Pope may visit Korea in August

January 23, 2014

Pope Francis

By Nam Hyun-woo

Pope Francis may visit Korea in August, according to The Associated Press Wednesday.

If the trip were made, it would be the first papal visit to Korea since Pope John Paul II arrived here 25 years ago.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying Francis has been invited to Korea and a trip is “under study.”

He did not mention any potential itinerary or exact timeframe, but said the pope will likely make a trip to attend a meeting of young Asian Catholics in Korea. The Asian Youth Day event, the regional version of the church’s World Youth Day, scheduled to run Aug. 10-17 in Daejeon.

There have also been indications from the Vatican that the pope will sidestep China and Japan during the August visit to Korea.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) was discreet but welcoming in its reaction to the news.

“Nothing has been confirmed. But we are expecting a positive reply, since this is the first time the Vatican showed an affirmative response to Korea’s invitation,” said a CBCK official.

Whether the trip will be made will be confirmed as early as February, given that Vatican usually announces itineraries five to six months in advance, the official said.

The last papal visit to Korea was in October 1989 when Pope John Paul II attended the 44th International Eucharistic Congress in Seoul. He canonized 103 Korean martyrs during the trip.

If Francis comes to Korea, it will be his second papal trip outside of Europe since he ascended to the papacy in March. He visited Brazil for World Youth Day last summer. At that time, Francis told reporters en route home that he wanted to visit Asia precisely because Pope Benedict XVI never managed to get to the continent during his eight-year papacy, aside from a quick trip to Turkey in 2006.

So far, Francis has one foreign trip confirmed for 2014 ― a May 24-26 trip to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.