Culture Minister, Yu In-chon, Yonhap news agency reported.

The two countries will continue to utilize culture as a bridge for world peace and harmony, Yu said after the Mass.

“On this day 60 years ago, the two countries formally established their diplomatic ties,” Yu said in his speech at the Lateran Basilica in Rome, Yonhap reported.

“The relationship between the countries has made remarkable progress since then, based on mutual trust and friendship.”

South Korea and the Vatican formally established diplomatic ties in 1963 and since then maintained close ties.

Late Pope John Paul II visited South Korea in 1984 and 1989, and Pope Francis in 2014.

Korean heads of state also paid visits to the Vatican — President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and President Moon Jae-in in 2018 and 2021.

Christianity is the most followed organized religion in the country, according to official estimates.

About 56 percent of South Koreans follow no religion, about 30 percent are Christians, 15.5 percent are Buddhists.

The Catholic Church has an estimated 5.6 million members in a population of about 52 million.

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