In his first public address after arriving in South Korea, Pope Francis called government officials to work for an authentic and far-reaching peace, which requires forgiveness and cooperation. “Peace is not simply the absence of war, but ‘the work of justice,’” the pontiff said Aug. 14, alluding to the words of the prophet Isaiah. “And justice, as a virtue, calls for the discipline of forbearance; it demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation,” he continued. “It demands the willingness to discern and attain mutually beneficial goals, building foundations of mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation.” After an initial private Mass and a welcoming ceremony, the Pope met at the “Blue House” in Seoul with government and civil authorities — including South Korean president Park Geun-hye — as well as members of the diplomatic corps. He thanked those present for their warm welcome and expressed his joy in coming to Korea, with its natural beauty, as well as the beauty of its people, culture and history. “This national legacy has been tested through the years by violence, persecution and war,” he lamented. “But despite these trials, the heat of the day and the dark of the night have always given way to the morning calm, that is, to an undiminished hope for justice, peace and unity.” “What a gift hope is!” he said, urging the people of Korea not to become discouraged “in our pursuit of these goals which are for the good not only of the Korean people, but of the entire region and the whole world.” Pope Francis drew a connection between two events that will occur during his five-day visit to the country: the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs and the celebration of the Sixth Asian Youth Day, uniting Catholics across the continent. The martyrs are the elders of our faith, who teach us by their example how to live, he said. The young are those who receive the legacy of the past, with its ancestral wisdom, and “apply it to the challenges of the present.” The Asian Youth Day is an opportunity to reflect on the hopes, concerns and transmission of values to the next generation, Pope Francis said, adding that “it is especially important for us to reflect on the need to give our young people the gift of peace.” Recognizing that this message is particularly significant in Korea given its lack of peace, he voiced appreciation and encouragement for reconciliation efforts underway on the peninsula, saying that they “are the only sure path to lasting peace.” “Korea’s quest for peace is a cause close to our hearts, for it affects the stability of the entire area and indeed of our whole war-weary world,” he said. Those who work in diplomacy play a special role in the quest for peace, the Pope noted, by replacing “the walls of distrust and hatred” with a “culture of reconciliation and solidarity,” brought about by dialogue rather than acts of retribution. Pope Francis reminded the political and civic leaders that their work should be aimed at creating a peaceful, just and prosperous society, adding that “in an increasingly globalized world, our understanding of the common good, of progress and development, must ultimately be in human and not merely economic terms.” He acknowledged social, political, economic and environmental challenges, urging these problems to be addressed with a spirit of dialogue and cooperation. In addition, the Pope highlighted the need to show special concern for the poor, vulnerable and voiceless, “not only by meeting their immediate needs but also by assisting them in their human and cultural advancement.” The pontiff pointed to the second visit of St. John Paul II to Korea 25 years ago. At the time, Pope John Paul II said that “the future of Korea will depend on the presence among its people of many wise, virtuous and deeply spiritual men and women.” “In echoing his words today, I assure you of the continued desire of Korea’s Catholic community to participate fully in the life of the nation,” Pope Francis said, emphasizing the Church’s desire to support education of the youth and solidarity with the poor. He called the nation to become “a leader also in the globalization of solidarity which is so necessary today: one which looks to the integral development of every member of our human family.”
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