SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis told South Korea's lay leaders during his visit to the country that the modern breakdown of families should spur greater outreach and catechesis to married couples and their children.
“At a time of great crisis for family life, our Christian communities are called to support married couples and families in fulfilling their proper mission in the life of the Church and society,” he said Aug. 16 at the Kkottongnae Spirituality Center.
“The family remains the basic unit of society and the first school in which children learn the human, spiritual and moral values which enable them to be a beacon of goodness, integrity and justice in our communities,” the Pope emphasized.
“Dear friends,” he added, “whatever your particular contribution to the Church's mission, I ask you to continue to promote in your communities a more complete formation of the lay faithful through ongoing catechesis and spiritual direction.”
Announced by the Vatican in March, the Pope's Aug. 13-18 trip follows an invitation from the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea.
During his visit, the Pope has traveled from the capital city of Seoul to Daejon, where he celebrated the Sixth Asian Youth Day with thousands of young people. He also visited the rehabilitation center for disabled persons in Kkottongnae and will make a trip to the shrine in Haemi for a closing Mass with Asian youth.
Pope Francis on Saturday also beatified Korean martyrs Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions, praising their “great sacrifices” and their call “to put Christ first.”
“All of them lived and died for Christ, and now they reign with him in joy and in glory,” the Pope said during Mass at Seoul's Gwanghwamun Gate, with thousands in attendance.
In his comments later in the day to the country's lay leaders, the Pope said that Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and the martyrs “beatified today represent an impressive chapter of this history.”
“They bore witness to the faith not only by their sufferings and death, but by their lives of loving solidarity with one another in Christian communities marked by exemplary charity.”
“This precious legacy,” he noted, “lives on in your own works of faith, charity and service.”
‘Credible’ Lay Witnesses
Pope Francis said that in today's society, the Church is in great need of “credible” lay witnesses to the Gospel — “its power to purify and transform human hearts and its fruitfulness for building up the human family in unity, justice and peace.”
He also reflected that lay apostolate efforts to assist the poor, while “good and necessary,” are ultimately “not enough.”
“I encourage you to multiply your efforts in the area of human promotion, so that every man and every woman can know the joy which comes from the dignity of earning their daily bread and supporting their family.”
The Pope went on to point out the “outstanding contribution” made especially by Korean Catholic women to the Church's mission in their roles as mothers, catechists, teachers “and in countless other ways.”
“Similarly,” he added, “I can only stress the importance of the witness given by Christian families.”
“Your contribution is essential, for the future of the Church in Korea — as throughout Asia — will depend in large part on the development of an ecclesiological vision grounded in a spirituality of communion, participation and the sharing of gifts.”
“Once again, I express my gratitude for all that you do for the building up of the Church in Korea in holiness and zeal,” he concluded.
“Upon you and your families and all who take part in the corporal and spiritual works of your parishes, associations and movements, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ and the loving protection of Mary, our Mother.”