In the 18th and 19th centuries, the ancient Castle of Haemi was used a jail for Christians who were locked up and tortured here, hung to trees by their hair and killed in the most gruesome of manners. Today all that tormented the droves of young people that came from all over Asia to meet Pope Francis, were some clouds and the rain that wouldn’t stop pouring down on the fortress, a key location in Korean martyrology.
“I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship, may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all. And here I do not just mean political dialogue but fraternal dialogue as well.”
“Korea’s first apostles were lay people!” Hundred of thousands of faithful (800,000 according to Fr. Lombardi’s estimates, a million according to the organisers) gathered today in the muggy heat to hear to Francis speak at the mass for the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs. They listened in silence, in the great Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul. The Pope took the opportunity on the third day of his Korean visit to stress the important role the laity plays in the Church’s mission. During the long wait before the Pope’s arrival, faithful recited the Rosary and sang.
“There are not two Koreas, there is one - divided Korea - and just like a family that suffers separation, we must pray for our brothers: "Lord help us achieve unity. That there may be no victory and no defeat, only one family”.”
Qaraqosh, Tel Kepe, and Karamlesh are just three of the Iraqi towns on the Nineveh plains captured in early August by the Islamic State (IS), but they represent the last major concentration of Aramaic speakers in the world. Pushing northeast of Mosul towards Kurdistan, the jihadist army now occupies the ancient heart of Christian Iraq. According to U.N. officials, roughly 200,000 Christians fled their homes on the Nineveh plains on the night of Aug. 6, justifiably fearful that IS fighters would expel them, kill them, or force them to convert.
The persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State has pushed Vatican diplomacy to add strong calls for international humanitarian intervention to its prayers for the situation.
The past week has seen the appointment of a papal enjoy to Iraq, a strongly worded open letter from the Vatican's dicastery for interrreligious dialogue, and an urgent appeal from Pope Francis himself to the head of the United Nations.
In the first speech since his arrival in Seoul, Francis invoked the “gift of peace” from “a land which has long suffered because of a lack of peace.” “This national legacy has been tested through the years by violence, persecution and war.” The Pope addressed his speech in the presence of President Park Geun-hye and South Korea’s civil and military authorities, in the “Blue House”, the presidential residence. He spoke in English for almost 15 minutes, after 5:00 pm local time.
This is the story of the mass exodus from the Plain of Nineveh.
The expulsion of Christians from cities in northwestern Iraq at the hands of Islamic State (IS) militants is still resonating and felt throughout Lebanon for different reasons.
The first is that Lebanon comprises the largest number of Christians compared to other countries in the Levant. Second, Christians assume leadership positions in Lebanon, allowing them to raise issues, take a stance and make demands, a luxury that Christians in neighboring countries do not enjoy.
Pope Francis has arrived in Seoul on his third international trip. He is visiting Korea on the occasion of the Asian Youth Day that is being celebrated in Daejeon and will also proclaim 124 lay martyrs saints. These individuals paid the price of their faith with their life.