“A historic event.” “A cornerstone of peace.” The Korean Church and the entire people of the small peninsula bordering on the Pacific Ocean are celebrating. Joy and excitement welcomed the first televised images of a meeting that few believed would truly happen, especially in the light of escalating nuclear and missile tests. Instead, at 9.30 this morning in Korea (2.30 am in Italy), Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to cross the military demarcation line that has divided the Peninsula for 70 years for the meeting in Panmunjom. Kim was accompanied by top officials. Wearing the traditional black Mao-style garment, he walked along the narrow aisle between pavilions, called T2 and T3, into the Joint Security Area (JSA). The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, greeted him with a smile on the concrete slabs which form the frontier where they shook hands and posed for photographers. Then, in an unscripted move, Kim invited Moon to step back into North Korea, and they did so holding hands.
“The leaders of the North and South Korean peninsula, the last divided nation in the world, meet in Panmunjom, symbol of that division”, wrote the archbishop of Gwangju, Mons. Hyginus Kim Hee-Joong, President of Korean Bishops. “This inter-Korean summit breaks with decades of hostility and is bound to become a milestone of peace in the Korean peninsula. It’s a historic event the whole world is following” and
”it will usher in inter-Korean reconciliation and world peace.”
“On behalf of the Korean Church, I wish for the success of the summit, according to the expectations and in the interest of the Korean people and of world populations.” “We pray that, as the Risen Lord brought peace onto his disciples, He may bestow long-lasting peace upon the Korean peninsula.”
“It’s a historic day. I am moved to tears. Tears came to my eyes as I watched those pictures. The reconciliation process has begun, and there’s no going back.” With deep joy Msgr. Lazzaro You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon, President of the Bishops’ Commission for society, commented on the event over the phone. He highlighted the important appeal launched past Wednesday by Pope Francis during the general audience.
The Pope said it was an opportunity “to start a transparent dialogue and a concrete path of reconciliation and of a newfound fraternity.” He asked – recalled Mons. You – “those who have direct political responsibility, to have the courage that comes from hope, becoming ‘artisans’ of peace, urging them to continue with confidence the path of reconciliation undertaken. He thus indicated the direction for true peace not only for the Korean peninsula but also for the entire Asian region and for the whole world.”
The summit is garnering major attention in Korea. “The Korean people didn’t believe the meeting between the two leaders would ever take place. But live TV pictures show that it’s true and they transmit a climate of deep harmony.” Kim Jong-un’s message in the visitor’s book is of immense importance. He wrote: “a new history starts now.” The bishop highlighted the presence of all North-Korean military and diplomatic officials, the fact that at the end of the day the two leaders will release a joint Declaration, and that this evening’s dinner, offered by President Moon, will be attended also by the wife of North-Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“These are all positive signs – he added – which highlight a dialogue carried out with the heart, and not only with purely diplomatic language.”
He said: “An abnormal situation that lasted over 60 years is rapidly being normalized. The recovery of the Korean people’s kinship is finally arriving in this land, like the onset of spring after a long winter.”
During this long period of wait and preparation, the Church followed and prayed for the summit every day. “Now our duty as Christians is to experience this dialogue within the covenant of never forgotten and always hoped-for fraternal relations.” Anticipation builds before the meeting between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, scheduled to take place at the end of May or the first week of June, along with President Moon’s journey to the United States in mid May to prepare for the meeting.