Rev. Federico Lombardi Official Press Conference
onApostolic Journey to Republic of Korea
Dated: August 7 2014 10:30 am
(Korea time 6:30pm)
Papal visit to Republic of Korea is followed by his visits to the World Youth Day in Brazil and Israel after his enthronement to the Pontificate.For a long time, there was scarcely any Papal visit to Asia, especially beyond Middle East in the past. In 1999 Pope John Paul II visited New Delhi India and Manila Philippines but since then, no other place has been visited.
For Korea, this marks the third Papal visit. In May 1984 Pope John Paul II visited Korea to celebrate the two centennial celebration of Catholicism in Korea and in October 1989, the Pope made an Apostolic journey on the occasion of the 44th World Eucharistic Congress held in Seoul.
There are three purposes on this Apostolic journey
First, the Asian Youth Day is hosted by Korea on August 13-17, 2014. Figurative number of participants is rather small. Two thousand youths representing Asia will gather for the occasion. The figure is not millions of people as we imagine from the World Youth Day but several thousands from Asian countries will attend. Pope Francis will celebrate the Closing Mass of the 6th Asian Youth Day. The Papal visit was a response to the formal invitation from Bishop Yoo Heung Sik of the host Daejeon Diocese. His Holiness prioritized the occasion and kindly accepted this favorable invitation. On same occasion, four thousand Korean youths will assemble for the 3rd Korea Youth Day. Pope Francis will encounter six thousand youths attending both celebrations.
Second,the Korean Catholic Church is very dynamic. We have noticed the dynamism of the Filipino Church. In comparison, although the majority of Philippines population are Catholic, a mere 10 % of total population in Korea are Catholics. In Korea approximately ten thousand are baptized every year. The Korean church now plays a pivotal role in evangelization especially in Mongolia and other parts of the world. The core event during this Apostolic visitation will be the Beatification of 124 martyrs.
Third, the foundation of the Korean Catholic church is Martyrdom. Unlike in the case of foreign missionary spreading the Gospel, Korean scholars in search for truth, veritas, travelled to China but in instead, return with the foundation of faith. They brought in Catholic literatures obtained from Jesuit missionaries such as Mathew Richie and devoted in the studies. Studies on wisdom guided these intellectual scholars immerse in Catholicism and finally a member was sent to China to be Baptized.
Under the social system, it was difficult to continue to live a faithful life so many had to suffer martyrdom. Theseare the two most significant factorsof the Korean church.
In 1984 during the Apostolic visit to Korea,Pope John Paul II celebrated the Beatification of the first Catholic priest in Korea, Kim Tae Gon Andrew and 103 martyrs as Saints. These 103 Saints are categorized as the second generation in the Korean Catholic history.The 124 martyrs who will be beatified by His Holiness on August 16 are categorized as the first generation in the Korean Catholic history.
Papal journey is usually accompanied by Vatican City State official Ecclesiastics. The journey to the Republic of Korea will consist of two more high ranking officials. Cardinal Fernando Filoni,Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Cardinal StanislaoRilco, Episcopal Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity organizing the World Youth Day who will observe the Asian Youth Day. Upon Papal request, Vatican staff members will accompany while serving His Holiness. Also Vatican Radio and Television crews will join in the Apostolic journey.
From Korea, Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, Ambassador of the Seoul Apostolic Nunciature, Cardinal YeomSoo Jung Andrew, Cardinal Chung Jin Suk Nicholao and Bishops will welcome Pope Francis upon arrival. Flight hour is eleven hours from Rome to Seoul and time difference between Rome and Seoul is seven hours.
The weather in Korea is humid and hot in mid August.
Beginning his arrival in Seoul in the morning, Pope Francis will cover scheduled events from August 14 to 18. Due to diversity of location ranging approximately 100 kilometers, the Pontiff will use helicopter as means of transportation in Korea.
President Park Geun-Hyeis expected to welcome His Holiness at the airport but there will be no official ceremony. Official welcome ceremony will be held at the Presidential Palace. The first Papal Mass in Seoul will be held in privacy.
Day One: August 14
CheongwhaDae, the Presidential Palace is just a few hundred meters close to the Seoul Apostolic Nunciature. Pope Francis will meet with the President of Republic of Korea and government officials. Pope Francis will make his first speech in English with translation.
After the first event, Pope Francis is scheduled to move to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea to meet Korea Bishops where he will meet two Cardinals and thirty five Bishops. Here Pope Francis will deliver his speech in Italian followed by consecutive interpretation in Korean. Normally simultaneous interpretation is provided but on this occasion consecutive interpretation will the formality. In consideration of the time difference, the first day will conclude with two official events.
Day Two: August 15
This day is the most festive day both for the Korean Catholic church and the Korean people. Roman Catholic church celebrates the Assumption of Mary the Holy Mother of God. For Korean people, it is the Independence daywhen Korea restored freedom from Japanese colonial rule in 1945
Pope Francis will travel 100 kilometer south from Seoul to Daejeon where he will celebrate Holy Mass in celebration of the Assumption of Mary the Holy Mother of God with over 50,000 faithful. The venue, Daejeon World Cup Stadium hosted Korea-Japan World Cup Game in 2002.
Attending the Holy Mass will include survivors of the Seawol incident and Pope Francis will express condolence and comfort the family of the victims. We assume that journalist from Rome acknowledge the Seawol incident which took away hundreds of innocent lives. After the Holy Mass has been offered, Angelus prayer will be offered in English followed by translation into Korean.
The Offertory prayers during the Holy Mass after the Homily will have grave significance. Prayers for 4 to 5 themes will be offered in different languages. After the Holy Mass, Pope Francis will have luncheon with the youth at Daejeon Catholic University in Sejeon city. The venue is located outside the city so transportation will be used. Youth will converse in English with His Holiness. Interpretation will be on hand for service.
In the afternoon, His Holy Father will visit the birth place of Saint Kim Tae Gon Andrew at Solmae Sanctuary. The host of AYD, Daejeon diocese set up a huge tent at the site for this special event where His Holy Father will meet the youth. Although there will be no Mass, it will be a festive event with youth from various countries presenting performances in front of His Holiness. As part of the program, youth will ask questions followed by Message from Pope to the Youth. We will disseminate materials later.
These are the schedule for August 15. The first part of Papal visit to AYD started with meeting the youth. Once the program is finished, His Holiness will return to Seoul by a helicopter.
Day Three: August 16
In the morning, Pope will visit Seosomun Shrine and pray for the Martyrs. Numerous Martyrs who are to be beatified on this day died for their faith at Seosomun.
After His prayer, His Holy Father will head for Gwangwhamun. Gwangwhamun is the core of Seoul with immense historically significance. Gwangwhamun used to be the gate of the ancient palace. Here His Holiness will celebrate the Beatification Mass. This monumental event differs from the Beatification held in 1984 at Yeouido.
Gwangwhamun is a huge square where over 200 thousand faithful will assemble to attend the Mass. We expect more crowds to come and see His Holiness and this historical event. Here the first generation Catholics of the Korean Church will be beatified.
In the afternoon, His Holiness will transport by a helicopter 90 kilometers south to Kkottongnae. The name Kkottongnae was given to this town symbolizing town of flowers, town of love. There locates social welfare facilities and medical clinic founded by a priest in the 1970s. A huge facility capable to accommodate mass crowd will be visited by His Holy Father Pope Francis. Kkottongnae is a place where true practice of love of God is demonstrated for the weak and abandoned. Disabled children and adults live together in the rehabilitation facilities. His Holiness will meet the disabled but there will be no speech in particular. His Holiness Pope Francis honors less formality so here, we will witness various features of our Pope.
After meeting with the disabled, Pope Francis will pray at the hill of the abortive off springs. Here he will meet with a Korean missionary named Lee Koo Won from the Korea Missionary Society of St. Hwang Sok Doo Luke. He has no arms or legs but lives a valuable life in profound Christianity.
Next, Pope Francis will visit the training institute of 'LOVE' where five thousand Korean brothers and sisters from congregation will welcome the Pontiff. Here, President of male and female Congregation Union will address welcome message which will be followed by chanting the traditional prayer of congregation,Antiphonarium. The Pontiff will address a speech in between.
Next, the Pontiff will once again move to the training institute 'LOVE' to meet leaders of the Korean Laity. As have been mentioned earlier, the Korean Church was founded by lay people. Laity leaders will deliver welcome message and the Pope will address a speech to the laity. Later His Holiness will return to Seoul.
Day Four, August 17
The Pontiff will head for Haemi town in Seosan city, Choongchungnam Province to attend AYD celebration. Haemi town is a Martyrs site where a huge number of Catholics martyred. In the morning, His Holiness will meet 90 Asian Bishops at the Haemi Shrine. The Bishops led the groups of youths on the occasion of the AYD in Korea. 30~35 Korean Bishops and 40~50 Bishops from Asia will attend the event.
This meeting with Bishops from Asian countries implies great importance. By attending AYD and meeting Asian Bishops, Pope Francis is actually meeting and communicating with the whole Asian church. The Pontiff from Rome will meet the President of Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference(FABC) Cardinal Oswaldo Gracias. The Bishop is one of the eight members of the Cardinal Commission appointed by His Holiness in 2013. Cardinal Oswarldo and fellow Bishops will welcome the Supreme Pontiff and listen courteously message delivered by His Holiness. Later they will attend luncheon together.
Subsequently Pope Francis will head for Haemi town. Here Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass at the Closing Ceremony of AYD. Haemi, the town of profound significance is a symbolic and meaningful place. The Holy Mass will be offered in various languages.
Typically for this occasion, Pope Francis will deliver Homily in English. In total, Pope Francis will use English language on four occasions. 1) Meeting with political leaders 2)Angelus prayer on the Celebration of the Assumption of Mary the Holy Mother of God and speech 3) Meeting with Asian Youths 4) Homily during the celebration of the Closing Mass of AYD. The Pope will declare the next venue and date of AYD. Normally it is the President of FABC but the Pope will make the declaration.
The Last Day: August 18
The Pontiff will head for Myeong-dong Cathedral of Archdiocese of Seoul. Before the celebration of Mass, Pope Francis will meet 12 religious leaders privately at a small room in the Myeong-dong Cathedral. It will be a short yet with profound and meaningful meeting. There will be no speech.
As His last official event, His Holiness will celebrate Mass for the intention of peace and reconciliation. This Mass will be attended by Korean Archbishops and Bishops and pray for peace in the Korean peninsula and South North reconciliation.
After the Mass the Pontiff will stair down to the Oratorium where martyrs' bodies lay down and pray before leaving for the airport. There will be no concluding speech or event to conclude the Apostolic Visit. We are not assured of the presence of the President or an envoy to bid farewell at the airport, but the farewell ceremony will be short and prompt.
The Pope arrival in Rome is scheduled August 18 afternoon.
Overall number of events held during the Apostolic visit is eleven. Several speeches and Angelus after the Holy Mass celebrating the Assumption of Mary the Holy Mother of God. Speech materials will be disseminated in advance. We hope this will give you an overall picture of this honorable Apostolic Papal's visit to the Republic of Korea. We will make every effort to provide necessary materials on hand for major events. Thank you.
< Q & A >
Q: Korea was divided into South and North since 1945. There are Catholics and churches in North Korea. Military Demarcation Line is 70㎞ from Seoul, do they participate in the Mass on the 18th?
A: Korean Church officially invited them, when I asked the spokesman of Papal Visit Preparatory Committee, the official response was they cannot participate in the. We will keep trying so they can participate but we think it is improbable. I can only give you negative response and we have to wait for other opportunities.
Q: Does the Pope moves by an open car?
A: He goes to many places so he uses everything from helicopter to open car. And vehicles are often changed. These things are presented in the information brochure published by Vatican and may be referred to. For example, he transfers from a helicopter to a car when he goes to Daejeon and uses an open car when moving to Solmoe Holy Ground.
Q: Some laity employees of the Holy See are known to be on board with the Pope. How were they selected? That is unusual, were they favored?
A: It is hard to explain how they were selected. There are many laity employees but it is difficult to explain the purpose of their companion. (Only the Pope knows.)
Q: Victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slaveries are known to participate in the last Mass on August 18?
A: The victims are well up in years. I do not know how the Pope will greet them but I expect that he won’t do it in a special way. Their participation by itself is very meaningful.
Q: Does the Holy See intend on taking side for the mission and/or other issues in North Korea?
A: The detailed situations are unkown, but the Archbishop of Seoul is acting as the Apostolic Administrator in Pyongyang. The Holy See will not intervene how and what he should do in Pyongyang. The duty and care of Diocese of Pyongyang is under his jurisdiction and therefore should be researched and endeavored harder. But the future actions will be researched and acted by the Archbishop of Seoul.
Q: What messages and gestures of peace will His Holiness show?
A: Many youths in Korea or other Asia countries are having problems and there are others such as culture, labor, secularization, materialism, and faith. For these problems and their situations, that is for the problems in Korea and Asia I think the Pope will give appropriate responses.
Q: Victims’ families of Sewol accident are holding a rally at Gwanghwamun Square. There is a rumor that they are asking to stay their during the mass on the 16th for holding their rally. What is the Holy See’s position? There are some clergies who oppose the Pope’s visit to Kkottongnae and point out that Kkottongnae’s financial management and such poses a lot of issues.
A: Korean Church leaders know the situations in Korea’s well and the Holy See trust the preparatory committee. Let us see what will happen in the morning on August 16.
Visiting Kkottongnae was decided when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) reviewing the papal visit program because CBCK wanted the Pope to visit. There could be many problems in institutions inside the church but the church has many different kinds of organization, and many discussions about the Kkottongnae’s structure were held within these institutions. After much consideration by the members of the church, The Pope’s visit to Kkottongnae was positively reviewed by CBCK. There exist many different opinions and could be conclusions. The Holy See recognizes this.
Q: The Pope has loved Asia since he was young. Does he have his own strategies for the mission in Asia?
A: Pastoral visit is banned in North Korea but the Holy See understands that some priests with support and communication duties from South Korea visited the North. Even in the documents provided by Roman Curia, it was mentioned that we still need to work harder for the mission in North Korea.
As for the mission in Asia, in terms of Asia’s economic and cultural aspects, Christianity is a small part of Asia and much missionary work has to be done.
As for the Pope’s selection of visiting location, there has not been a papal visit to Asia, especially to East Asia for a long time. Therefore, his selection was influenced by geological balance. There has not been a papal visit for a long time. The Pope always intends to go all over the world with his universal aim, so the balance between location selection and the interest is needed. In this sense, Asia has priority on the Pope’s selection and so does his travels in the future.