+39 06 684919 pax@ofm.org

After the gathering of the Franciscan Conferences of Asia and Oceania in Manila, Philippines, Br. Taucen Girsang and Br. Daniel Rodriguez Blanco from the General Office for JPIC Office spent 14-18 April 2024 in Seoul visiting the Province of the Holy Martyrs of Korea.

On the morning of April 15, Br. Michael Young, the Provincial JPIC Animator, guided Br. Taucen and Br. Daniel to the Centre for Peace and Unity, a shrine dedicated to hoping and praying for national reconciliation and unity between South and North Korea. It is located a few kilometers from the border that divides the two countries. There is a welcoming church for prayer, offices and a museum from which religious activities are organized, such as a walk along several kilometers of the border.

In the afternoon, Br. Michael invited the brothers to sample some special drinks at Café San Damiano, a Franciscan project for JPIC activities at the San Francis fraternity in the centre of Seoul. Café San Damiano offers delicious organic coffee at low cost, a green tea, serene space and bookshelves for readers. Afterwards, they visited the formation house of the temporary professed friars and shared vespers, a fraternal dinner, and a dialogue with the brothers of the fraternity as well.

On 16th April, South Korea commemorated the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of the “MV Sewol ferry sinking 2014” in which 304 people perished, at least 250 of them secondary school students between the ages of 15 and 17. Br. Michael and Br. Rufino Lim, the Vicar Provincial, took Fr. Taucen and Fr. Daniel to the place where the student classrooms have been recreated as a memorial. The classrooms portraited some personal belongings of the victims.

In the evening, together with other friars, they participated in the Eucharistic celebration in front of the government building in the centre of the Korean capital. Priests, consecrated life, lay people and relatives of the victims were present to remember this sad event. Two lustrums later and there are still many unanswered questions about who should be the one responsible for this tragedy.

In Seoul, there is the so-called Wednesday Demonstration. It demands justice from the Japanese government for the system of sexual slavery established during World War II by the Japanese military in Korea. This demonstration started in January 1992 and takes place in front of the Japanese embassy. The Christian churches in South Korea support the demands. For their part, the Korean Franciscan friars have been part of this social movement and led the visitors to participate in the demonstration on Wednesday 17 April. The activity was under the responsibility of the Protestant churches. People of all ages were in the audience. The presence of the female Consecrated Life was visible. In the afternoon they visited the Women’s War and Human Rights Museum which aims to remember the painful history of comfort of women survivors and aims for a world without war and violence against women.

During the conversations, visits and meetings, it became clear that the South Korean Franciscans are characterized not only by their hospitality, but also by their sensitivity and commitment to various issues related to justice, peace and care for the Common Home. For many years, they have been developing projects in the areas of charity, advocacy, dialogue, training, and awareness-raising on these issues. The work is coordinated with other entities within and outside the Church. An important Franciscan tradition should be continued.

Br Daniel Rodríguez Blanco