Rome Newsroom, Dec 12, 2023 / 13:23 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis sent a telegram on Monday to Suwon Archbishop Matthias Ri Iong-hoon to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea, emphasizing that the bilateral relationship is built on the common pursuit of peace, unity, and the promotion of culture.
The Dec. 11 telegram also addressed those present at a Mass celebrated by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the papal archbasilica of St. John Lateran on the same day.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrates a Mass Dec. 11, 2023, to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea. Credit: Vatican Media
The pontiff noted that the event was a “a moment for giving thanks to almighty God for the many graces received by the Catholic community and the Korean people over these past decades.”
Adding that it was his “hope that the good relations between the Republic of Korea and the Holy See will continue to flourish as we work together on matters of common concern, especially peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula,” the Holy Father expressed his wish that this relationship would continue “to bear cultural and spiritual fruits.”
During his homily at the Mass, Parolin echoed the pope’s call for peace and reconciliation on the peninsula.
“The young nation that arose from the ashes of war and long years of fighting for its freedom has gradually been able to earn stability, economic well-being, and international authority,” the cardinal said.
“The Holy See shares, with a deep participation, the aspiration of the Korean people for reconciliation,” the cardinal said, adding that the Holy See joins in the efforts for “an ever-wider recognition of the reality that all Koreans are brothers, solemn members in a single family.”
Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, prefect of Dicastery for the Clergy, speaks with Yu In-chon, minister of culture, sports, and tourism in South Korea, at a Dec. 11, 2023, reception marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN
Diplomatic relations were established between the Republic of Korea and the Holy See on Dec. 11, 1963, during a period that was marked by political instability for the nascent republic.
Following the end of the Second World War, Korea — which was under Japanese occupation from 1910 until 1945 — was to be temporarily partitioned at the 38th parallel, reflecting broader Cold War tensions between the Soviet and U.S. blocs. However, on June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded the South with the aim of unifying the country under communist rule.
What started as an internal struggle soon spilled over to a larger conflict between the United States and South Korea on one side and North Korea and the People’s Republic of China, supported by the Soviet Union, on the other. The U.S. led the United Nations Command.
By the time an armistice was signed by representatives of the North Korean People’s Army, the Chinese People’s Army, and the United States on July 27, 1953, approximately 3 million lives had been lost and the division between the communist North and non-communist South solidified.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin greets Yu In-Chon, the current minister of culture, sports, and tourism for South Korea at a Dec. 11, 2023, event to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two states. Credit: Vatican Media
“Naturally we think of the northern part of North Korea, which unfortunately, as you know, is of a completely different nature. But let’s hope that the wish they made here [today] is for peace between the two Koreas,” Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, former apostolic nuncio to the Republic of Korea, told CNA.
Representing the South Korean government was Yu In-Chon, the current minister of culture, sports, and tourism. In a brief speech at the end of the Mass, he reflected on the enduring links between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea, noting over the course of the past five years that both parties have “conducted research and delved into the history of our relationship, rediscovering the history of mutual cooperation and opening new horizons in bilateral relations.”
Yu added that “the ministry of culture, sports, and tourism of the Republic of Korea will continue to cooperate with the Holy See, devoting our utmost efforts to achieving peace and harmony between the peoples of our two countries and the global community through culture.”
Viewers walk through a photo exhibit chronicling definitive moments both for the local Church in Korea and in its bilateral relationship with the Holy See at a reception following a Mass on the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two states. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN
Following the end of the Mass a reception was held in the adjacent Lateran Palace where the Korean Embassy to the Holy See staged a photo exhibit chronicling definitive moments both for the local Church in Korea and in bilateral relationship between the two states.
Among those moments included the creation of the first native Korean cardinal Stephan Kim Soo-hwan by Pope Paul VI in 1969, Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Korea in 1984 and his second in 1989 to celebrate the 44th Eucharistic Congress, and various receptions by Korean presidents by the pontiffs over the course of the last six decades.
Oh Hyunjoo, the Korean ambassador to the Holy See — the first woman to hold the position — speaks at a Dec. 11, 2023, reception at the Vatican to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Credit: Vatican Media
Oh Hyunjoo, the Korean ambassador to the Holy See — the first woman to hold the position — spoke at the reception on the importance of this relationship by noting that “in the Korean tradition, 60 years constitutes the end of a cycle, of a life, and at the same time it symbolizes longevity.”
“The next 60 years of relations between Korea and the Holy See will be a path of mutual trust and strengthening mutually beneficial relations, jointly addressing together the peace of the Korean Peninsula, world peace, and sustainable development for humanity,” she said.