Pope Francis heads to South Korea Aug. 14 — Priest says Koreans needs to hear pope’s message of simplicity


HONOLULU — Father Jong Ki Kim is excited that Pope Francis’s first major trip to Asia will be to his home diocese, Daejeon, South Korea, and that he and 23 others from Hawaii’s Korean Catholic Community will be there.

Father Kim is the head chaplain for the Korean Catholic Community based at St. Pius X Parish in Manoa. He is a priest of the Diocese of Daejeon.

He and the Hawaii delegation are scheduled to make the 15-hour flight Aug. 11 to be in their home country for the pope’s Aug. 14-18 visit. The pope will attend Asian Youth Day in Daejeon and preside over the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs in Seoul.

No other countries are on the itinerary.

It’s “amazing … a miracle,” Father Kim said, that the pope said yes to an invitation from his bishop, Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik, to attend the sixth Asian Youth Day, sponsored by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

Organizers of the event had originally planned for 2,000 to 3,000 attendees from 30 countries.

A lot more people will be coming now, Father Kim predicted.

As a seminarian, Father Kim saw Pope John Paul II when he visited Korea in 1984.

He hopes Pope Francis’ example of poverty and humility will be heard by the people of his homeland.

“Korea is changing, growing” and sometimes the attitude that “bigger is better” overshadows the Christian message, he told the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Honolulu’s diocesan newspaper.

Father Kim said he hopes Pope Francis’ visit will encourage the Korea Catholic Church “to be more like Jesus.”

Father Kim said he had heard that the pope, following that spirit of simplicity, will be driven around Korea in a Hyundai Elantra, a modest Korean-made car, not too extravagant, not too cheap.

That would be in line with the blue Ford Focus the pope uses in Rome, the small Fiat he rode in around in Rio de Janeiro, and the “ordinary car” he requested for his Holy Land visit.

The main event in Daejeon will be a Mass in the city’s World Cup Stadium for the feast of the Assumption. After the Mass, the pope will have lunch with young people before gathering with Asian youth at the Solmoe shrine that honors Korea’s first Catholic priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, who was martyred in 1946 at the age of 25.

The next day, Pope Francis will go to Gwanghwamun Plaza, a large public area in the heart of Seoul, to beatify Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions, who were among the estimated 10,000 Korean Catholics killed for their faith between 1785 and 1886.

Father Kim and his group will attend the papal activities in Seoul, a two-hour drive away.

After the beatification, Pope Francis will go by helicopter to Kkottongnae to visit the House of Hope, a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities, and to meet with religious communities and lay leaders.

The next day, Aug. 17, he will go to Haemi Castle to meet with the bishops of Asia and celebrate the closing Mass for the Asian Youth Day.

Pope Francis’ final Korea event will be a Mass for peace and reconciliation Aug. 17 in Seoul’s Myongdong cathedral.

—  By Patrick Downes