New Maltese Nuncio hopes for reconciliation and reunification
The new Apostolic Nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, 59-year old Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, is hopeful about improving relations between the two Koreas and the prospect of reconciliation. North and South Korea are technically still at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
“The peace process between the two Koreas, which began with the historic meeting between the two Korean leaders on 27 April, gives great hope,” said Archbishop Xuereb, who has served Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis. “The road is still at an early stage and will certainly be a long one with many obstacles to overcome,” he added.
Before starting his diplomatic mission, Mgr Xuereb celebrated Mass with Pope Francis on Thursday morning. Pope Francis has been closely following developments in the Korean peninsula since his visit to South Korea in August 2014, during which he dedicated his Mass in Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral to reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and urged all Koreans to reject a “mindset of suspicion and confrontation” and find new ways to build peace. Xuereb said the Pope assured him and the Church in Korea and Mongolia of his prayers and blessing and has invited the entire Church to support the parties concerned to build peace and so that future generation will live in harmony and prosperity.
The Archbishop said that “the Catholic Church has a very important role in this process of reunification and, following the mandate of the Divine Master, continues to evangelize and offer its contribution also at the diplomatic level in order to achieve the objectives so desired.” He observed that for the past 23 years, South Korean Catholics have been gathering at the feet of the Virgin Mary in Seoul Cathedral every Tuesday to pray for reunification. “I am sure that She from Heaven turns a benevolent gaze toward her children in Korea,” Xuereb said.
Mgr Xuereb will fly to South Korea on Sunday to start his new mission at a critical time. Yesterday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions centred on three tunnels at the underground site and a number of buildings in the surrounding area. A small group of journalists witnessed the demolition, which touched off landslides near the tunnel entrances and sent up clouds of smoke and dust. A closing ceremony was held afterwards with officials from the Korean nuclear arms programme in attendance. North Korea’s state media called the closure of the site part of a process to build “a nuclear-free, peaceful world” and “global nuclear disarmament.”
The demolition of the nuclear test site was meant to build confidence ahead of a planned summit in Singapore on 12 June between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. However, Trump cancelled the meeting yesterday, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a North Korean statement released earlier in the day which called US vice-president Mike Pence a political dummy.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Trump and Kim had vastly different expectations from the summit. While Trump was insisting on complete denuclearisation before offering any benefits to North Korea, the latter expected simultaneous security guarantees and other incentives. Kim had expected a process of equitable give and take but there is no indication from the US side that this would happen.