CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Hopes up as inter-Korean summit takes place

SEOUL (UCAN): Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon of Uijeongbu, the president of the Korean Bishops’ Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, has been waiting years for this moment: the leaders of the two divided Koreas scheduled to meet for a historic summit just inside South Korean territory on April 27.
 
The bishop released a statement, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, on April 13, expressing his belief that the summit will end decades of struggle and open a new era of peace on the peninsula.
 
“Now the Korean Peninsula is entering an important time of turbulence,” Bishop Lee wrote.
 
“With the inter-Korean summit, as well as the ensuing summit between North Korea and the US (United States of America), expectations are growing that the 65-year-long confrontation and struggle will end and a new era of peace will come,” the statement read.
 
Decades after the bitter Korean War ended in a ceasefire, this will be the third major inter-Korean summit to date. It comes in the wake of former president, Kim Dae-jung, meeting late North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, in Pyongyang in 2000, and Roh Moo-  hyun following in his predecessor’s footsteps by venturing to the North Korean capital in 2007.
 
But ultimately, both of those meetings went nowhere, with the signs of rapprochement crumbling only to be replaced by threats of war amid occasional volleys of gunfire across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two countries.
 
Bishop Lee expects the summit will bear more fruit, aided by the prayers of parishioners.
 
“Our prayers are making an incredible miracle through God, who makes the impossible possible,” he said.
 
The Korean Catholic Church declared its first of Year of Peace in 2015 while commemorating the 70th year since Korea broke apart. That campaign saw Catholics come together to pray for peace every day at 9.00pm.
 
Bishop Lee asked people to keep faith.
 
“We still have many obstacles to overcome during the upcoming (diplomatic) dialogue. Please keep praying for everlasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Our solidarity in prayer will be a solid cornerstone for peace,” he said.
 
He also asked people to check the hostile attitude that has crept into Korean society since the end of the Korean War.
 
“Due to the long ‘Cold War’ era in Korea, the hostile attitude against others has become deeply rooted in our society and the Church is not free from this scourge,” he said.
“The sense of struggle and divisiveness inside South Korean society is a huge obstacle to the future (success) of the Korean people.”
 
Yet with North Korea making good on its promise to engage with the leaders of China, South Korea and the US after it sent athletes to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year, change may be imminent.
 
The summit marks the first time a North Korean leader has set foot inside South Korean territory in decades, as dynastic head of state, Kim Jong-un, meets with incumbent South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, in the the Joint Security Area just south of the DMZ.
 
While much of the recent thaw in diplomatic relations has been cloaked in secrecy, it indicates a strong  de-escalation following months of rhetoric between Kim and US president, Donald Trump, as both threatened each other with missile strikes.
 
Shortly afterwards, Kim secretly visited China to meet with its president, Xi Jinping, in Beijing in the first week of April, his first trip outside North Korea since taking over the leadership.
 
It recently came to light that Trump sent Mike Pompeo, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, on an equally secretive meeting with Kim a few days later to pave the way for a summit of even greater significance between Trump and Kim, which is expected to take place some time in May.

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