“The summit is a new step towards peace” say local Church leaders.
Local Church leaders have expressed cautious optimism following the declaration signed by Trump and Kim after the summit last week.
“You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment,” commented Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia. “It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good,” he added.
“The summit between the US and North Korea is a new step towards peace in Korea, Asia and the whole world. I prayed and blessed the two leaders. In those moments the sad years of the war in Korea came to my mind: the millions of people who live the drama of families divided by the border came to mind. Today there is a new hope”: said Mgr. Lazzaro You Heung-sik, Bishop of Daejeon.
The bishop added: “We are happy because, with the grace of God, we see that a new time of the Holy Spirit begins. The Holy Spirit makes all things new. This spirit of novelty we live today in Korea, is the spirit of hope. We must be attentive to the signs of times and see what the future holds for us. The signs are very encouraging today and we thank the Lord for this”. He concluded: “After the declarations of intent and verbal commitments, we await the facts, we wait for the words to be put into practice. Putting them into practice means starting a path of forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is the right path. This is our hope and our desire for the future of Korea”
The Bishop also acknowledged the commitment of South Korean President Moon Jae-In: “He began his mandate a year ago with the explicit aim of peace and easing of tensions. He has built relationships with the great powers like China and the United States with the aim of making progress for peace. Today we see the first fruits of his commitment”.
South Korean Archbishop Kim Hee-Jung of Gwangju called the outcome of the summit “a surprise and a joy.” He observed that peaceful negotiation is an ongoing process and quoted the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes: “Peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly.”
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, celebrated a special “Mass for peace and reconciliation” in the Cathedral of Myeongdong, in Seoul, to pray for the prompt application of the agreement between the United States and North Korea. The special Mass was also attended by new Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Alfred Xuereb
Given the growing expectations for reconciliation between North Korea and South Korea following the summit, Cardinal Yeom encouraged people to pray for peace in Korea, saying “When I learned that there was a significant agreement between the two leaders in their first meeting, I deeply thanked God because he listened to our prayers for reconciliation of the Korean people. I sincerely desire that the agreement can be implemented promptly in order to achieve the common good not only for the Koreans, but for all the people in the world”.
The Mass, celebrated on 12 June, was the 1168th “Mass for peace and reconciliation”, celebrated to invoke a sincere reconciliation between South and South Korea. These Masses for Peace are a custom initiated in March 1995 by the “Committee for the Reconciliation of Korea” and held every Tuesday evening at the Cathedral of Myeongdong. Since then the Korean faithful have gathered in prayer at the same time in the North and South to raise their voices to God together, and invoke mercy, reconciliation and peace. After Mass, those present recite the “Prayer for Peace” by St. Francis of Assisi, together with the faithful gathered, at the same time, in Jangchung Cathedral in Pyongyang.
The South Korean bishops have called for Catholics to pray a novena for North Korea from 17 June till 25 June, South Korea’s Memorial Day and an annual day of prayer in South Korea for reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The day will likely be celebrated with particular urgency this year. There will be specific prayer intentions for each day -for the North Korean people, separated families, North Korean refugees, evangelization of the North, and the peaceful reunification of the peninsula.
In recent months, South Korean bishops have also called for daily rosaries for peace each day at 9pm in the country, which are expected to continue after the summit.