About 600 family members of those killed or missing in April's ferry sinking will attend a papal Mass to beatify Korean martyrs in central Seoul this weekend, organizers said Friday.
"The authorities decided to accept the families' request to allow some 600 of their members to attend the beatification ceremony," Heo Young-yeop, spokesman for the government-civilian Committee for the Papal Visit to Korea, told reporters.
Some of the family members and their supporters are camping out at Gwanghwamun Square, a ceremonial plaza in downtown Seoul, demanding the early parliamentary passage of a special bill aimed at unearthing the truth about the cause of the ferry accident that claimed about 300 lives.
|Pope Francis meets families of Sewol ferry disaster victims on Thursday at Seoul airport. (Yonhap)|
Negotiations have been under way between the families and the authorities about the removal of their protest tents because the plaza is the venue of the open-air Mass that the authorities estimate could draw as many as 1 million people, including 170,000 invited Catholics.
"The families agreed to leave only two tents and remove the rest while they take part in the beatification ceremony," Heo said, adding that more details will be fixed later.
Last week, rival political parties agreed to adopt a bill that would create a parliamentary fact-finding team on the ferry sinking that would include members of the families but have no legal powers to investigate and indict those responsible.
The parties, however, failed to pass the bill through the parliament as planned on Wednesday as it faced strong public criticism and protests from the families of the ferry victims. The main opposition party now insists on a renegotiation of the deal.
The 6,825-ton Sewol ferry capsized off southwestern South Korea on April 16 after making a sharp turn. So far, 294 people, mostly high school students, have been found dead, with 10 missing and presumed dead. (Yonhap)