Pope Francis completed his five-day trip to South Korea today, urging the two Koreas to reject suspicion, confrontation and competition and unite as “one family, one people.”
Emphasizing peace on the Korean peninsula at the Mass of peace and reconciliation at Seoul’s main Myungdong Cathedral, he advised that South Koreans should continue generosity in providing humanitarian aid to those in need, referring to the North.
“Forgive brothers who sinned for 77 times,” he said.
The two Koreas were divided in 1953 and are still technically at war. There is no freedom of religion in North Korea, although a figurative Catholic church exists, approved by the State.
Pyongyang warned Sunday of a “merciless pre-emptive strike” against the South, directing displeasure at the annual U.S.-South Korean joint military drills planned for this week.
Thousands of citizens gathered in a rainy morning in front of the cathedral to get a glimpse of the pope, 77, who mesmerized the nation with his humble style and attitude in the past five days.
“It was a shockingly tight schedule for an old man,” Kim Sang-Min, who said he was not a Catholic, said. “I could tell that he wanted to meet as many people as possible. He touched our hearts.”
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, North Korean defectors and elderly “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in early 1900s attended the mass. One woman gave Francis a pin of a butterfly, a symbol of their predicament; he wore it throughout the mass.