Aboard the papal plane, Aug 13, 2014 / 11:23 am
Aboard the papal flight to South Korea today, Pope Francis led an impromptu moment of silence to pray for a photojournalist who was killed in Gaza, and thanked journalists for their work.
Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian working for the Associated Press, and his freelance Palestinian translator, Ali Shehda Abu Afash, died Aug. 13 along with four Gazan bomb disposal offficers who were trying to dismantle an Israeli missile.
The missile exploded in Beit Lahiya as they tried to neutralize it. Four additional persons, including AP photographer Hatem Moussa, were gravely injured by the explosion.
Fighting between Israel and Hamas since July 8 has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, and 67 Israelis.
"These are the consequences of war," Pope Francis told reporters after learning of the death of Camilli, Afash, and the others.
"Thanks for your service," the Pope told the journalists on his flight. "Thanks for all that you do."
Pope Francis asked for a moment of silence to pray for those who died in Beit Lahiya; the moment lasted about 30 seconds.
The Pope then turned to the topic of his visit to South Korea.
"It will not be a tourist trip. It will be extremely physical," he told the journalists, again expressing his gratitude.
"Thank you so much, as your words always help to unite us to the world," Pope Francis said. "Also I encourage you, give this message of peace always."
The Pope also announced that he would give an interview to journalists on his return flight from South Korea to Italy.
In a light-hearted spirit, he compared the promised interview to the story of the biblical prophet Daniel.
"Daniel will go into the lion's den," he said.
"They don't bite though," he said in reference to the journalists.
Pope Francis then greeted individually each the journalists, photographers, and cameramen on his flight.
There are 10 Korean media personnel on the papal flight, out of 72 communicators, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. The communicators represent 11 nations.
Among the journalists was Jung Ae-ko, a London-based reporter for JoongAng Ilbo, a Seoul daily which also publishes in English.
Jung told CNA that the papal visit is "hugely important" for South Korea.
"We have been through quite a hard time recently," she said, referring to the capsizing of the 480-foot ferry Sewol in May. The dead number over 300 people, many of them high school students on a field trip.
"The papal visit is the only good news for South Korea to enjoy at the moment," she said.
Pope Francis will be in South Korea Aug. 14-18. Scheduled events include the beatification of Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions, martyred for the faith in Korea in the 19th century.