Asian churches must have open minds and empathy toward others to truly communicate with people in other Asian countries out of the reach of the Gospel, Pope Francis said Sunday as he spoke to the region's bishops.
"On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all," the pope said in his speech before some 70 Asian bishops in the South Korean west coastal city of Seosan.
"A clear sense of one's own identity and a capacity for empathy are the point of departure for all dialogue."
The bishops gathered at the Haemi sanctuary in Seosan, 151 kilometers south of Seoul, to meet the Holy Father who is on a five-day trip to South Korea.
During the speech, Francis explained that by "identity," he means knowing "who we are, what God has done for us and what it is that he asks of us."
"If our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures," he stressed.
The visit, Francis' first to Asia as a pope, is widely seen as a reflection of the Vatican's emphasis on minor but rapidly growing Asian churches. Currently, only 3.2 percent of the continent's population is Catholic, according to the latest tally from the Korean church.
In the afternoon, the pope is scheduled to celebrate a Mass that wraps up the sixth Asian Youth Day at the nearby Haemieupseong Fortress, an old army post during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) where some 1,000 Catholics were executed for their faith.
Some 6,000 young Catholics from 22 Asian countries, including South Korea, are participating in the festival which began on Wednesday.
Before heading to Seosan, the pope started the day by baptizing the father of one of the children killed in April's ferry disaster at the Vatican Embassy in Seoul, where he is staying during his Korean visit.
Lee Ho-jin, a 56-year-old who lost his youngest son in the ferry sinking, asked the pope impromptu on Friday to baptize him when they met briefly before a Mass in the southern city of Daejeon with a dozen others who lost their loved ones in the ferry disaster.
The 6,825-ton Sewol ferry, carrying an estimated 476 people aboard, sank in southwestern waters on April 16. A total of 294 people have been confirmed dead and 10 are still missing. Most of the victims were high school students who were on a field trip to the southern resort island of Jeju. (Yonhap)