Pope Francis blesses man during Mass in Seoul, South Korea.
Pope Francis’ recent trip to South Korea was inspiring in so many ways, but for us the most powerful message was the role faith can have in building hope for the future.
The pope’s talk of reunification between North and South Korea was inspiring and uplifting at a time when hope for that happening seems to have dropped from most people’s radar. He spoke of forgiveness and reconciliation on a grand scale, reminding listeners that this process, so beloved to the church, begins with forgiveness between God and ourselves.
He met with seven “comfort women” who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese during and even prior to World War II. He listened to their stories and heard them as human beings, not as victims.
The pope held a ceremony for the canonization of North Korean martyrs. Even before the Koreans were divided, they — like other nations in Asia — frequently persecuted Christians. In fact, they were especially harsh toward Catholics — there is even a time called the “Catholic Persecution of 1866,” when 8,000 Catholics were slaughtered.
These meetings and liturgies reminded us that the past can be learned from, forgiven and used to move on to a better future.
Pope Francis’ trip reminded us that no situation is unworthy of hope. Whatever happened in the past, whatever horrible crimes and injustices have occurred in the Korean peninsula over the years, the pope told the people there that the power of Christ’s message of forgiveness must take root if there is to be change.
“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,” he said during an Aug. 18 Mass. “Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.”