By Robin Gomes
The Korean Catholic Church this week prayed for peace on the divided peninsula as it commemorated the 69th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
South Korea’s bishops and 20,000 Catholics participated at a special memorial Mass on June 25 at Peace World Park in Imjingak, near the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea.
Koreas still at war
Following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, in 1945, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had provisionally divided the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel. However, when China, Great Britain and the US recommended a plan to reunify the peninsula in 1947, the Soviet Union that occupied the north, refused to cooperate.
Soon with tension building between the divided peninsula, the north invaded the south on June 25 1950, an aggression that was repulsed by the allies. The war ended on July 27, 1953, with a truce, but not a peace treaty. Hence the two neighbours are technically still at war.
Peace and dialogue
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, who is also apostolic administrator of Pyongyang Diocese in North Korea, presided over the Mass organized by the Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK).
The entire Catholic Church including Pope Francis is “praying for the seeds of peace to be planted in our painful history,” Card. Yeom told the faithful at the start of the Mass.
The Mass on the theme, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” was dedicated to those who died and sacrificed themselves in the Korean War. “In particular, let us remember the separated families and displaced people who still suffer from the pains of war,” the cardinal said.
Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, Apostolic Nuncio to Korea, CBCK president, Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong of Kwangju and Archbishop Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil of Daegu concelebrated Mass.
The bishops’ committee released a message for the occasion asking all Koreans to avoid struggles and confrontations and seek peace.
Committee president, Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu, said, “We need to maintain dialogue between the two Koreas and the faithful should support it,” adding that the South Korean government should keep offering humanitarian aid to the North and encourage inter-Korean exchanges.
In his homily, Archbishop Kim appealed to leaders of the two Koreas to work for the common goal of the Korean people, for reconciliation and for prosperity rather than their personal pride or political causes.
“For peace, there should be no preconditions. We need to repent the history of using the force of arms against each other.”
He wished that the 70th anniversary of the Korean War next year will result in signing the formal end of the war and an agreement for peace.
Since 1995, a Mass has been celebrated in Seoul's Myeongdong Cathedral every Tuesday for the reconciliation and unity of the Korean people. (Source: UCANEWS)