By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will travel to South Korea in August for Asian Youth Day and to preside over the beatification of a large group of Korean martyrs, the Vatican spokesman said.
The pope will leave Rome Aug. 13 and fly to South Korea, staying in the country Aug. 14-18, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. He said no other countries would be on the itinerary.
The main point of the trip, Father Lombardi said, is to participate in the youth gathering Aug. 13-17 in Daejeon, South Korea. The theme of Asian Youth Day is "Asian youth, wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines on you."
Sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, the gathering is expected to draw delegates from 30 countries.
Father Lombardi said Pope Francis also will visit South Korea’s capital, Seoul, and meet President Park Geun-hye.
According to the Korean Herald, Park’s office issued a statement saying, "The upcoming visit by Pope Francis, a symbolic figure of (someone who has lived) a poor but honest life and (upheld) neighborliness, will be an opportunity to deliver the message of love and peace to the northeast Asian region."
In February, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions, clearing the way for their beatification. The martyrs were among an estimated 10,000 Catholics in Korea killed for their faith between 1785 and 1888.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul said the people of South Korea appreciate the pope’s willingness to "travel so far to be with Asian youth and Korean Catholics," according to the Korean news agency Yonhap. The trip will be a "big pleasure" and "blessing" for the nation.
The news service quoted Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, president of the bishops’ conference, as saying the pope’s decision to visit "the divided Korean Peninsula as the destination of his first Asian trip" was motivated in part by a desire to pray for peace and reconciliation.
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