Pope Francis is planning to meet with former Korean comfort women on Aug. 18, the last day of his visit to Korea, at a Mass for Peace and Reconciliation at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.
“Three of our former comfort women, referred to respectfully as ‘halmoni,’ along with a nurse and a social worker from House of Sharing, received an invitation,” said Ahn Shin-kwon, the director of House of Sharing. Located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, House of Sharing is a museum and residence for former Korean comfort women, who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II and Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
Out of nine halmoni living at the House of Sharing, two are Catholics who regularly attend mass at Toechon Cathedral near the house.
“We invited the halmoni as soon as the pope’s visit was finalized,” said Heo Young-yeop, a spokesperson for the papal visit preparatory committee at a press conference held at Archdiocese Seoul on Monday.
“We are going to let the pope know in advance whether they will attend the mass,” he continued.
During his visit, Pope Francis, who opted not to ride in the bulletproof Popemobile, is likely to use a small Korean car, according to the committee.
“The pope always delivers messages stressing a humble and simple ceremony.”
Pope Francis is also scheduled to participate in two major Catholic events, the Sixth Asian Youth Day in Daejeon and a beatification ceremony in Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul, for 124 Korean Catholics who were martyred during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Families of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster will also participate in the mass in Daejeon, during which the pope will deliver a message of condolence.
Pope Francis’ visit to South Korea from Aug. 14-18 marks the third such visit to Korea, followed by Pope John Paul II’s visits in 1984 and 1989.
It is also the first papal visit to Asia since 1995, when Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines.
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com)