Pope Francis speaks to journalists on the papal flight en route to South Korea, August 14, 2014. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.     Pope Francis speaks to journalists on the papal flight en route to South Korea, August 14, 2014. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

Pope Francis speaks to journalists on the papal flight en route to South Korea, August 14, 2014. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

A theme for this Papal trip to Korea has quickly developed, and it’s not the official “Arise, Shine” that was chosen by the organizers.

It’s “Peace.” Listen for it over the course of the next five days. Expect Pope Francis to stay on message.

Just hours after sending a letter to U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon appealing for peace in Northern Iraq, urging “the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway,” he boarded the Alitalia plane at Rome’s Fiumicino airport destined for South Korea.

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As we flew through the afternoon and night, we passed through the airspace of benign nations like Slovakia and Belarus, but also global political and economic powerhouses like Russia and China. It is tradition for the Pope to greet the leaders of nations by telegram as he flies over, just a pair of sentences.

For leaders of the big and the small, every one, he prayed for well-being and peace in their countries.

Somewhere over Eastern Europe in the beginning stages of the flight, he came to the back of the plane and spoke to us journalists for several minutes. He greeted and thanked us for our work. After a moment of silence for AP photographer, Simone Camilli, his translator and 3 Palestinian policemen who had just died in Gaza, Pope Francis said, “These are the consequences of war. That’s the way it is.”

He voiced his appreciation for media and how our work “unites” him to the world. And he added, “I encourage you, give this message of peace always.”

He appears to be on a mission. He has gone out to the “peripheries,” the outskirts of the world.  He left the Vatican in the hottest month of the year to visit South Korea at its hottest and most humid. A bit of discomfort apparently won’t discourage him from getting his point across. He’s got a lot on his mind, but there’s one issue that just keeps coming up.

He’s an ambassador of peace to a world in great need of it.

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