Pope Francis says, “I am the one who should feel grateful to Chairman
Kim Jong Un…I can go…”
On October 18, the second day of his official visit to the Apostolic
Palace, President Moon Jae-in paid a courtesy call on Pope Francis.
President Moon cut across St. Peter’s Square, passed through the
Arco delle Campane entrance, and arrived at the Papal Palace, the
Pope’s office, where he was greeted by Archbishop Georg Gänswein,
Prefect of the Papal Household.
The Prefecture of the Papal
Household coordinates the services of the Antechamber and organizes
the official audiences granted by His Holiness. A welcome ceremony by
the Pope’s cardinals was held at the entrance to the Papal Palace.
In principle, there is no attendee in a meeting with the Pope,
though a few attendees for communications including a translator may
join the meeting. The Pope reportedly keeps all dialogues he has with
outside persons strictly confidential.
The officials accompanying President Moon were guided to the second
floor, and First Lady Kim Jung-sook was guided to a ‘spouse room’,
where she waited until the meeting between President Moon and the
pontiff ended. Moon first greeted Pope Francis in the Tronetto Hall,
where the Pope grants private audiences.
Upon greeting Moon, the Pope said, “Welcome! It is nice to see you.”
Moon replied, “It’s good to see you. I come here as the (South) Korean
head of state, but I am also Catholic and my baptismal name is
Timothy. I thank you for finding time to receive me as I know you are
very busy with the Synod of Bishops.”
The President went on to say, “I appreciate your thoughtful
consideration in approving a special Mass for peace on the Korean
The meeting was held with only a translator present, Korean Father
Han Hyun-taek, who was sent from Daejeon Diocese to the Congregation
for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome.
The South Korean leader expressed his “gratitude to the Pope for the
warm welcome despite your busy schedule during the Synod of Bishops;
for always praying for peace, reconciliation, and common prosperity on
the Korean Peninsula; and for sending blessings and messages of
support at every important juncture as the situation unfolds on the
Moon delivered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to the
Pope by saying, “When I visited Pyeongyang last month, I suggested to
Chairman Kim Jong Un that he meet the Pope since he has great interest
in peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. Chairman Kim
instantly expressed his intent that he would whole-heartedly welcome
the Pope should he visit Pyeongyang.”
Moon conveyed a message from Chairman Kim that he “thanked you for
praying for inter-Korean peace at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and
inter-Korean summit meetings.” In response, the Pope said, “I should
be the one who should feel deeply grateful.”
Moon asked “Would it be acceptable to you if Chairman Kim sent you
an invitation?” The Pope replied, “The verbal invitation delivered by
you is sufficient, but it would be good to receive an official
invitation. I would certainly answer if an official invitation
arrived, and I can go.”
The Pope added, “I strongly support the South Korean government’s
push for a peace process on the Korean Peninsula. Move forward without
stopping. Do not be afraid.”
President Moon said it was his great honor to have a private
audience with Pope Francis, for whom he has respect as the President
of the Republic of Korea and a Catholic. The President's baptismal
name is Timothy (Timoteo in Greek).
The South Korean President expressed his gratitude to the Pope for
his visit to Korea in 2014 when he gave messages of comfort and hope
to the socially vulnerable, including the families of the victims of
the sunken Sewol ferry, the victims of ***ual slavery by the Japanese
military, known as the comfort women, and people with disabilities
residing in the Kkottongnae welfare facility.
recalled, “Some comfort women sat in the front row when I held a Mass
in Korea at that time.”
After his courtesy call, President Moon introduced his accompanying
officials to the Pope and presented him with gifts of art, a sculpture
depicting the face of Jesus Christ with the crown of thorns and a
sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, fashioned by Korean sculptor
Choi Jong-tae. Moon said that they “embodied the earnest desire for
peace.” “Thank you. They are so beautiful,” the Pope replied.
The Pope gave the President a medallion of olive branches, a
painting of St. Peter’s Basilica in the 17th century, and books
authored by himself. The Pope said, “I gave you the books on saintly
virtues, the Gospel, joy, and ecological protection.” Expressing his
gratitude, Moon said, “I had read all your books translated into
Korean, and there was a book containing a letter to atheists, though I
am not sure if the translation was entirely faithful to the original text.”
Pope Francis presented the Korean delegation with a sculpture of a
dove and rosaries.
In his parting words, the Pope said, “I will pray for the President
and peace.” “You are not only the head of the Catholic Church, but
also a teacher for humanity,” Moon replied and bid farewell.
Moon then moved to the reception room of the Vatican Secretary of
State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and had a conversation with the
Cardinal, who hosted a dinner yesterday, concluding his official visit
to the Vatican.