Just five days before the impromptu Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un reunion at the 38th parallel, some 20,000 Catholics gathered for Mass sponsored by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea in a park near the location where the three leaders — Trump and Kim together with South Korean President Moon Jae-in — met on June 30.
The faithful marked June 25, 1950, the date when the North Korean People’s Army, backed by the Soviet Union, surged into the Republic of South Korea and kicked off a war that ended three years later with an armistice, but no formal peace agreement.
After three Moon-Kim peace summits and Trump’s newfound respect for their achievements, some Church leaders are quietly talking about an imminent papal visit to the North.
‘Ut Unum Sint’
On June 22, more than 3,000 Catholics packed a high-school auditorium to pray the Rosary, celebrate Mass and enjoy music performed by youngsters from the minuscule Catholic Church in neighboring Mongolia, a program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Seoul’s National Reconciliation Committee.
The prayer rally’s theme was Ut Unum Sint, Christ’s final words on the cross, when he beseeched God on behalf of his disciples “that they may be one” (John 17:21).
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-Jung, the archbishop of Seoul and apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, offered a prophetic homily.
He noted a disappointing lack of progress toward unity and denuclearization on the peninsula, despite high expectations inspired by three Moon-Kim peace summits last year.
What stalled momentum was an abruptly curtailed February meeting between Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam. Positive signs were abundant until that point; the North Korean regime even proposed peaceful reunification allowing two political systems to coexist. The Hanoi rupture demonstrates how easily this effort can be derailed, said a South Korean insider without permission to speak on the record.
The dialogue option has been stifled for decades, Maryknoll Father Lawrence Murphy, an early interlocutor with Pyongyang, told the Register.
Our Lady of Fatima
So the cardinal exhorted the faithful to link their hearts with the 57 parishes and 52,000 Catholics who lived in the North before war cut the nation in half. He asked his flock to spiritually unite with the persecuted Church, sharing his conviction that “it is, to some extent, thanks to their suffering that the Church in the South has made remarkable growth so far.”
The Church in South Korea has grown faster than anywhere else in East Asia. Today, the faithful comprise some 5.6 million people, or 11% of the population.
Through this invisible solidarity, the prelate explained, North and South will achieve a spiritual unity that will bring about the physical reality of reconciliation. The Holy Father recommended this strategy when he visited Korea in 2014, in fact.
Cardinal Yeom reminded parishioners: The power of prayer can be seen in world history. The Church responded to Our Lady of Fatima by continually offering the Rosary and other prayers for the sake of the conversion of Russia, which resulted in the 1989 collapse of communism, with very little violence.
Finally, Cardinal Yeom shared with his flock moving stories of how people and nations must exercise the Christian values of forgiveness and reconciliation without waiting for political leadership to take the lead because “forgiveness must be of a Christian DNA.”
He recounted that in 1965 the Polish bishops sent to their German counterparts a pastoral letter that read: “We forgive and ask for forgiveness,” reflecting Polish suffering under the Nazi regime, while taking responsibility for their own inevitable offenses. Eventually, God, “the Lord of history,” brought renewed fraternity between Germans and Poles.
He told the story of Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar of Belgrade, Serbia. The prelate’s father was killed by a communist, yet every night, Archbishop Hočevar’s mother prayed for her husband’s killer, modeling the requirements of faith to her son.
“To forgive and reconcile each other is the necessary condition for us to be forgiven by God,” said the cardinal. “As long as we pray constantly with immense trust in God … we are sure to be able to win over the forces of evil and accomplish the miracle of peace.”
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