The Holy Father has arrived in Korea. His arrival was marked with missiles fired by North Korea in defiance. Thankfully they landed in the sea and not on the papal plane. But the gesture was merely symbolic, one of those crazy shows of strength the North Korean leader feels he has to make to remind the world that he is still the centre of the universe. The gesture, however, reveals the nature of relationships on the Korean peninsula, and the Holy Father, in his opening speech, referred to the continuing tensions between the two Korean countries. Officially a state of war still exists. In his talk Pope Francis called for peace, and in our prayers we must support that call.
The visit is highly symbolic, the Pope visits a divided people, and during that visit he will beatify a large group of martyrs from the 18th and 19th centuries, all Korean natives. Some Irish news media outlets have been reporting that the Irish Columban martyrs are among this group, they are not, their Cause is that of the Modern Korean Martyrs of the 20th Century and it has just opened. Given that the current regime in North Korea was responsible for the martyrdom of a number of those modern martyrs we can expect more than a few rockets flying in defiance when their beatification is to be celebrated. That the Pope should be beatifying Catholics massacred for their Christian faith is poignant at the present time when Catholics in Iraq are also being massacred for their faith. One day we may well see the beatification of many of those now being beheaded, crucified and shot, but as we reflect on the Koreans we must be emboldened to stand up to do what we can to save innocent lives today.
Let us pray for the Holy Father in this most important trip. Many believe the future of Catholicism is in the East, and it may well be. Certainly the Catholics of Korea have not only given us a wonderful example of fidelity to the faith, but in their endurance and continued testimony to the Gospel they have furrowed a field rich and ready for planting.