Pope to Korean Church: Gospel overcomes divisions and barriers
By Devin Watkins
“The desire to give the world the hope of the Gospel opens our hearts to enthusiasm and helps us overcome many barriers.”
Pope Francis offered that reminder to a group of pilgrims from South Korea on Saturday.
The pilgrims had come to Rome to celebrate the blessing of a statue of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Korea’s first priest and martyr-saint, which has been installed in a niche on the exterior of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope’s audience with the group came on the 177th anniversary of saint’s martyrdom, and he thanked Professor Maria Ko Jong-hee, who sculpted the statue.
Korea’s youthful and lively faith
In his address, Pope Francis recalled his 2014 Apostolic Journey to South Korea, where he took part in the 6th Asian Youth Day.
“I visited the Shrine of Solmoe, at the house where St. Andrew Kim was born and grew up,” he said. “There I prayed in silence, especially for Korea and for young people.”
The Pope praised the Christian witness of St. Andrew Kim, saying the saint invites the Korean Church to embrace its vocation to manifest God’s love.
“You are called to a youthful and lively faith which becomes a gift, animated by the love of God and neighbor,” he said.
Nobility of spirit in face of martyrdom
The Holy Father recalled that St. Andrew Kim greatly desired to spread the Gospel, carrying out his mission with “nobility of spirit, without shrinking before danger and manifold sufferings.”
He noted that the saint’s grandfather and father were both martyred and that his mother was forced to live as a beggar.
St. Andrew Kim, he added, invites us to cultivate apostolic zeal and shows how Christians are called to spread joyfully the seed of the Gospel.
Unity in Gospel
Pope Francis said the Korea Church has been built on the blood of the martyrs and needs to be renewed by drawing on its roots and recognizing the value of the charisms of the laity.
“We need to enlarge the space of our pastoral collaboration, to carry forward together the proclamation of the Gospel,” he said, inviting priests, men and women religious, and lay people to work together openly.
The Gospel, he added, “never divides but only unites. It seeks to incarnate itself and draw near to every culture, within our history, with meekness and in a spirit of service, without creating contradictions, but always building communion.”
Young people seek wider horizons
The Pope entrusted the Korean people’s desires for peace to St. Andrew Kim Taegon, recalling that he witnessed war firsthand when he studied in Macao during the Opium Wars.
In conclusion, Pope Francis recalled that the next World Youth Day will take place in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027.
“The hearts of young people,” he said, “are made for wider horizons.”
And he encouraged Catholic ministers in Korea to “care for them, seek them out, bring them near, listen to them, and announce to them the beauty of the Gospel, so that they may reach interior freedom and become joyful witnesses to truth and fraternity.”