By Robin Gomes
The newly-appointed apostolic nuncio to South Korea, Monsignor Alfred Xuereb is expected to encourage the warming relations between the two Koreas and play an active role in peace initiatives in the region.
Msgr. Xuereb, good news for Korean reconciliation
According to Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, who has been in charge of the Nunciature in Seoul since the retirement of Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla on 15 September, 2017, the appointment of Monsignor Xuereb by Pope Francis bodes well for inter-Korean reconciliation.
On 26 February, Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Alfred Xuereb as apostolic nuncio to Korea and Mongolia, while at the same time raising him to the rank of archbishop. The 59-year old Maltese monsignor is scheduled to take up his new assignment after his episcopal ordination in Rome on March 19.
"Monsignor Xuereb is one of the closest allies of Pope Francis and reads the pope's thinking very well," Monsignor Sprizzi told UCANEWS. He said that since the Pope continually shows his concern for the reconciliation of the two Koreas and [prays for] peace on the Korean Peninsula, the new nuncio will play an active role in bridging the gap between the two Koreas and work for peace in the region.
Pope’s 2014 Korean visit
Pope Francis has been closely following developments in the Korean peninsula. He visited South Korea, 13-18 August 2014, for the 6th Asian Youth Day, in what was the 3rd foreign trip of his pontificate and his first to Asia.
He dedicated his Mass on the final day to reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. During the Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul he urged all Koreans to reject a "mindset of suspicion and confrontation" and find new paths to build peace.
Close to two popes
Monsignor Xuereb began his service in the Vatican Secretariat of State in 1995, before his transfer to the Pontifical Household in November 2000. He returned to the Secretariat of State, serving as secretary to Pope Benedict XVI from 2007.
After his election in 2013, Pope Francis made him his first secretary. And from March 2014 he served as the first prelate secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy. In November that year, he was named as delegate on the Pontifical Commissions for both the Vatican bank (Institute for Works of Religion) and the re-organization of the economic structures of the Holy See.
Encouraging signs from Korean peninsula
Monsignor Xuereb is taking up his diplomatic amid improving relations between the two Koreas, who are technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.
Under a rigidly totalitarian regime, North Korea has exacerbated its closely maintained isolation from the rest of the world with its nuclear ambitions. Washington and Pyongyang have been at loggerheads for months over the North's nuclear and missile programmes, with US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un trading insults and threatening war.
However, since last November, North Korea has not carried out any nuclear and missile test, and some very dramatic positive developments have been taking place between the two neighbours.
In an unexpected New Year offer, Kim offered to send a team to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, where the two Koreas marched under a united flag in the opening ceremony.
A 10-member South Korean delegation on a visit to North Korea met Kim on 5 March, making them the first South Korean officials to meet the young leader.
Following the visit, the South’s presidential office said on Tuesday that the two Koreas will hold their first summit in more than a decade in late April in the border village of Panmunjom.