N. Korea rejects participation in papal mass in Seoul

06-Aug-2014 Intellasia | AFP | 7:10 AM Print This Post

North Koreaappears to have declined an invitation to send Catholic believers to a mass celebrated by Pope Francis inSeoullater this month, a South Korean Church official said Tuesday.

In a letter, the North’s Korean Catholics Association (KCA) citedSeoul’s refusal to cancel an upcoming joint military drill with US forces as the main reason for its decision.

Pope Francis is to conduct a special Korean reconciliation mass inSeoulon the last day of his August 14-18 visit toSouth Korea, and church officials in the South had sent several requests toPyongyangto send a group of Catholics to attend.

But the day of the mass coincides with the launch of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military drill, which the North had condemned as a rehearsal for nuclear war.

Pope Francis waves from a window overlooking Saint Peter's Square during the weekly papal Angelus prayer in Vatican City on August 3, 2014 (AFP)

“Under these circumstances, coming toSeoulwould be an agonising step,” the KCA letter said.

“We interpret this as meaning the North finds it difficult to accept the invitation,” said an official at the South Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate inNorth Koreaunder extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled KCA.

It has no hierarchical links with theVaticanand there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

The KCA claims 3,000 followers in the North but outside estimates put the figure at around 800.

A recent comprehensive report compiled by a UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights inNorth Koreaconcluded that practising Christianity outside the state-sanctioned church amounted to a “political crime”.

The Pope’s final mass, to be held inSeoul’s Myeongdong cathedral, will focus on a message of peace and reconciliation for the Korean peninsula.




Category: Korea

Print This Post

Comments are closed.