Francis in Asia for the first time - Korea AYD 2014

Francis in Asia for the first time - Korea AYD 2014
Francis in Asia for the first time - Korea AYD 2014
The 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD)

SEOUL (South Korea): August 19, 2014 - Today at 1:00 PM Pope Francis left Korea by Korean Airlines on a direct flight back to Rome. Five full days of the first pastoral visit of the Pope to Asia, followed with attention by the media, brought many fruits for the Korean people, Korean Christians (about 30% of the population) and especially for the young and dynamic Catholic Church. Both main events focused on the life witness of Jesus' disciples backed and inspired by the Martyrs.


The first event at the national level was the beatification of the 124 Korean Martyrs, Paul Ji Chung and companions (1791-1888) especially the long-expected beatification of the first Korean Catholics who are considered the founders of the Church without foreign missionaries. Attended by some 800,000 people in downtown Seoul, it was held in the same place where many of them had been martyred.


The second event on an Asian level – the Sixth Asia Youth Day attended by the youth from 25 Asia countries with the theme ‘Asian Youth, Wake up and Shine!’ also focused on the martyrs roots of many of Asian Churches.


Pope Francis left Korean society, media and ordinary citizens with a strong witness of a humble, open religious leader who is deeply a man of God and who cares about the poor and marginalized. His choice of a small car for transportation, traveling by train instead of helicopter, taking off his shoes when entering the Kottongnae Handicapped children's house like any other visitors – all these gestures were praised.


He gave 11 talks in public, 3 outdoor Masses (World Cup Stadium in Daejon, Downtown Seoul avenue in front of the Royal palace and Haemi Fortress where thousands of Catholics were martyred), his meetings with Asian Bishops, Korean President Park (baptized Juliana), Korean Bishops Conference, Korean Male and Female religious, Visit to the largest welfare facility in Korea run by a religious congregation Kottongnae, closeness to the family of Sewol ferry tragedy victims – this hectic schedule by an apparently not-so-healthy old man with difficulty moving, was a strong Christian witness.


After the first historical AYD in Hua Hin (1999, Salesian school) with some 300 participants, the sixth AYD brought together some thousands of the third KYD (Korean Youth Day, started in 2008). The Diocese of Daejon was in charge of this event and also one full time staff of the core group, Fr Peter Kim Sang Yoon, SDB was involved in the preparation. The two main venues of the event were located in the martyr pilgrim places of Solmae and Haemi. Youth from 25 Asian countries with some SDB presence (Card. Zen, archbishop Savio Hon, archbishop Charles Bo) – numerous youth delegates from Korea, Japan and Thailand accompanied by their SDBs (also one MSMHC sister from India was met!)


‘Asian youth - wake up and shine!  was the main theme of the homily at the concluding Mass broadcast from Haemi fortress (place of many thousands of martyrs in 19th century). At the end of the Mass the 7th AYD 2017 venue – Indonesia – was announced, accompanied by numerous dances, songs of the present Indonesian youth delegation.


There is an inspiring reflection by Korean Salesians, who thanks to Pope Francisì' visit missed the official celebration of the DB 200 opening (transferred to end of October 2014): other than one Salesian who was involved in the AYD preparation core group, there were many signs of DB presence and influence of Don Bosco in this event – one HK participant who shared his faith experience before Francis was explicit: he ‘would live his Christian life as Salesian’; Daejon diocesan YM and AYD main organizer Fr. Park spent 3 years with the Salesians when studying in Seoul for his youth worker civil degree and shared that he ‘has stolen the heart of Don Bosco’ (with the Preventive system theory and practice).


SDB and FMA novices participated as well in the AYD concluding Mass and share their impressions: Francis' strong life witness of taking the first step in approaching the youth; in spite of his poor English he tried to deliver his talk in English with a few short dialogues with the youth; in spite of his poor health he did everything possible to be one with the people, enjoying the dynamic youth songs, sharing with courage the Gospel wisdom with all Asian youth present.

 A good resource site for all materials related to this in Korean and in English is found at: http://popekorea.catholic.or.kr/en

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