Pope, departing from script, leads prayer for Korean unity

Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:49am EDT
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By Philip Pullella and Ju-min Park

SOLMOE South Korea (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Friday urged Koreans to pray and work for the re-unification of their divided peninsula, departing from his prepared text to say they should aim to reunite as one family "with no victors or vanquished".

The impromptu remarks were the pope's most specific comments on the division of Korea since starting his first trip to Asia on Thursday, and were made in response to a question by a girl at a boisterous youth rally.

At the rally on Friday, Francis also condemned the "idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure" he said was spreading a spiritual desert across the affluent world. Earlier, he led prayers for the victims, survivors and families of the Sewol ferry disaster.

The 1950-1953 Korean war ended in an armed truce that leaves North Korea and South Korea in a technical state of war.

"Let us pray for our brothers in the north," the pope said, leading the young people in prayer.

"Lord, we are one family. Help us reach unity. You can do it. So that there are no victors or vanquished. Just one family, only brothers."

Francis began his impromptu remarks in English and then switched to Italian, asking a priest to translate for him, before returning to his prepared text.

Earlier, a girl at the event in Solmoe, site of a shrine to Korea's first priest, had asked the pope what she could do about the divided country.   Continued...

Pope Francis gestures during a meeting with Asian youths at the Solmoe Shrine in Dangjin August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Ahn Young-joon/Pool