The newly elected president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, sent a special emissary to the Vatican to ask Pope Francis to mediate in efforts toward reconciliation in the Korean peninsula.
“I was sent by the president to ask the Holy Father for his support in the reconciliation process between North and South Korea, and I hope the Vatican can act as a mediator,” Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong told Catholic News Agency (CNA).
He said they were hoping that the papal intervention “could be the same as the mediation made during the restoration of relations between Cuba and the Unites States.”
President Moon Jae-in’s sent Archbishop Kim, who is the president of the Korean Bishops Conference, as South Korean special envoy for a one-week mission in the Vatican. According to reports, the prelate met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on May 23 and with Pope Francis on May 24.
Archbishop Kim said that one of the objectives of the mission was to ask the Vatican to facilitate a thawing of relations between North Korea and the United States, which “would help Korea in the path toward reconciliation,” since at the moment “North Korea has not the trust of Western countries.”
“Dialogue is the only way,” the archbishop insisted. “North Korea is trying to show its military strength, but we have to keep engaging in dialogue. If North Korea becomes open to dialogue, tensions in the Korean peninsula will drop.”
Kim said the Vatican Secretary of State showed great interest in the situation in South Korea and its relations with the North. Instead of meeting for only 15 minutes as scheduled, the two prelates spent some 45 minutes together.
According to the archbishop, the Church is a reference point in South Korea. “For any issue of national interest, they look at the Catholic Church, and look for the Church’s statements and recommendations,” he said.
Kim also said that Koreans place great hope in the Church’s ability to successfully intervene on their behalf.
“The Holy See has always been on the side of Korea in the difficult moments of its history, and we hope this will happen again,” he said.
“If we achieve peace between North and South Korea, we state as from now our commitment to work for peace in East Asia and, on a larger scale, for peace in the world. We want to be a tool for peace,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome