The organizing committee of Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea next week have revealed that he will meet with survivors of the April 16 ferry disaster, as well as relatives of those who died.
“During a Mass in Daejeon, Pope Francis will meet with the survivors of the Sewol ferry disaster and family members of the victims,” Hur Young-yup, spokesman for a committee organizing the papal visit, stated in a press conference, the Korean Times reported Aug. 5.
“There will be some face-to-face time,” Hur added.
In April, a ferry carrying 476 people capsized and sank as it sailed from Incheon to Jeju island. Only 172 people were rescued; most were trapped inside as the ship went down.
Most of the more than 300 victims were high school students on a field trip.
Pope Francis will encounter the survivors and families of victims during his Aug. 15 Assumption Mass, on the second day of his trip. The Mass will be said at the Daejeon World Cup Stadium.
He will hold a private audience with them in the sacristy, where he is expected to listen to their stories and offer words of consolation for their loss and devastation.
The Pope will be visiting South Korea Aug. 14 – 18 in honor of the Sixth Asian Youth Day, having been invited by the Korean bishops and president Park Geun-hye.
The ferry disaster provoked a widespread reaction across South Korea on both social and political platforms. The sinking has brought a strong criticism of the ship’s captain and most of its crew, who abandoned the sinking vessel rather than assisting with the evacuation of passengers.
The ferry operator and regulators who oversaw its operations have also been criticized, as well as the South Korean government and media for their disaster response and attempts to downplay government culpability.
On May 15 the captain and three crew members were charged with manslaughter, while 11 other members of the crew were indicted for abandoning the ship.