The Vatican gets packed with Catholic believers and tourists from around the world to see the Pope in person on Wednesdays. In order for visitors to attend the Wednesday weekly audience held by Pope Francis, which starts at 10:30 a.m. at the Paul VI Audience Hall or St. Peters Square depending on season, they should make a long queue from early in the morning, but no one makes complaint. When the Pope shows up, audience members shout Viva Pope en masse. They wave various flags including national flags, and clap together rhythmically, and wildly applaud, generating the mood as feverish as that at a rock concert or sports arena.
Since being inaugurated one year ago, Pope Francis, as the supreme leader of the Catholic Church, is putting into practice Jesus teaching by his signature friendliness and humbleness just like a grandpa next door. He is staying at a guest house called Santa Marthas House in lieu of the Papal residence, and rides a small car instead of a bulletproof vehicle. When he recently retreated from the Vatican, he rode a bus. Does it make sense that death of homeless people cannot make news headlines while a 2-percent drop in stock makes big news, the Pope once said, urging the world to pay attention to the underprivileged. Even non-Catholics are deeply touched by his humble behaviors as he refuses privileges and empty formalities, and takes care of the poorest and the most underprivileged. For this reason, the Pope was named The Person of the Year by the Time magazine last year, and also picked as a figure who was most frequently mentioned on Facebook.
Pope Francis will visit Korea from August 14 to 18. The visit will mark the first time in 25 years. Pope John Paul II visited this country twice to attend a canonization ceremony for 103 martyrs in 1984, and the International Eucharistic Congress in 1989. During his stay in Korea, Pope Francis will attend the Asian Catholic youth congress, visit Solmoi and Haemi holy lands, Eumseong Flower Village, and host a beautification ceremony for 123 Korean martyrs. He will also meet with President Park Geun-hye.
When Pope Francis awarded the appointment letter to Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the Archbishop of Seoul, in last month, the Pope said, I love Korea. On Easter Day last year, he said that I pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. I wish that peace is restored, and new spirit of reconciliation will grow there.
Attention is focusing on what message the Pope will convey to Korean society, the Church, and the international community through his Korea visit. We also should give careful thoughts about how Korea will have to respond to the Pope who recommends us to embrace compromise and unity. We extend our warm and hearty welcome to Pope Francis.