By Linda Bordoni
“May the year 2020, which marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War become the beginning of a new era of peace and unity.”
May it be the year in which “the tragedy of national division is overcome with a declaration of the end of the Korean War and a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula”.
This is the message at the heart of a statement released by the President of the Korean Bishops’ Conference after the meeting between the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
Milestone for peace
The statement, signed by Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, noted that the June 30 meeting was held in Panmunjeom, a city “which is a symbol of the division of the Korean peninsula.” The event, he continued, represents “a historical milestone for peace in the Korean peninsula, in North-East Asia and in the world.”
Bishop Hee-joong also recalled that on 25 June, on the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the “fratricidal Korean War”, the Catholic Church celebrated a “Day of Prayer for Reconciliation and Unity of the Korean People” on the theme "Blessed are the peacemakers".
Marking the occasion, a “Mass for Peace” was held in Imjingak, a village located in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border with North Korea.
The war on the divided peninusula ended on July 27, 1953, with a truce, but not a peace treaty. Hence the two neighbours are technically still at war.
The bishop noted that the Catholic Church in Korea appeals for the continuation of dialogue and meetings and for the support and encouragement of the international community.
Bishop Hee-joong concludes expressing his hope that the summits between South Korea, the United States and North Korea can bring good news.
“Despite all the difficulties that the journey towards lasting peace in the Korean peninsula has encountered”, he said, “The day of reconciliation and unity for Koreans will come soon”.
The Pope's appeal
On Sunday 30 June, Pope Francis expressed his hopes for the meeting between the American and North Korean leaders.
Speaking during the Angelus, he said “In these last few hours, we have seen in Korea a good example of the culture of encounter,” and he expressed his hope that such a significant gesture might constitute a further step along the path of peace, not only on that [Korean] peninsula, but for the whole world.”