SEOUL, South Korea — In the opening speech of his four-day apostolic voyage to South Korea, Pope Francis underlined the importance of transmitting values to the next generation and said peace is achieved through diplomacy and dialogue rather than the “fruitless” use of force.
Addressing state authorities in English at the presidential palace Thursday afternoon, the Holy Father said it was a “great joy” to come to Korea and praised the country’s rich cultural heritage. He noted the “land of morning calm” has been “tested through the years by violence, persecution and war,” but he said that despite these trials, the country has “an undiminished hope for justice, peace and unity.”
“What a gift hope is,” the Pope said. “We cannot become discouraged in our pursuit of these goals, which are for the good not only of the Korean people, but of the entire region and the whole world.”
Pope Francis arrived in Seoul at 10:20am local time, after an 11-hour flight that included a journey over China and the first papal telegram to that country’s president, Xi Jinping.
After being welcomed at the airport by South Korean President Park Geun-hye and briefly meeting relatives of victims of a recent ferry disaster, the Holy Father was driven in a small Kia automobile to the apostolic nunciature, where he celebrated a private Mass.
In the presence of President Park and assembled dignitaries, the Holy Father pointed out that the main purposes of his apostolic trip — to celebrate the Sixth Asian Youth Day and to beatify 124 Korean martyrs — “complement one another.”
The martyrs, he said, are elders honored for giving “their lives for the truth” and “teach us how to live fully for God and for the good of one another.” But he stressed that 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 apply it to the challenges of the present.”
Reconciliation and Solidarity
He questioned how well we are transmitting values to the next generation and underlined the importance of reflecting on the “need to give our young people the gift of peace.”
Noting the challenges in achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula, the Pope highlighted the role of diplomacy and breaking down walls of distrust and hatred by “promoting a culture of reconciliation and solidarity.”
“Diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is 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,” Francis said.
Peace, he reiterated, is not the absence of war, but the work of justice that calls for the discipline of forbearance. “It demands that we not forget past injustices, but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation.”
He said that in today’s globalized world, the common good and development must be understood in “human and not merely economic terms,” and he expressed his hope that South Korea would prove to be a leader “in the globalization of solidarity, which is so necessary today.”
He closed by stressing the Church’s wish to contribute to educating and forming new generations, so they can bring “the wisdom and vision inherited from their forebears” to the challenges facing the nation and help to foster a “spirit of solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged.”
Exhortation to the Bishops
From the presidential palace, the Holy Father went on to greet the bishops of South Korea at the seat of the country’s bishops’ conference in Seoul.
In his discourse, Francis exhorted the Church leaders to be missionaries in an “increasingly secularized and materialistic society.”
He called on them to be “guardians of memory and guardians of hope.” Being guardians of memory, he said, "means more than remembering and treasuring the graces of the past; it also means drawing from them the spiritual resources to confront with vision and determination the hopes, the promise and the challenges of the future.”
The Holy Father added: “Our memory of the martyrs and past generations of Christians must be one that is realistic, not idealized or ‘triumphalistic.’ Looking to the past without hearing God’s call to conversion in the present will not help us move forward; instead, it will only hold us back and even halt our spiritual progress.”
As guardians of hope — the hope which inspired the country’s martyrs — the Pope said this hope must be proclaimed to a world seeking something more “authentic and fulfilling” than material prosperity. To do this, he called on bishops to keep alive the “flame of holiness, fraternal charity and missionary zeal within the Church’s communion.” He also urged them to “remain ever close” to their priests.
The challenge of being a missionary Church, the Pope went on, means constantly going forth to the “peripheries of contemporary society” and fostering “that ‘spiritual taste,’ which enables us to embrace and identify with each member of Christ’s body.”
This requires showing particular care and concern for the young and the elderly and reaching out to the poor, refugees and migrants “living on the margins of society.”
‘Face of Love’
“I am convinced that if the face of the Church is first and foremost a face of love,” the Pope said, “more and more young people will be drawn to the heart of Jesus, ever aflame with divine love in the communion of his mystical body.”
Francis warned bishops that, in adopting modern and effective management methods from the business world, they might also adopt a worldly mentality. “I urge you and your brother priests to reject this temptation in all its forms,” he said. “May we be saved from that spiritual and pastoral worldliness, which stifles the Spirit, replaces conversion by complacency and, in the process, dissipates all missionary fervor.”
He closed by encouraging South Korea’s bishops to build up the faithful “in unity, holiness and zeal. Memory and hope inspire us and guide us toward the future. May the prayers of Mary, Mother of the Church, bring to full flower in this land the seeds planted by the martyrs, watered by generations of faithful Catholics and handed down to you as a pledge for the future of your country and of our world.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.