Pope Francis Makes Another Surprising Travel Choice in South Korea

PHOTO: Pope Francis waves upon his arrival at Solmoe Shrine for Koreas Catholic martyrs in Dangjin, southwest of Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 15, 2014.

The compact Kia-riding Pope today again surprised the country by choosing to travel to Daejeon on a bullet train instead of the pre-planned helicopter offered by the South Korean president. He wanted to be "in more touch with the people," according to the official preparatory committee. Approximately 500 people traveled on the same train. He was spotted blessing a 5-year-old upon arrival at Daejeon Station.

Pope Francis met privately with about a dozen survivors and relatives of the dead from the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster that killed about 300 people, many of them students. Lee Ho Jin, whose son was killed, asked the pope to baptize him and the pope agreed to do so on Saturday. The group handed the pope a tiny yellow ribbon, a symbol of support for ferry victims. The pope wore it on his robe today.

The Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary was held at 10:30 a.m. at the Daejeon World Cup Stadium. Approximately 50,000 people were present, with the event featuring performances by children’s choirs, opera singers and pop singers. As he entered the stadium on an open car the audience performed an enthusiastic “wave,” his popularity on display.

The main message from the pope’s homily involved being faithful to reject “inhuman” economic policies that disenfranchise the poor and “the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife.”

Pope Francis followed with a luncheon with children at the Major Seminary of Daejeon, including a female student who had been suffering from anorexia. The parents of the suffering girl sought after the Pope for help: "Father, please save our daughter," to which the Pope replied, "I don't have the ability to save her because I am not a doctor, but I have the skill to befriend her."

He also met young Asians at the Shrine of Solmoe. His message: the "labor markets think youths are disposable," and the Korean public should be aware of “spiritual cancer” of materialism.

He later made a return trip to Seoul.

Saturday’s schedule includes a beatification of 124 martyrs who were tortured and killed in the 18th and 19th centuries after refusing to renounce their faith.

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