In his message to civil authorities in Seoul, the Bishop of Rome said that in Korea as in any other country, peace can be restored and preserved with “the patient work of diplomacy” “rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force”
In the first speech since his arrival in Seoul, Francis invoked the “gift of peace” from “a land which has long suffered because of a lack of peace.” “This national legacy has been tested through the years by violence, persecution and war.” The Pope addressed his speech in the presence of President Park Geun-hye and South Korea’s civil and military authorities, in the “Blue House”, the presidential residence. He spoke in English for almost 15 minutes, after 5 pm local time. In a conversation he had with the president prior to his speech, he had the chance to stress that “the word “peace” should be used on every occasion and in all discussions, however brief.” He himself used simple and frank words to express himself before South Korean authorities. His words went straight to the heart of the divided country’s unresolved problems. In its umpteenth show of strength the North Korean government launched three rockets into the East Sea, just before Francis’ arrival in Seoul. Meanwhile, President Park Geun-hye gave the Pope a warm welcome, expressing her unreserved hopes for reunification but also mentioned the North Korean nuclear threat on a number of occasions.
Pope Francis’ proposed solution is the complete opposite of the one chosen by those who are perpetuating permanent conflicts around the world, some under the pretext of affirming their identity. In his speech, the Pope expressed his appreciation for “the efforts being made in favor of reconciliation and stability on the Korean peninsula, and to encourage those efforts, for they are the only sure path to lasting peace.” Francis went on to speak more generally, stressing that in today’s globalized world, no conflict could be considered marginal: “Korea’s quest for peace is a cause close to our hearts, for it affects the stability of the entire area and indeed of our whole war-weary world.” The Pope’s recipe for restoring and preserving peace does not involve shows of strength or fragile equilibriums maintained through terror but rather, “through the patient work of diplomacy” and efforts to “break down the walls of distrust and hatred.”
In the first speech he gave in Korea, Francis defined diplomacy as “the art of the possible”, “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.” His remarks apply to other contexts throughout the world as well.
“Peace,” Francis said quoting the Prophet Isaiah, “is not simply the absence of war, but “the work of justice” 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.”
In his address to South Korea’s leaders, Pope Francis stressed that taking care of young people and the poor and disadvantaged is vital in order to assess the efficiency and far-sightedness of social development policies: “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.” The Asian Youth Day, which is what brings the Pope to Korea, “is a precious opportunity for all of us to listen to their hopes and concerns.” As all youth gatherings do, the Asian Youth Day “challenges us to reflect on how well we are transmitting our values to the next generation, and on the kind of world and society we are preparing to hand on to them.” The country’s fast-paced development fatally has to deal with problems and concerns that are also common in other advanced societies. It is therefore crucial “that the voice of every member of society be heard” and “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.” This way “Korean democracy will continue to be strengthened and that this nation will prove to be a leader also in the globalization of solidarity which is so necessary today.”
It is not the Church’s intention to preach to the Korean people and it has no power aspirations in Korea with its problems, successes and emergencies. By proclaiming the Gospel through the Successor of Peter, the Church declares itself ready to serve Koreans along their path, starting with the young and the poor. “Today, I assure you of the continued desire of Korea’s Catholic community to participate fully in the life of the nation. The Church wishes to contribute to the education of the young, the growth of a spirit of solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged, and the formation of new generations of citizens ready to bring the wisdom and vision inherited from their forebears and born of their faith to the great political and social questions facing the nation,” Francis said in conclusion.
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