Seoul, South Korea, Aug 17, 2014 / 17:39 pm
At the concluding Mass of his historical trip, Pope Francis urged the faithful to embrace Christ's message of forgiveness and reconciliation, stressing earlier in his visit that there is only "one Korea."
"This...is the message which I leave you," the Pope told the congregation gathered at the Aug. 18 Mass held at the Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul. "Trust in the power of Christ's cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others!"
"I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ's message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life."
The Pope's Aug. 13-18 trip follows an invitation from the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea. During his time, the Pope traveled from the capital city of Seoul to Daejon, where he celebrated the Sixth Asian Youth Day with thousands of young people.
He also visited the rehabilitation center for disabled persons in Kkottongnae, as well as a shrine in Haemi for a closing Mass with Asian youth.
Speaking off-the-cuff to young people earlier in the week, the Pope addressed the division between North and South Korea, emphasizing that the two are "one family," and calling for prayers of re-unification while stressing repentance and forgiveness. He then paused and invited those gathered spend a moment praying in silence for unity between the two countries.
At the closing Mass on Monday, the Pope reiterated this message, saying that his visit culminates with imploring God for "the grace of peace and reconciliation."
"This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula. Today's Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family."
Pope Francis reflected that unity, reconciliation and peace are "gifts" which are inextricably linked to conversion of heart, and which have the power to "alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people."
"At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years," he said.
"But God's urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ's followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society."
The pontiff noted that Jesus asks us, as seen in the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, to forgive without hesitation.
"In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it," Pope Francis emphasized.
"What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross."
"The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love."
Pope Francis then reflected on the blessings he experienced during his visit to "this beloved country," especially noting the "presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia."
"Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all," he said.
The Pope also praised the work of local priests, "who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God's people in faith, hope and love."
"I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love, to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops."
"Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need," he added, "contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country."
"Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew," Pope Francis concluded.
"May Christ's followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God's richest blessings of harmony and peace! Amen."