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Published : 2014-02-09 19:55
Updated : 2014-03-10 16:03

Pope Francis may hold a special Mass dedicated to North Korea during his visit here this summer, a news report from the Vatican said Sunday.

According to AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency, it is highly likely that the pope will travel to South Korea for the Aug. 10-17 Asian Youth Day event and that the visit could last as long as a week.

Among the events being planned for his Korean journey is a special Mass for North Korea in a direct appeal to the reclusive communist state for peace and unification, the news agency said, citing unnamed sources at the Vatican.

The Vatican did not confirm or deny the report.

Last month, it said that a South Korea visit was “under consideration.”

The Korean Church hasn’t received any notice from the Vatican regarding a papal visit, officials in Seoul said.

Prospects for a Korean visit, which would be the first since Pope John Paul II arrived here 25 years ago, brightened after the pontiff recognized Saturday more than 100 Koreans who died in religious persecution in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The pope, if he visits, could preside over a ceremony to beatify the 124 new Korean martyrs ― Paul Yun Ji-chung and others who were killed between 1791 and 1888 for renouncing Confucianism ― the Vatican sources said.

The ceremony may take place on Aug. 15, when the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, they said.

The pope could also celebrate the opening Mass for Asian Youth Day, scheduled for Aug. 13 in Daejeon, and deliver a special Mass for North Korea, they said.

“God has given the Korean church a great blessing,” said Bishop Peter Kang U-il, president of the Catholic Bishops’ conference of Korea. “Since the beatification of 103 martyrs in 1984, the Korean church has been praying for the 124 to be recognized.”

Although the Korean Catholic Church has a short history of just over 200 years, some 10,000 Koreans are believed to have died for their faith in the Church’s early history. The first group of them ― 103 ― was canonized en masse by John Paul II in 1984.

Catholicism is now the third-largest faith in Korea. Earlier this year, Seoul Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo-jung was named a cardinal, becoming the third Korean to reach the second-highest post in the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis’ only officially scheduled overseas trip this year is a three-day pilgrimage in late May to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)

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