Pope Francis Praises Korea’s ‘Undiminished’ Hope in Opening Address


CNA/Alan Holdren

VATICAN CITY — In the opening speech of his four-day apostolic voyage to South Korea, Pope Francis underlined the importance of transmitting values to the next generation and said peace is achieved through diplomacy and dialogue rather than the “fruitless” use of force.

Addressing state authorities in English in the presidential palace Thursday afternoon, the Holy Father said it was a “great joy” to come to Korea and praised the country’s rich cultural heritage. He noted the “land of morning calm” has been “tested through the years by violence, persecution and war,” but he said that despite these trials, the country has “an undiminished hope for justice, peace and unity.”

“What a gift hope is,” the Pope said. “We cannot 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 arrived in Seoul at 10.20am local time after an 11-hour flight that included a journey over China and the first papal telegram to the country’s President, Xi Jinping.

After being welcomed at the airport by South Korean President Park Geun-hye and briefly meeting relatives of victims of a recent ferry disaster, the Holy Father was driven in a small Kia automobile to the apostolic nunciature, where he celebrated a private Mass.

In the presence of President Park and assembled dignitaries, the Holy Father pointed out that the main purposes of his apostolic trip — to celebrate the Sixth Asian Youth Day and to beatify 124 Korean martyrs — “complement one another.”

The martyrs, he said, are elders honored for giving “their lives for the truth” and “teach us how to live fully for God and for the good of one another.” But he stressed that a “wise and great people do not only cherish their ancestral traditions, they also treasure their young, seeking to pass on the legacy of the past and apply it to the challenges of the present.”


Reconciliation and Solidarity

He questioned how well we are transmitting values to the next generation and underlined the importance of reflecting on the “need to give our young people the gift of peace.”

Noting the challenges in achieving peace on the Korean peninsula, the Pope highlighted the role of diplomacy and breaking down walls of distrust and hatred by “promoting a culture of reconciliation and solidarity.”

“Diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force,” Francis said.

Peace, he reiterated, is not the absence of war, but the work of justice that calls for the discipline of forbearance. “It demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation.”

He said that in today’s globalized world, the common good and development must be understood in “human and not merely economic terms” and he expressed his hope that South Korea would prove to be a leader “in the globalization of solidarity which is so necessary today.”

He closed by stressing the Church’s wish to contribute to educating and forming new generations so they can bring “the wisdom and vision inherited from their forebears” to the challenges facing the nation, and help to foster a “spirit of solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged.”


Exhortation to the Bishops

From the presidential palace, the Holy Father went on to greet the bishops of South Korea at the seat of the country’s bishops’ conference in Seoul.

In his discourse, Francis exhorted the Church leaders to be missionaries in an “increasingly secularized and materialistic society.”

He called on them to be “guardians of memory and guardians of hope”. Being guardians of memory, he said, “means more than remembering and treasuring the graces of the past; it also means drawing from them the spiritual resources to confront with vision and determination the hopes, the promise and the challenges of the future.”

The Holy Father added: “Our memory of the martyrs and past generations of Christians must be one that is realistic, not idealized or ‘triumphalistic.’ Looking to the past without hearing God’s call to conversion in the present will not help us move forward; instead, it will only hold us back and even halt our spiritual progress.”

As guardians of hope — the hope which inspired the country’s martyrs — the Pope said it must be proclaimed to a world seeking more “authentic and fulfilling” than material prosperity. To do this, he called on bishops to keep alive the “flame of holiness, fraternal charity and missionary zeal within the Church’s communion.” He also urged them to “remain ever close” to their priests.

The challenge of being a missionary Church, the Pope went on, means constantly going forth to the “peripheries of contemporary society”, and fostering “that ‘spiritual taste’ which enables us to embrace and identify with each member of Christ’s body.”

This requires showing particular care and concern for the young and the elderly, and reaching out to the poor, refugees and migrants “living on the margins of society.”


‘Face of Love’

“I am convinced that if the face of the Church is first and foremost a face of love,” the Pope said, “more and more young people will be drawn to the heart of Jesus ever aflame with divine love in the communion of his mystical body.”

Francis warned bishops that, in adopting modern and effective management methods from business world, they might also adopt a worldly mentality. “I urge you and your brother priests to reject this temptation in all its forms,” he said. “May we be saved from that spiritual and pastoral worldliness, which stifles the Spirit, replaces conversion by complacency, and, in the process, dissipates all missionary fervor.”

He closed by encouraging South Korea’s bishops to build up the faithful “in unity, holiness and zeal.

“Memory and hope inspire us and guide us toward the future,” he said. “May the prayers of Mary, Mother of the Church, bring to full flower in this land the seeds planted by the martyrs, watered by generations of faithful Catholics, and handed down to you as a pledge for the future of your country and of our world.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-praises-koreas-undiminished-hope-in-opening-address#ixzz3ANEGeLdS

The Great War and Pope Benedict XV


VATICAN CITY — As the world commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, how does history view the efforts of Pope Benedict XV to end what later became known as “the war to end all wars”?Wikimedia Commons

Despite Benedict’s suggestion of a Christmas truce in 1914 and his seven-point peace plan in 1917, the Great Powers never listened to him. Even after the war ended in 1918, the Holy See failed to get a seat at the Paris Peace Conference or have representation at the League of Nations — an entity that Benedict supported.

In this July 30 interview with the Register, Jesuit Father Norman Tanner, a professor of Church history at the Pontifical Gregorian University, explains why the Pope failed in these areas, but also why he can be credited for doing much more than was required of him.

Father Tanner’s latest book is New Short History of the Catholic Church.


Is it fair to say that, in the light of history, Pope Benedict XV’s diplomatic efforts during the First World War were a failure?

Yes, he wasn’t accepted. To say two things as background, [the first] one very much as background: The papacy has always been in favor of peace, at least from the third century onwards, from Constantine onwards. The Church had always recognized the right to a just war and legitimate defense.

The second point is very particular, which is the loss of the Papal States. They had not been sorted out by then: Rome and the Papal States had been lost in 1870 and in fact were only sorted out officially in 1929, with the Lateran Treaty, after Benedict’s death.

So one reason why some of the Allies, especially Italy, but also France and England, were uneasy with the papal initiative was the feeling that when you read those seven points carefully, there’s talk of restitution of property and so on, implying that the Papal States, or at least Rome, would be restored to the papacy. So this was a major difficulty for Italy.


Could it therefore be argued that the extent of the Holy See’s temporal interests compromised its ability to mediate, whereas today, now free of those temporal ties, it has better possibilities in comparison?

It’s one factor, but I wouldn’t exaggerate the fact, as the Papal States had been gone for 40 years by then.

Benedict was elected pope within a matter of weeks after the start of the war, when Pius X died, in a way because of his diplomatic experience. It was one of the reasons why he was elected pope — it was hoped he would be suitable in this terrible situation as it unfolded.

During the first few years of the war, he did much in a humanitarian way and encouraged cessation, but the key thing was the seven-point plan, which he inaugurated on Aug. 1, 1917. It was at least noted by the principal powers in the war, but it came at a very delicate time.

Earlier that year, in April, the United States entered the war. Germany and Austria were quite favorable to it. It’s even suggested they might have been happy for Rome to be restored to the papacy.

So, on the one hand, Britain, France and Italy were cool right from the beginning. They felt it was too generous towards the Germans and Austrians, and then, as mentioned, Italy had these additional objections that it might mean the restoration of the Papal States or at least the capital of Rome. So although in Germany, Russia and Austria there was some enthusiasm in the beginning, it was rejected.

The crucial thing to remember, though, was that the Russian Revolution took place in March, and that meant that Germany had a real hope of victory in the war because, up until then, there was sort of a stalemate.


Could it be said the seven-point plan came too late?

That’s a good point. In a way, it came at a crux in the war. Obviously, they didn’t realize how the war was turning out; and at that particular point [when the plan was issued], this horrific war had been going on for three years with colossal loss of life. So many ordinary people very much wanted the war to end, which had reached a stalemate compared to the early stages of German advances and so on.

So, in that sense, it was a suitable time.


Why, at the 1915 Treaty of London, was a secret agreement made between the Allied powers to ignore any papal peace initiatives?

I think the points I’ve already mentioned — the three main powers not wanting the restoration of the Papal States — although I don’t want to exaggerate that too much.

There was a sense the papacy was being too favorable to Austria and Germany; more Catholic countries, you might say. Catholics were equally divided on both sides during the war, so you might say that was another reason why the papacy had a right to intervene. You might say it was a scandal that, in this colossal war, Catholics should be so involved in the fighting.


Was it the case, then, that the papacy was never seen as being truly neutral? It was always perceived by each side as supporting the enemy?

There are two points. One is exactly what you say, that it was felt from the English, French and Italian side that the papacy was intervening too favorably towards Germany and Austria, except for the times when the English and French were gaining the upper hand.

Secondly, there’s the question of whether the papacy really had a right to intervene anyway. This was especially true in England and also in France, where there was an anti-clerical element in the French government. They felt this wasn’t an area they wanted the Pope to be involved in at all and that the papacy was really going beyond its orbit.


After the war, the Holy See was denied a presence at the Paris Peace Conference and the League of Nations. Was this for the same reasons as why Benedict XV’s mediation didn’t work?

Yes, exactly the same two reasons, I’d say.


Aside from diplomacy, on the humanitarian side, Benedict XV was quite active arranging the exchange of disabled prisoners through neutral countries and having the sick and wounded sent to neutral countries for treatment and recuperation. He is also credited for interceding to help allow deported Belgians to return home and for his donations to relieve those suffering the effects of the war throughout Europe. Should that be seen as his greatest achievement during the war, in the light of history?

Yes, it was appreciated that the papacy, Pope Benedict, did as much and more than he could, and more than was expected, both at the diplomatic level, which was reasonable for him to attempt, but also in terms of humanitarian effort in which he was more capable of achieving things. So, yes, certainly.


Would you say the general assessment of Benedict’s record in the war is, therefore, that he did the best he could but was impeded by various factors which were beyond his control?

I think that’s a very good judgment and summary, yes.


As Benedict XV was elected just a month after the outbreak of the First World War, does a certain amount of responsibility perhaps therefore lie more with his predecessor, Pius X, and his not having done enough to prevent it?

Well, of course, the assassination of the Archduke [Franz Ferdinand of Austria] came quite unexpectedly, but you’re right: There had been this building up of hostilities. But I think Pius X was very much in the line of advocating peace if at all possible, even if he was not so active as Benedict. But Benedict is obviously in a new situation, where you’ve actually got a war that’s started.

Of course, Pius X was only pope for a matter of weeks while the war was going on, and it wasn’t clear it would develop into the colossal conflagration that it did. But you’re quite right: Especially from the beginning of the 1900s, there was this great increase in armaments, especially from France, Germany and England, and in some ways, it was seen as legitimate.

Maybe you’re right that the Church, which was concentrating on modernism and internal difficulties in the Church, could have said more against the arms race, but I speak with diffidence there.


In contrast, Benedict XV clearly condemned the arms race in his addresses.

Yes, and, of course, he had been close to papal diplomacy for a long time before he became pope. He had been archbishop of Bologna too, before that. He’d been very close to some of his predecessors as a member of the diplomatic corps, including Pius X.


Benedict XV also had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and was a Mariologist. Is that significant at all in his whole approach and perhaps his dogged determination to seek peace?

The papal declarations towards Mary had been emphasized by Pius IX, and Lourdes was already a well-known shrine by that time. But it’s interesting that the Fatima revelations occurred in May 1917, so just on the eve of the seven-point plan in August 1917.

But, initially, there was a relatively small-scale knowledge, so it’s not as if it was a huge event in the media at the time that might have influenced him directly. But Marian devotion was obviously very important for Pope Benedict and may have had more impact on his spirituality during the war than we know.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-great-war-and-pope-benedict-xv#ixzz3ANDJVQhf

Pope Condemns Islamic Christian Persecution

Not since the use of chemical weapons in Syria one year ago has Pope Francis been so vociferous in condemning violence and conflict; only this time he has been speaking explicitly in defense of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.
On Sunday, he made his strongest condemnation of the brutal persecution taking place in the Nineveh Plain, saying news of the atrocities carried out by Islamist terrorists leaves everyone “in disbelief and dismay.” Such barbarism, he said, “greatly offends” God and humanity.
“You cannot bring hatred in the name of God. You cannot make war in the name of God!” he said before pausing for a moment of silent prayer.
In other initiatives, the Pope yesterday sent a personal envoy to Iraq, called on all parishes to pray for the persecuted, and issued a flurry of tweets. He published nine messages and appeals on Twitter over just three days, most of them pleas for prayer, warnings that “violence is not conquered by violence,” and for the international community to act.
But the Pope has yet to explicitly name the Islamic State for condemnation. Instead, that has been left — belatedly some argue — to the Vatican and specifically Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The Vatican department, known more for platitudes on interreligious harmony than strident statements, issued a forceful declaration Aug. 12 noting that the world is incredulous about the Islamists’ goal of restoring the Caliphate. It pointed out that despite opposition by Muslim groups, the jihadists “Islamic State” (IS) have not been prevented from committing, and continuing to commit, “unspeakable criminal acts.”
After listing them, it explicitly called on Muslims to condemn the atrocities. Failure to do so, it said, would discredit the interreligious dialogue it has tried so hard to foster.
Other Vatican officials have also been speaking up. Although none has explicitly endorsed U.S. air strikes, they have given assent to military action. Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the papal nuncio in Baghdad, has said “something had to be done,” otherwise the Islamists “could not be stopped.” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative to the U.N. in Geneva, told Vatican Radio at the weekend that “military action in this moment is probably necessary.”
This is in stark contrast to the Vatican’s previous and usual opposition to military intervention, most recently in Syria. Ironically, Pope John Paul II’s main motive for opposing the 2003 Iraq War was because he could foresee the current persecution against Iraqi Christians witnessed today.
Now that this has come to pass, Church leaders are stressing Christians’ right to self-defense. Some have argued for the creation of a Christian militia in Iraq, but that would almost certainly escalate the conflict. Baghdad-based Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Babylon has said he would prefer a “professional, well equipped” international army to protect Christians and other minorities from the violence. He has even asserted that current U.S. air strikes are inadequate.
These are all strident words. Not since the war in Afghanistan has the Vatican given such a conspicuous nod to military action. But officials argue that use of arms is in line with Church teaching, as long as exercising the right to self-defense respects “the traditional limits of necessity and proportionality.”
There are situations that should be evaluated “specifically,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told the news site Affaritaliani. “The principle of self-defense is a moral principle, fundamental and very old, in cases of acts of aggression.
“But the question, as we have always said, is that violence is not enough to solve the problems of violence,” he explained. “Peacemaking needs to go beyond the use of arms, to be able to act also on mutual understanding, on dialogue, on minds and hearts. But this must always be viewed according to the situation taking place.”
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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Pope’s Korea Trip Could Provide Boon to the Voiceless, Activists Say


Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea provides a valuable opportunity to draw attention to the chronic human-rights abuses taking place in communist-led North Korea, Church rights’ activists say.

“He is in a unique position to speak for the voiceless people of the world’s most closed nation and to pray for peace, freedom and justice — and to draw the world’s attention to this tragic and often overlooked human tragedy,” Lord David Alton of Liverpool, a tireless campaigner on behalf of the nation’s citizens, told the Register.

The rogue state of 25 million people has long been in the spotlight for being one of the world’s worst human-rights abusers. But these abuses have only now come into sharp focus, thanks to a United Nations “Commission of Inquiry” published in February.

The damning report found the regime of Kim Jong-Il to be guilty of a “wide array” of “crimes against humanity,” even comparable to the Holocaust. The “gravity, scale and nature” of human-rights violations, it said, “reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

The inquiry, which drew on firsthand testimonies of more than 320 witnesses, listed crimes including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence,” as well as religious persecution, forcible transfer and disappearance of persons and starvation. It noted an “almost complete denial” of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or expression and association.

“The unspeakable atrocities” being committed in political prison camps, it said, “resemble the horrors that totalitarian states established during the twentieth century.” It pointed out that the North Korean regime has “for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,” a fact that “raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community.”

Benedict Rogers, East Asia director for the international human-rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said he hopes the Holy Father will speak about the suffering of all North Koreans, particularly Christians, and call for a “worldwide prayer” on their behalf.

Pope Francis visits South Korea this week to participate in two main events: Asian Youth Day and the beatification of 124 South Korean martyrs, mostly laypeople who gave their lives for the faith during decades of persecution in the 19th century.

Lord Alton said the beatification will present “a rare and vital opportunity to call for prayer for modern-day martyrs and those suffering for their faith in North Korea.” He believes the visit has the potential to be as effective as Pope John Paul II’s nine-day historic visit to Poland in 1979 that helped sow the seeds for the collapse of Soviet communism.
Just as that visit “changed the world and created a revolution of conscience,” he said, so Pope Francis “has the opportunity to express solidarity with the suffering Koreans of the North.”

Officially an atheist state, North Korea sees organized religious activity as a potential challenge to the nation’s leadership, and Rogers sees no sign of that changing. Along with Lord Alton, he recently visited four state-controlled Potemkin-style churches in Pyongyang: two Protestant, one Catholic and one Russian Orthodox.

“We have been told that the congregations for these churches are brought in on buses when foreign visitors come and that it is orchestrated and tightly controlled,” Rogers said. “Outside these churches, Christians worship in secret and in real fear.”

President Kim Jong-Il is known for his belligerence and outlandish threats, as are members of his regime. As recently as July 28, a top-ranking North Korean military official threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Is there a danger, therefore, that the regime might view any papal intervention as negative, potentially provoking a harmful backlash? Rogers stressed that, “clearly, we are not calling for him to speak in very political terms. We simply hope the Holy Father will draw attention to the situation and call for prayer.”

“As a spiritual and religious leader, and in the context of the beatification of Korean martyrs, it is very appropriate for him to highlight the suffering of modern-day North Korea,” Rogers told the Register. “The situation could not be much worse: It is the world’s most closed nation, with the world’s worst human-rights record, and the suffering has been compounded by the relative silence of the rest of the world.”

CSW has been at the forefront of raising awareness of the atrocities taking place in the secretive Asian state. It was the first to call for a U.N. “Commission of Inquiry” and spent six years calling for one. It has also provided platforms for North Korean refugees to tell their stories. “We believe the situation in North Korea is so bad, and it is so closed, that we need to use every tool available to us to encourage openness, including pressure, accountability and public awareness, but also critical engagement and forms of academic and cultural engagement as well,” Rogers said.

In a House of Lords’ debate on the U.N. report in July, Lord Alton provided further documentation and some precise data on the abuses. North Korea’s “scant respect” either for its own people or the region has been underlined by its military expenditure and acts of aggression in the face of widespread starvation.

He said as many as 84% of North Korean households “have borderline or poor food consumption,” while in 2012, President Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-Il’s late father, “spent $1.3 billion on North Korea’s ballistic missile program, in addition to $300 million on leisure facilities and nearly $700 million on luxury goods, including watches, handbags and alcohol.”

Lord Alton added that, according to the U.N. report, the withholding of food by the North Korean state constitutes an “explicit policy of enforced and prolonged starvation” and contributed to the deaths of at least 1 million people in the 1990s.

“Detention, torture and execution are established tools of social control,” Lord Alton told the British parliament July 23. “The abduction of foreign nationals has been routine. Up to 120,000 North Koreans face starvation, torture, forced labor, sexual violence and execution in the country’s political prison camps.”

Many are hoping the Pope, chiefly through calling on all to pray, will help to bring a “miracle” to the peninsula, ending the abuses and bringing the two nations closer towards reunification.

“This is a ‘carpe diem’ moment to provide a voice for the voiceless, in the world’s most closed nation with the worst record of religious freedom,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s chief executive, Mervyn Thomas. “We hope the Holy Father will seize this opportunity to pray for freedom.”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/land-of-vibrant-faith/#ixzz3ANCLArHS

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