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November 20, 2017
Pope emphasizes peace-building in meeting with Korean religious leaders
Pope Francis meets with members of the Korean Council of Religious Leaders at the Vatican Sept. 2, 2017. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.
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.- In a meeting with religious leaders from Korea on Saturday, Pope Francis said the world is looking to them for an example of how to work together peacefully in order to combat violence and preserve the dignity and rights of all people.

“We have, therefore, a long journey ahead of us, which must be undertaken together with humility and perseverance, not just by raising our voices but by rolling up our sleeves,” the Pope said Sept. 2.

We must work “to sow the hope of a future in which humanity becomes more human, a future which heeds the cry of so many who reject war and implore greater harmony between individuals and communities, between peoples and states,” he continued.

Francis met with leaders of Korea’s seven major religions, including Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong of Gwangju, president of the Korean bishops' conference, Sept. 2. The group’s visit to the Vatican took place as threats of nuclear war with North Korea continue to grow.

“We will him ask to impart his prayers and help the Korean people for the reunification of the Korean peninsula,” Archbishop Kim said ahead of the trip, as reported by the Italian news agency Agensir.

“Pope Francis is well informed and closely follows the situation; the Holy Father deeply hopes in the establishment of peace in the Korean peninsula.”

In the meeting Saturday, Francis said religious leaders are called to “initiate, promote and accompany processes for the welfare and reconciliation of all people.”

He called on them to reject violence, and to speak with words which oppose the current “narrative of fear” and “rhetoric of hatred” in the world. “The world is looking to us,” he urged, “it asks us to work together and with all men and women of good will.”

Archbishop Kim also met with Pope Francis in May, when he came to Rome as a special envoy for Korea’s newly-elected President Moon Jae-in.

According to a newsletter from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK), during that visit Archbishop Kim asked Francis to “pray for peace and the reconciliation of the Korean people, expressing gratitude for the Holy Father’s special affection and care for Korea.”

“According to the Archbishop, the Holy Father showed a deep understanding of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, putting emphasis on the importance of dialogue without resort to armed force in dealing with the current difficulties,” the announcement continued.

In August, the CBCK issued an appeal for peace on the Korean peninsula which addressed authorities in North and South Korea, in neighboring countries, Koreans, and Christians around the world.

“Peace on the Korean Peninsula,” it said, “can function as a balance weight for international peace and stability beyond that of the Northeast Asia.”

“The current situation on the Korean Peninsula demands our collective efforts to awaken our conscience and use our intelligence in the spirit of solidarity, compassion, cooperation and respect. We must not overlook this crisis with indifference and silence.”

In his speech, Pope Francis also appealed to a spirit of cooperation, especially between religions. The world, he said, “looks to us for answers and a shared commitment to various issues: the sacred dignity of the human person, the hunger and poverty which still afflict too many peoples, the rejection of violence.”

In particular we must reject that violence which profanes the name of God, as well as the corruption that promotes injustice, moral decline, and a crisis of the family, the economy and of hope,” he said.

The Pope pointed out that when interreligious dialogue is open and respectful this is when it can bear fruit leading to the promotion of peace and the common good.

With mutual respect is also found “the right to life, physical integrity and fundamental freedoms, such as those of conscience, religion, thought and expression” from which the foundations for lasting peace are built, something we are all called to pray and work for, he said.

Pope Francis met with Korean religious leaders induring a visit to the country in August 2014 as well, which he recalled with gratitude to God and the beloved Korean people.

“I constantly pray that God will bestow upon them the gifts of peace and fraternal reconciliation,” he concluded. May our mindfulness of the friendship and the good things we have received from one another grant us the strength to move forward together, with the help of God.”