.- Gathered around the World Youth Day Cross, on a barricaded bridge that divides North and South Korea, about 100 South Korean young people prayed for the reunification of the two countries.
The young people youth carried the cross as far as they could to the north end of the bridge in Imjingak Feb. 24, where a razor fence serves as a quasi-border and sharp reminder of the division of the Korean peninsula. There, each of them prayed in turn, with his or her forehead against the cross, reported UCA News.
The young people were from the Diocese of Uijeongbu, which borders the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea. The WYD Cross and icon of the Blessed Mother they carried on their pilgrimage were gifts of the late Pope John Paul II to a group of young people in 1984. The cross has been carried throughout the world in preparation for each World Youth Day since.
The North and the South have been divided since Korea's liberation from the Japanese at the end of World War II. The subsequent Korean War heightened animosity between the two Koreas. It ended in an armistice in 1953, not a formal peace treaty, leaving the two countries technically still at war.
The veneration of the cross at the bridge was one of the many activities organized leading up to the first Korean Youth Day celebration in August and the next World Youth Day in July 2008.
The WYD Cross and the icon arrived in Korea from Africa on Feb. 18; its journey throughout the country began three days later on Ash Wednesday. Starting in the Diocese of Jeju, it traveled by plane and truck to the Uijeongbu Cathedral, where some 300 youth prayed the Stations of the Cross on Feb. 23rd.
The cross and icon were then taken to Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, where Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk celebrated Mass with 700 young people Feb. 25th.
The cross and icon left for the Philippines the following day. From there, they will go to East Timor and islands in Oceania before reaching Sydney, Australia, where the international WYD celebrations will be held in July 2008.