Monday, 23 June 2003

Seoul (Fides Service) – At least 4,000 gathered in the demilitarised border zone between north and south Korea for Mass to mark the Day for Unity and Reconciliation of the Korean People on Sunday June 22. Bishops, priests, religious men and women and lay Catholics prayed and strengthened their hope for reconciliation with brothers and sisters in the north, in order to be once again one nation.
“It was a moving event, a sign of two people who want to be one. This is the mission of the Church in Korea to pray and work for reconciliation and peace” a local Church source told Fides Service.
In this very place which marks the tragic division of the nation, Cardinal Stephen Kim, emeritus Archbishop of Seoul, presided a solemn mass in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giovan Battista Morandini and several Korean Bishops and he voiced the hope that the political leaders of north and south Korea would return to the sunshine policy started in 2000 with the history-making encounter of the leaders of the two Koreas
“Animosity must be put aside and scars of division must be healed with sincere and fraternal forgiveness and profound tolerance towards other, to avoid war in the Korean peninsula and to restore reconciliation and unity in this travailed part of the world,” said Rev. Lucas Kim Woon-hoe, chairman of the Commission for Reconciliation of the Korean People, which organised the day, in a message for the occasion.
Rev. Woon-hoe affirms: “the Catholic Church in Korea wants a lasting peace and the evangelisation of the Korean peninsula. To achieve this we need prayer, repentance, unconditioned forgiveness and practice of reciprocal love” The priest says that “it is not possible to think of declaring a war for the sake of peace and at the cost of many innocent lives.”
“We must be happy that exchange and cooperation between the two Koreas continues – the message says – despite the growing international difficulties with regard to the situation of the Korean peninsula”. The message mentions the Gyeongui railway which will re-connect north and south: “The ceremony of reconnection on June 14 meant that the day approaches when we will be able to travel to Pyongyang and Sinuiju passing through Dorasan and Gaeseong stations ”. “Peace will flourish in our minds and grow when we recognise with humility the infinite love of God and we make an examination of conscience to accept our north Korean brothers and sisters as they are, sharing their suffering” concludes the message. Rev. Woon-hoe calls on people to pray confidently for reconciliation and unity of the people “so that the peace of Christ may take possession of our land”.
In the meantime work continues to reconnect north and south Korea with railways and roads. One concrete sign of reconciliation was a decision to set up a hot-line telephone between armed force chiefs on both sides of the border. PA (Fides Service 23/6/2003 EM lines 42 Words: 519)