Updated August. 20, 2014 08:53
Meeting with the Dong-A Ilbo reporter on his way back to the Vatican in a chartered Korean Air flight after a five-day visit to Korea on Monday, Pope Francis conveyed his handwritten message to the Korean people reading, I convey gratitude and respect to the Korean people. Please pray for me.
At an hour-long inflight press conference with the official press corps for the Vatican earlier, the Pope commented on the elderly Korean comfort women who he met at the Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul, saying It was painful to think that they were young girls who were taken by force and exploited and lived as slaves, adding, However, I was touched by the elderly women who persistently maintained their human dignity. The Pope went on to say, The Korean people suffered the disgrace of invasion by the Japanese imperialists, and as a result suffered from a war and division of the nation, but they are a people who have the capability to endure the pain, and who never give up their dignity.
Pope Francis said, South and North Korea are divided, but they are countries of brothers who use the same language, and therefore there is hope for reconciliation and unification. On his consoling of bereaved families of victims of the sunken ferry Sewol throughout his visit to Korea, he said, When encountering humane sadness, it is very helpful to open up your minds and come closer each other, adding, Some advised me to keep political neutrality, but as a clergyman, I could not remain neutral in the face of pain and suffering of the people who lost their family members, and I followed as my mind guided me. Soon after arrival in Rome, the Pope posted a Twitter message, reading, Thank you, my friends in Korea. God willing, I will be back in Asia very soon. He is scheduled to visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka next year.