On Sunday morning Pope Francis baptized 62-year-old Lee Ho-Jin – the father of one of the victims from the Sewol Ferry tragedy earlier this year – who took on the baptismal name “Francis.”
Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi reported that the baptism was celebrated in 20 minutes without Mass. It was officiated by a Korean priest, who is acting as the Pope's translator, with Pope Francis conducting the immersion and anointing.
According to the nunciature in Korea where the the baptism took place, the ceremony was attended by Lee Ho-Jin's son, daughter, and a priest of the Suwon diocese.
On Aug. 15, Fr. Lombardi told CNA that the Pope met with some of the family members from the ferry tragedy before a Mass with thousands of Koreans at the World Cup stadium in Daejon earlier in the week.
He approached, blessed and “touched the head of each one of them and he shared his closeness” with them, Fr. Lombardi said.
Lee spoke to the Pope, the Vatican Spokesman said, after “having made a long pilgrimage carrying a cross and praying for his young son who died on the ferry.”
Fr. Lombardi underscored that Lee “solicited baptism. Obviously, he was not Christian and that is why he asked for it, but it is clear that he has had preparation with prayer, and with this pilgrimage that he made, we can say that he has been on a spiritual journey.”
According to official sources, the cause of the ferry's shipwreck of Sewol was a sharp turn. At least 36 people were officially declared dead, an d around 280 have not yet been found.
Announced by the Vatican in March, the Pope's Aug. 13-18 trip follows an invitation from the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea.
During his time, the Pope traveled from the capital city of Seoul to Daejon, where he celebrated the Sixth Asian Youth Day with thousands of young people. He also visited the rehabilitation center for disabled persons in Kkottongnae, as well as a shrine in Haemi for a closing Mass with Asian youth.
The Preparatory Committee for the 2014 Papal Visit to Korea reported that it is the first time in 25 years that a Pope has baptized a Korean since a group were baptized by Pope John Paul II in 1989.