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Sign of peace rises high above the Demilitarised Zone

SEOUL (AsiaNews): A new cathedral dedicated to forgiveness and atonement was scheduled to be opened and blessed on June 25 on the Demilitarised Zone, which stands as a dividing line between the brothers, sisters and cousins of the Korean people.

The opening of the new cathedral will mark the 60th anniversary of the drawing up of the armistice that ended what is known as the Korean War in 1953, which has so tragically divided the people of the peninsula.

A statement issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of South Korea says that the new church, located in Paju, about 50 kilometres north of the capital city of the southern Republic of Korea, Seoul, is a clear symbol of the desire for peace and reconciliation in the country.

Mass was to be celebrated by the retired archbishop of Seoul, Nicholas Cardinal Cheong Jin-suk.

At a press conference prior to the celebration, the retired cardinal said, “The church represents the desire for peace, unity and reconciliation that animates the Korean people.”

He added that during the function, “We will pray for those who died in the war and ask God to grant us serenity.”

The parish priest of the new church will be Father Lee Eun-hyung, the director of the Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean people.

Construction of the building began in 1997, when a group of Catholic people who had fled south across the Demilitarised Zone from The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea bought land and donated it to their local Church for the construction.

They said that it was to be a sign of hope and peace. Since April 2006, the project has been supervised by the archdiocese of Seoul, which has funded the work.

The interior of the new church contains mosaics commissioned from artists at the Mansudae Art Studio, located in North Korea. 

They depict the martyrs of Pyongyang and the province of Hwanghae, the two areas most affected by religious persecution.

The exterior of the church is reminiscent of the Jinsadong cathedral, which was built in 1926 and later destroyed by communist armies.

The Centre for National Reconciliation, which is run by local Catholics, stands beside the church. For several years it has welcomed refugees fleeing from the regime in North Korea, offering courses assisting with social inclusion and helping with job seeking.

Also, new missionaries are trained there in religious dialogue and exchange with the people of the north.

The director of the secretariat of the archdiocese of Seoul, Father Matthias Hur Young-yup, told AsiaNews, “The most important thing that the Korean Church can do to help reunification is pray and educate.”


He explained, “For years the commission has been committed to reconciliation in the field of education, to help the South Koreans to better understand their brethren in the north and thus reduce communication problems. Our best hope is dialogue.”

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