With the arrival of Pope Francis less than two days away, expectations are running high as to what message the leader of the Roman Catholic Church will have for Korea.
From the Sewol ferry, clashes over high-voltage power transmission towers to be installed in the rural town of Miryang, to the reunification of the divided Koreas, there is a long list of issues that various groups would like to see the pope address during his historic visit on Aug. 14-18.
A high-ranking cleric here on Tuesday tried to tame such expectations, asking Korea to expect a broader message of peace, love and new understanding from the pontiff.
“We tried our best to provide the pope with the most possible information about Korea, such as in what situation its society and church are now in and what the main concerns are. But even with that, the Holy Father’s understanding of Korea must be, quite understandably, limited,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday.
“I think it is a little too much to expect specific messages on certain Korean issues from the pope.”
The comments came after he received several questions from journalists trying to link the pope’s itinerary and scheduled meetings here to local issues.
“The Holy Father will see, hear and share our difficulties and proclaim God’s love to those suffering,” the bishop said in a statement directed to the people of Korea, which he read before starting the press conference.
In the statement, he addressed several issues troubling Koreans now such as the stalled process for unification between South and North Korea, a growing socioeconomic polarization, the April ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people, and recent cases of violence among draftees in the military.
“Pope Francis has always been the first to reach out to those suffering. I believe that he is coming here to be with us at this difficult time and to give us a message of consolation and hope,” the statement read.
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)