Back To Top
National

Incoming Vatican Prefect You Heung-sik expected to serve as bridge builder for pope's NK visit

Archbishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik speaks at a press conference in the central city of Sejong on June 12, 2021. He was appointed prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy on June 11. (Yonhap)
Archbishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik speaks at a press conference in the central city of Sejong on June 12, 2021. He was appointed prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy on June 11. (Yonhap)
As South Korean archbishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik has been named the new prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy of the Holy See, his possible role in arranging Pope Francis' visit to North Korea is drawing attention from the Catholic community at home and abroad.

On June 11, the Vatican announced the nomination of You as prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who is responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons.

The 69-year-old Catholic priest became the first South Korean to be appointed to a secretary position in the Holy See.

You's appointment came as the South Korean government and Catholic community have been making behind-the-scenes efforts to arrange a papal trip to North Korea.

Insiders said the Holy See is likely expecting You, who has engaged in some North Korean human aid projects in the past, to play a bridge-building role, such as a special envoy, in setting up Francis' unprecedented visit to the reclusive country.

"I think You's part will not be limited to the head of the Congregation for the Clergy," said an official familiar with the internal affairs of the Vatican, asking for anonymity. "He might be assigned a special role, other than his regular job."

Francis has expressed his willingness to go to North Korea several times, saying that he wants to play a role in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, where the Korean people have been suffering the pain of separation for 70 years.

His visit to Pyongyang gained momentum in 2018 thanks to a peace mood after three inter-Korean summits and a historic Washington-Pyongyang meeting. But no further progress has been made since a second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi ended in vain in 2019.

You is also determined to support Pope Francis' North Korean visit in the future if he is consigned to do so.

"If I am given a role to arrange his visit to North Korea, I'll do my best to carry out my mission," he said in a press conference on June 12.

He said a visit by the pope would be a good chance for the reclusive country, which has been struggling with international isolation and economic difficulties, to get over their troubles. (Yonhap)
MOST POPULAR