The Pope Francis meets Korean catholic believers
including the physically disabled, religious and laymen
at Kkottongnae in Chungbuk Eumsung
#Arrival at Kkottongnae
The Pope arrived at the entrance of Kkottongnae by helicopter around 3:30 PM. The Pope transferred to an open car and held a car parade on the way to the House of Hope. On his way, the Pope hugged, kissed and blessed every single child including the physically disabled ones whom he encountered. Due to the passionate cheers from 31,000 of Catholic believers, some children cried out in surprise.
#The Sketch of the House of Hope
When the Pope stepped into the House of Hope, both male and female religious order representatives tried to greet him in a kneeling posture; the Pope insisted that they stand up and exchanged greetings by making eye contacts with them. In the meeting with the physically disabled, a boy named Philip Cha and a girl with uncomfortable arms presented a flower bouquet to the Pope. The Pope consecrated it to the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, after getting people's consent. Then, the physically disabled children performed songs and dances. The background music were, “Lord Darling, Lord Honey” and “Bless You” composed by living hymn composer Father Kim Tae-jin (Parish Priest in Eo-Nong Catholic Church).
Visitors to the House of Hope were expected to take off their shoes to enter because it is a living space for the physically disabled (the floor needs to be kept clean). Although the Pope is not accustomed to taking the shoes off when entering into a house, he changed his shoes while sitting on a chair. While the Pope was moving to take the open car, he moved his arms upward as if he was trying to say, “Say it louder!” to the cheering crowd. This friendly gesture evoked much more laugher and smile from the crowd.
158 Kkottongnae family members including physically challenged children gathered at the auditorium on the second floor of the House of Hope. They were 40 physically challenged children from House of Mother of God, 20 physically challenged elders from House of Hope, 8 elderly patients from House of Salvation, 8 babies waiting for adoption from House of Angel, 68 teachers and doctors, 4 critical patients with hospice support and 10 volunteers. All the members, aged as young as 2-month-old baby to the eldest in Kkottongnae, got together even though they couldn’t move their bodies well.
The Kkottongnae Monk Choir of Jesus sang chant named “Vive Jesus (Jesus is alive)” vigorously when the Pope entered and left the place. “Vive Jesus” has been the Pope’s favorite Spanish chant for a long time. The Kkottongnae Monk Choir of Jesus released a music record called “Joy of Gospel” in celebration of the Pope’s visit to Korea and gave it to the Pope as a gift. This one is the fourth released album by the Choir, which was recorded in Spanish language. The melody and the lyrics of 2 hymns on the album were composed by monks themselves. The last hymn was sung together with the homeless choir in the Kkottongnae.
All the family members in the House of Hope dressed up Korean traditional clothes, Hanbok, with a joy of welcoming the Pope. Kim Il-hwan (Leobinus?55) with a physical disability felt greatly delighted to meet the Pope and said, “I prayed for the Pope’s health as soon as I heard the news that he was going to come to Korea. I am very pleased that the Pope came down to find us who are always neglected and positioned in the lowest place in the society. Though I cannot move my body freely, I can lift up my hands for peace with more sincere heart than anyone else. I would like to ask His Holiness to pray for peace.”
Two children, Park Jong-won (4) and Choi Dong-yeon (10) called the Pope, “Papa Hola” and hung a flower necklace around his neck. The Kkottongnae made the flower necklace with violet orchid flowers because it goes well with the Pope’s white soutane and is light to put around the neck.
Oh Hang-wook (15), whose hands and feet were paralyzed except for some parts of left hand, pushed a wheelchair of Cha Hae-joon (10), who also has physically disabilities. Cha Hae-joon presented a flower bouquet to the Pope. The Pope was moved by the gift and asked them if he could consecrate the flower bouquet to Mother of God, the Virgin Mary.
The Pope shook hands with the people and hugged every single of them in this place one by one. The Pope blessed children by kissing on their heads and cheeks. One of the babies waiting for adoption grabbed and sucked the Pope’s blessing hand by holding it with two little hands, which evoked laugher from the surrounding people.
The Pope greeted monks of Kkottongnae respectively. With a bright smile, he asked if he could listen to his favorite chant (“Vive Jesus”). The monks sang the chant for the Pope until he left the place completely.
The Pope, in return, presented a mosaic painting which embodied the “Birth of Jesus” to Kkotongnae families. The Pope also delivered the medals and rosaries after blessing them directly as a gift (the numbers of each item are not known yet).
After bidding farewell to Kkottongnae family, Pope suggested them to pray Hail Mary altogether. The Pope prayed Hail Mary in Spanish and the rest joined him in Korean altogether. After that, he gave his apostolic blessing by saying, “I pray that God’s peace be with you all in this place.”
The residents of Kkottongnae presented the Pope with a gift, an embroidery portrait made by Veronica (who refused to reveal her Korean name) who has difficulty with moving her hands. Veronica has been paralyzed due to a neck injury and can barely move her fingers. She has completed the gift over the last four months with love and prayer.
Also, another gift was presented by the residents of Kkottongnae, who had nothing to give but their warm heart of sincerity and love; Kim In Ja Cecilia, whose body has been paralyzed due to cerebral palsy, prepared a paper crane and a paper turtle as a gift for the Pope, which she folded using her toes.
It was always the children who put a bright smile on the face of the Pope. 11 physically challenged children from the “House of Mary” performed dancing with the songs “Lord Darling, Lord Honey” and “Bless You” and gave the Pope a warm hug. Among them, there was a child who could not move his legs. Still, he joined the performance while being seated wearing a big bright smile, which touched all those who were watching him.
#Sketch from the Garden of the Unborn
After the Pope moved to the Garden of the Unborn he stood in front of the crucifixes, which symbolized the grave for the unborn, and gave a silent prayer. Then, the Pope met with Lee Gu-Won, a quadruple amputee and now a missionary, who lived with the assistance of the benefactors. The Pope and the missionary talked about the Missionary of Salvation.
Pope Francis visited the Garden of the Unborn right after a car-parade. Garden of the Unborn is a place for the unborn killed by abortion. In 2000, on the National Family Day, Cheong-Ju Diocese made the Garden of the Unborn, with approximately 4,000 white wooden crucifixes, the number of lost lives by abortion in a day in Korea, standing in front of the statue of Holy Family. Today 1,000 crucifixes stand at the garden. Pope stood in front of the garden for about three minutes, silently praying with his hands together, his head bowed. Missionary Lee Gu Won (age 25, Mission of Sung Hwang Seok Duruka), received Pope Francis at the garden and prayed together with the Pope. Missionary Sung Hwang Seok was born without his limbs and grew up at Cheongju Jamowon. Sung graduated from Dajeon Catholic University, and entered the Mission in 2011. Pope greeted missionary Sung, Hwang Seok by bending down to make eye contact with Sung. “I will join life movement and missionary work, especially to guard people’s lives and send messages of the value of life and hope for Korea, a country ranked no. 1 in the number of people committing suicide,” said Missionary Sung Hwang Seok, who prayed at the Garden of Life with the Pope.
#Sketch from the Meeting with Korean Ascetics
With the arrival of the Pope at the Training Institute of Love, the Pope greeted Fr. Hwang Seok Mo, the President of Conference of Major Superiors of Korean Men’s Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Mother Lee Gwang Ok, the President of Association of Major Superiors of Religious Women in Korea, who came to receive the Pope at the entrance. The Pope was received with the warm welcoming of 4,300 ascetics, who filled the corridor. The ascetics welcomed the Pope by waving Papal flags and singing “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus (See Our Archpriest).” Also, seven nuns from the closed convent, “Sisters of the Passion of Christ,” drew people’s attention because they were given special permission to go out.
From the Garden of the Unborn in Kkottongnae, Pope Francis moved to Training Institute of Love, where ascetics were waiting for the Pope, while Catholic hymn no. 304 “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus” resonated in the area. The Pope greeted the waiting ascetics, who were waving Vatican & Korean flags, shouting, “Viva Papa.” “I have a problem. We can never be negligent about our prayers, I have no choice but to do the night prayer on my own in private due to the flight time on the helicopter,” said the Pope.
Although Liturgy of Hours was cancelled due to delays, other events were held according to the schedule such as “Offering Hail Mary Together.” Fr. Hwang Seok Mo (President of Conference of Major Superiors of Korean Men’s Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life) gave welcome greetings. “Korean ascetics are the one who want hope the most in this era. Yet, they tend to place individual over community and are being assimilated to consumerism rather than being the model of sharing and frugality,” said Fr. Hwang Seok Mo. “Through Pope, I realized how hope and amazement can greatly prove the existence of God,” continued Fr. Hwang, “We shall, as well, endeavor to demonstrate the hope and amazement in our lives, and for the Pope’s apostolic walk and his health, we shall be with His Holiness through our lives of testimony.”
“The fact that the Pope chose Korea as his first Asian country to visit signals both “joy” and “responsibility” to the Korean Church,” said Mother Lee Gwang-Ok, the President of Association of Major Superiors of Religious Women in Korea in her welcome speech. “I hope that Pope’s visit to Korea and His Holiness’ attendance to various events will strengthen Korean Church and its future.” “The Pope’s visit to Korea will encourage the ascetics to “go out” and spread the glory of God with courage,” said Mother Lee Gwang-Ok.
The Pope responded, “I thank the President (President of Conference of Major Superiors of Korean Men’s Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life) for confessing about the danger of consumerism.” “To demonstrate how “offerings” can be of treasure to the Church and the world, you must do everything you can do in humility. You must not keep the offerings to yourselves, but go and bring the Christ to every part of this beloved nation and share the offerings,” the Pope said. The Pope’s Blessing was followed.
The Ascetics presented a Korean traditional paper fan to the Pope, on which 370,8821 rosaries and 11,8408 fasting were carved, which were dedicated to the Pope, prayed from April to July, after when they had heard about the Pope’s visit. They also presented the helping-neighbors fund, which was raised by once-a-week fasting during the same period of the prayers. 4,300 ascetics sang “Arirang,” a traditional Korean folk song, all together as a gift for the Pope, who was exhausted by a long journey.
After the Pope left, the ascetics seated and offered the Liturgy of the Hours as was planned.
Rev. Fr. Hyun-Ro Lee (Public Affair Manager at the Preparatory Committee for the Papal Visit to Korea in Cheongju Diocese) said, “Though we’re sorry (that the Pope couldn’t spare the time for everything we have had prepared), it was meaningful. What I mean by “meaningful” is that the Pope loved the people with disabilities so much that it took a lot of time meeting them. The Pope’s and 31,000 faithful laities’ prayers was also meaningful, but I think it was more important that the Pope chose to spend enough time with sincerity together with the people who were suffering.”
# Sketch of the Meeting with the Korean Laities
Then the Pope hastened to the venue for the meeting due to the time constraints after a short car parade.
Though Cheongju Diocese had prepared a fancy wooden chair in front of the altar, 15 minutes before of the Pope’s arrival, Vatican officials requested changing the chair into an ordinary one. The original chair was replaced by an ordinary chair from the cafeteria in the building on the 1st floor. The chair was made in Vietnam. It had been purchased 10 years ago.
The Pope was greeted by Kwon Kil-Joon, President of Korean Catholic Apostle of the Laity Association, and shook hands with janitors (cleaning and restaurant janitor of a retreat house). The laities were waiting for the Pope on the 4th floor of the church. When the Pope came into the building, the leaders of the laities welcomed the Pope by shouting “VIVA IL PAPA,” and then the Pope asked them to sit down by his hand signal. Professor Kang, Hee-Deok (Garlo) directly handed over the gift to the Pope, a small handcrafted bronze-casting picturing of Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis, sitting together with smiles.
After presenting the gift to the Pope, Kil-Joong Kown (Paul), the President of Korean Catholic Apostle of the Laity Association, read a welcoming note in Italian. (Mr. Kwon is able to communicate in Italian a little bit. Before reading the not, he practiced a lot.)
Mr. Kwon’s welcoming note – We prayed that Jesus stays with the Pope’s love to everyone. We’ve prayed in silence with “Evangeli Gaudium” by each of the dioceses to live as the Pope’s intention. He explained the origin of Korean Church that it was established by laity without missionary. We want to live a life like the Pope lives. We will go out beyond to search for the lost 99 lambs to the land in periphery. The periphery where we must go is the land of the poor, the sick, those who are helpless and alone in a situation of injustice, brothers who left the Church, and youths wandering about without dreams.
After the welcome remark, the Pope gave him a hug and presented a Papal rosary.
The Pope revealed his humility again when he addressed delivered a response speech. The chair was placed for the Pope to make speak over a microphone while being seated on the chair; however, the Pope came to the corner of the Church entrance where president Kwon read a welcoming note.
The Pope’s speech – The Korean Church has been very dynamic and blooming. The Church in Korea, as we all know, is the heir of the martyrs who proved God with their suffering and death which is continued through your faith, love, and offering. I am deeply grateful to those of you who by your work and witness bring the Lord’s consoling presence to the people living in the peripheries of our society. This should not be limited to charitable assistances but must also be extended to a practical concern for human development. We need to nurture strengthen the laity in each of our community. Your cooperation is necessary in doing so. The future of the Korean Church depends on the spirit of communion, participation, and sharing what was given.
Last comment – “I ask for your prayers. Please pray for me.” (18:45. The total meeting time lasted about 20 minutes)
Wherever the Pope went, he prayed Hail Mary. He especially gave his blessing to the laity here. Photos were taken with the laity, and then the Pope wrote his autography on the book, the Korean version of “Evangeli Gaudium,” that one of the laity handed to the Pop. People saw the Pope off, singing a Korean pop song “Love You” as the Pope gets into the black colored SOUL.
The Police estimates the number of visitors to Kkottongnae to be 28,000.
# Interview after the event
Kil-Joong Kown (President of Korean Catholic Apostle of the laity Association) – When I heard the news that the Pope arrived at the airport, I was as happy as if my own father came back home from a long trip. I want to resemble the Pope as I live my life. We had prepared a fancy chair, but the Vatican officers sent us a message, “It is good enough to have a same chair as yours.” I think there is a meaning to choosing the small chair. I think the Pope’s intention was to encourage us to search for the under privileged people and let them see the light. Our heart started to bump upon hearing the Pope’s words. We will put our effort to revive the Church. We will change the laity first. I will pray for the Pope the first when I pray with the rosary from the Pope. I felt like being held by my father when the Pope embraced me with his arms.
Professor Hee-Deok Kang who presented his own handcraft as a gift: I wrote an Italian saying, “Isn’t it so great when a friend visits you from distance?” at the bottom of the handcraft. I am delighted that I could give it to the Pope, but at the same time, I am afraid that I couldn’t speak a word to the Pope.
The piece expressed the happiness, anger, sorrow, and pleasure in life through three smiling Popes, which took 2 months to create.