Less than an hour before Pope Francis’ flight arrived in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced North Korea fired three short-range projectiles from Wonsan on the east coast, reports Fox News. A few more were fired shortly after. The projectiles flew about 135 miles before hitting the ocean. It wasn't immediately clear what the projectiles were. North Korea has conducted an unusually large number of missile and artillery test firings this year. North Korea is upset with the annual military drills between the United States and South Korea. North Korea expressed concerns these maneuvers are invasion preparations. A new round of drills, which according to Seoul and Washington are routine and defensive, is expected to start in a few days.
Today the Korean peninsula remains divided. According to Vatican spokesman, Padre Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s goal is to "go to Korea and pray for the reconciliation and peace.” In his first English-language speech of his papacy, Pope Francis spoke to government officials and diplomats about peace and unity for the Korean Peninsula. He urged both sides to avoid "fruitless shows of force.” Saying, "We cannot become discouraged in our pursuit of these goals which are for the good not only of the Korean people but of the entire region and the whole world.” The Pope's arrival in Seoul inspired hope for Chinese Catholics as well.
Speaking to Korean Bishops on the first day of his apostolic journey, this was also one of the Pope’s first speeches in English. Francis usually speaks in Italian or Spanish, but the Vatican said this time he would deliver four speeches in English to better accommodate his Asian audiences. The English-speaking journalists at the Press Center were so excited to hear Pope Francis pronounce his first speech in their language some almost forgot to listen to what he was saying. Everyone said his pronunciation, modulation and tone were on point.
Pope Francis encouraged the Bishops to be guardians of memory and hope for the Korean people. Francis pointed out being a guardian of hope means ensuring that the prophetic vision of the Church remains evident in its actions. The Pontiff spoke of how showing care and concern for the children and the elderly in our communities in honorable, but it is also important to show concern for the poor, particularly to those living on the margins of society. Francis expressed the importance of outreach.
“Being guardians of memory means more than remembering and treasuring the graces of the past. It also means drawing from them the spiritual resources to confront with vision and determination the hopes, the promise and the challenges of the future. As you yourselves have noted, the life and mission of the Church in Korea are not ultimately measured in external, quantitative and institutional terms; rather, they must be judged in the clear light of the Gospel and its call to conversion to the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. Read his full statement here.