As North and South Koreas are preparing for their first summit in more than a decade on Friday, the Catholic Church in the peninsula is pinning its hope on prayers for peace.
"It is a very important, historical occasion. We, as the Catholic Church, are praying for peace in Korea, and we ask Our Lady to help us find the agreement, a path to peace," Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik of Daejeon said about the upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom, on 27 April.
"Until last year, the situation on the Korean peninsula was a major problem for humanity. But, after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, new hope for dialogue and reconciliation was born,” noted bishop You, the president of the Committee for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK).
The summit comes in the wake of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung meeting Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang in 2000, and Roh Moo-hyun doing the same by venturing out to the North Korean capital in 2007. Both of those summits ultimately led to nowhere.
Interest of all
Bishop You noted that Moon has always the path of dialogue to resolve peacefully the situation on the Korean peninsula. According to him the future of the two Koreas also depends especially on the Chinese and the Americans, besides the Japanese and the Russians.
North Korea's announcement on Saturday to suspend further nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and close its nuclear test site raised hopes for a breakthrough in the upcoming nuclear negotiations. However, the North's statement stopped well short of suggesting it has any intentions to give up its nuclear weapons or halt its production of missiles.
Bishop You pointed to North Korea insisting on maintaining its weapons for its security. The summit will serve to find a way to solve these problems which he said is very important, not just for the two Koreas alone.
Progress on the nuclear front between the two neighbours is seen as a possible way for a possible first summit between North Korea and the United States. According to the bishop, Pyongyang will call for the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula as a condition for improved relations with the US.
North South technically at war
Seoul and Pyongyang remain technically in a state of war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a ceasefire and an armistice only. It is hoped a peace treaty could be declared at Friday’s summit.
While hoping for a final peace treaty, Bishop You also hoped the international community will come forward help the economic and social development of North Korea rather than imposing sanctions on it. All these changes seem difficult, but with the certain desire for peace, they are absolutely possible."
"The Korean people rely heavily on the prayer of the Holy Father Francis, who is loved and respected even by Buddhists and atheists,” Bishop You noted.
The CBCK’s Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean People is encouraging everyone to pray, and recite an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Gloria every evening, for the success of the April 27 summit.
Earlier on April 13, Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu, the president of the Committee expressed belief that Friday’s summit will end decades of struggle and open a new era of peace on the peninsula.
"With the inter-Korean summit, as well as the ensuing summit between North Korea and the U.S., expectations are growing that the 65-year-long confrontation and struggle will end and a new era of peace will come," Bishop Lee wrote in a statement titled, "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
He hopes the prayers of the Korean faithful will help bring the desired fruits from the upcoming summit. "Our prayers are making an incredible miracle through God, who makes the impossible possible," Bishop Lee said urging Catholics to have faith. (Source: AsiaNews, UCANEWS)