October 12, 2022
An international gathering of Catholic bishops, government officials and foreign policy experts from South Korea, Japan and the United States met last week at Catholic University to discuss the role of faith-based initiatives in promoting peace as North Korea launches increasingly advanced ballistic missiles and threatens further nuclear weapons testing.
The Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to the United States, Tae-Yong Cho, said during his opening remarks that the Catholic Forum for Peace in Korea 2022 is an important continuation of the Church’s role in promoting peace on the peninsula through prayer and action.
“The Korean people salute his holiness Pope Francis who has expressed his intention to help promote peace on the Korean peninsula…a goal that requires such solidarity,” he said. “If we continue to walk together…I am sure we will find paths for denuclearization and peace.”
The Korean War began over 70 years ago, but is technically ongoing because no peace treaty has been signed. North Korea has a nuclear weapons program while South Korea is building its own non-nuclear ballistic missile capabilities. Amid hostile relations between the divided nations and lingering tensions between the United States and China, insecurity looms on the Korean Peninsula, said Bishop Simon Ju-Young Kim of South Korea’s Chuncheon Diocese.
The Catholic Institute for Peace in Northeast Asia (CINAP) has been organizing annual international peace conferences since 2017 to carry out the call of the Catholic Church to build peace. Maryann Cusimano Love, Associate Professor of International Relations, attended the CINAP 2018 conference in South Korea and was instrumental in organizing this year’s Peace Forum to be held at the University. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops‘ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace and the Korea Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Reconciliation of the Korean People (CRKP) co-sponsored this year’s forum.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, said the canonization of the 19th century Korean martyrs and their inclusion in the Church calendar recognizes the place of the Korean people at the heart of the Church. “The Holy See has a keen interest in the good of the peoples of Korea,” he said. “May we all gather here for this conference… dedicate these days to peace.”
There is also an ongoing effort to beatify Catholics killed by North Korean Communists during the Korean War, including a bishop and over 1,000 Christians. The Catholic Church in North Korea is sometimes referred to as the “silent church” because public worship is tightly limited to a state-run church that has no connection to the Holy See. There are no resident priests in North Korea, but the South Korean Catholic Church has been allowed to send priests for major holy days since 2015.
Bishop Peter Lee Ki-heon, Bishop of Uijeongbu in South Korea, said about 3,000 Catholics in North Korea keep their faith through personal prayers and devotions.
Bishop Simon Ju-Young Kim, Bishop of Chuncheon in South Korea, said the Korean People’s Reconciliation Committee, of which he is a member, prays and works for peace and reconciliation. “Because we, the Church, believe and preach that ‘true peace is made possible only through forgiveness and reconciliation.'”
U.S. Military Services Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who has visited South Korea several times, said: “As Catholics, we believe that such efforts to make peace can only have lasting effect through the power of prayer. It is a weapon of hope, not a sentimental ulterior motive.
On the second day of the conference, experts from Korea, Japan and the United States discussed ways to bridge divides. These discussions were closed to the public but broadcast live.
Politics professor and director of Asian studies Andrew Yeo, who attended the talks, said peace will not come until their political leaders commit to dialogue.
“None of that is happening right now, partly because…North Korea is not interested in dialogue; partly because the United States is busy with other problems; and also because of the pandemic lockdown that is still in place in North Korea. There must be some kind of meaningful engagement moving forward to advance peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Yeo said.