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Pope 'considering' visit to South Korea

'Trip being evaluated', says Lombardi

22 January, 12:32
Pope 'considering' visit to South Korea (ANSA) - Vatican City, January 22 - Pope Francis is considering accepting an invitation to attend the Sixth Asian Youth Day in South Korea in August, the Vatican's spokesman said Wednesday.

"It's true that the trip is being evaluated," said Father Federico Lombardi.

Visits to the Philippines and Sri Lanka are also being assessed, but not this year, Lombardi said.

On Tuesday South Korean Premier Chung Hong-won promised to help the local Roman Catholic Church's push for the pope's visit.

Chung made the remarks during a meeting with the country's newly appointed cardinal, Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, to offer congratulations for his promotion to the rank of cardinal-priest.

Earlier this month, the 71-year-old archbishop of Seoul was named as a new cardinal by Francis, becoming the country's third-ever cardinal after late Stephen Kim Sou-hwan (1922-2009) and Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk.

"The government will willingly support the case," Chung told the cardinal who had asked for support in preparing for the papal visit.

Chung also eased concerns that Yeom expressed over time constraints in preparing for the envisioned visit later this year, saying the church will "do it well." The Catholic Church of Korea said it requested last year that the pontiff visit the country and has been receiving positive feedback from the Vatican.

As well as attending the Asian Youth Day event, Francis may also oversee ceremony to beatify 124 Korean Catholic martyrs, sources said.

If Francis makes the trip, it would be the first papal visit after Pope John Paul II's in 1989.

Chung also asked the new cardinal to bolster "efforts for peace and healing of society," and Yeom pledged to play a mediating role, according to Chung's office. South Korea has a Catholic community of more than five million, a sizable portion of its nearly 49-million population whose religious heritage is largely based on Buddhism.