From an impromptu speech on the division on the Korean Peninsula to a surprise visit to a Jesuit-run university, here are some notable, unexpected, surprising moments from the top Catholic cleric’s visit in Korea so far.
Taking KTX to Daejeon
Shunning the presidential helicopter, the pontiff hopped onto a high-speed train to the southern city of Daejeon along with about 500 passengers.
The passengers burst into wild applause when it was announced only after the departure that the pope was with them on the same train.
Vatican spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later said that the pope expressed interest in the bullet train, saying “I finally got to ride it in Korea!” His home country of Argentina, and Italy, where he lives now, do not have high-speed train services.
Wearing a yellow ribbon
The pope celebrated his first public Mass in Korea at a packed football stadium in Daejeon, wearing a yellow ribbon on his chest. The ribbon is a symbol of the April ferry disaster, which killed over 300 people in Korea.
He received the tiny ribbon from a group of victims’ relatives and survivors that he met right before the Mass.
The pope, who has avoided speaking anything other than Italian or his native Spanish in public, ventured into uncharted linguistic territory in Korea, delivering a handful of speeches in English and even speaking off the cuff Friday in English to thousands of young Asian faithful.
“A beloved friend of mine told me you must never speak to young people with paper,” Francis said in his Spanish-accented English as he held up his prepared remarks to the attendants of the 6th Asia Youth Day. “You must speak, address to young people spontaneously, by the heart.”
“But I have a great difficulty. I have poor English.”
The audience shouted “Noooo!” in response.
Impromptu speech and prayer for North Korea
Departing from a prepared text, the pope led the attendees of the Asian Youth Day in a silent prayer for North Koreans and the reunification of the two Koreas on Friday.
“Lord, we are one family. Help us reach unity. You can do it. So that there are no victors or vanquished. Just one family, only brothers.”
He urged Koreans not to despair and hold onto hope.
“You are brothers who speak the same language ... think of your brothers in the North. They speak the same language and when, in a family, the same language is spoken, there is a human hope,” he said.
Surprise visit to a Jesuit-run university
In a surprise move, he arrived at Sogang University, a Jesuit-run university in Seoul, on Friday evening upon his return from Daejeon.
He spent about an hour “meeting and relaxing with his fellow Jesuits” at the ordinary community evening recreation time, according to the communication office of the Korean Province of the Society of Jesus. Pope is the first Jesuit to have been elected to the papacy.
“Be Jesuits who give consolation to people. And please pray for me often,” the pope said to his fellow Jesuit members.
By Lee Sun-young and Lee Woo-young