Thursday morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received the President of the Republic of Korea, Roh Moo-hyun. The Holy Father offered to the President his prayers and greetings for all the people of the Korean peninsula, encouraged greater respect for the sanctity of life and marriage, and urged peace and an end to the nuclear arms race in North Korea.
“I would ask you to convey my affectionate greetings to the people of Korea,” the Holy Father began, “and to assure them of my prayers for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region.”
“For over fifty years, the Korean people have suffered the consequences of division,” the Pontiff lamented. “Families have been split, close relatives have been separated from one another. Please let them know that I am spiritually close to them in their suffering.”
“On compassionate grounds, I pray for a speedy solution to the problem which impedes so many from communicating with one another.”
“Sadly,” Pope Benedict continued, “the modern world is marked by an increasing number of threats to the dignity of human life. I wish therefore to commend all those in your country who work to uphold and defend the sanctity of life, marriage and the family, areas in which, as you know, the Catholic Church in Korea is particularly active.”
Turning to North Korea’s attempts to procure nuclear capabilities, the Holy Father expressed the Holy See’s concern over, “the risk of a nuclear arms race in the region.”
“I urge all interested parties to make every effort to resolve the present tensions through peaceful means and to refrain from any gesture or initiative that might endanger the negotiations, while ensuring that the most vulnerable part of the North Korean population has access to humanitarian aid.”
In an encouraging sign, the North Korean government has, this week, agreed to close down its main nuclear reactor and to allow international nuclear inspectors back in the country. In exchange, North Korea would receive 50,000 tons of fuel oil, to help its struggling economy.
In contrast to the difficult economic situation of North Korea, the Republic of Korea has experience an economic boom, which the Holy Father also addressed. “Mr. President, your country has experienced remarkable economic growth in recent times, for which I give thanks to God,” the Pope said. “At the same time, I am conscious that not all citizens are yet able to benefit fully from this increased prosperity. I therefore urge your Government to work in harmony with all those who seek to promote the common good and social justice.”
“In the meantime, I call upon Saint Andrew Kim Taegon and the Korean martyrs to protect the citizen of your beloved nation, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for all the people of Korea.”
Following his meeting with the Holy Father, President Moo-hyun went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. According to a press release from the Holy See, “during their discussions, mention was made of the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea, as well as of the understanding and cooperation that exist between the Catholic Church and the civil authorities.”
"Attention turned to the political and social situation of eastern Asia and, in particular, to the evolution of the process of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and to the respect and promotion of human rights in that region," the message concluded.