Pope greets 'comfort women,' departs from South Korea
By Nicole Winfield and Jung-Yoon Choi, AP
August 19, 2014, 12:05 am TWN
SEOUL--Pope Francis wrapped up his first trip to Asia on Monday by challenging Koreans —from the North and the South — to reject the "mindset of suspicion and confrontation" that clouds their relations and find new ways to forge peace on the war-divided peninsula.
Before boarding a plane back to Rome, the pope held a Mass of reconciliation at Seoul's main cathedral, attended by South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as some North Korean defectors. It was the final event of a five-day trip that confirmed the importance of Asia for this papacy and for the Catholic Church as a whole, given the church is young and growing here whereas it is withering in traditionally Christian lands in Europe.
Francis' plea for peace came as the United States and South Korea started a joint military drill that North Korea warned would result in a "merciless pre-emptive strike" against the allies.
In a poignant moment at the start of the Mass on Monday, Francis bent down and greeted seven women, many sitting in wheelchairs, who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. One gave him a pin of a butterfly — a symbol of