Young Koreans want to be peacemakers and protagonists of reconciliation on the Korean peninsula: it is with this spirit and this desire that the World Youth Pilgrimage for Peace organized recently by the Archdiocese of Seoul.
A hundred young people from 14 countries in Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe as well as from Korea took part in the pilgrimage from August 16th to 22nd, in the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea.
This pilgrimage, also called “The wind of peace” is in its fifth edition and began in 2012 by the Archdiocese of Seoul and, after an interruption, resumed in 2016. The initiative is inspired by the homily delivered by Pope Francis during the Mass which he celebrated at the conclusion of his historic visit to Korea, on August 18, 2014. It is an event of peace education for young people, aimed at implementing the advice of Pope Francis to promote peace in the world as well as on the Korean peninsula.
The young participants walked the demilitarized zone that divides South Korea and North Korea, visiting some of the bloodiest battlefields of the Korean war (1950-53). During the pilgrimage they also listened to reflections and catechesis on peace, discussing them together in groups.
A young student from the Kassel Academy of Music in Germany said: “Through the eyes of a German woman who shares the experience of division, the 70-year long division of a single people is very sad. I hope that, as Germany managed to unify 30 years ago, Korea will also unify as soon as possible”.
All participants shared the wish for reconciliation and unity of the Korean people, praying for peace on the Korean peninsula and in the world. In fact, the experiences of the pilgrimage on the “front line” of the military and ideological confrontation have led young participants to renew their sensitivity for true peace.
Those present wrote together a letter to Pope Francis which was signed by all of them and offered their determination to “be operators and protagonists of peace” in their area of life, now and in the future. In this letter they also thanked Pope Francis for his post-synodal exhortation “Christus vivit”, telling him that “it was helpful for us because it was a guiding compass in order to “make peace for the benefit of all” (Christus vivit, 169 ), for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ who “is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world” (Christus vivit, 1).
The conclusion of the event was a solemn Eucharist concelebrated by Father Achilleo Chung, the organizer of the pilgrimage, and Father Lee, the vice-organizer, in the compound of Myongdong Cathedral in Seoul.
A part of the pilgrimage was also attended by Cardinal Andrea Yeom, Archbishop of Seoul and Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, and the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea, Mgr. Alfred Xuereb.
Cardinal Yeom emphasized to the young participants that “Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit and if I do not live peace, not even the world can live it. This pilgrimage should serve each of the participants to live peace, and to become bearers of peace in families, communities, and in the nation”.
Mgr. Xuereb encouraged them to become peacemakers who believe in the power of prayer, telling them that “it is prayer that opens the heart”. Father Achilleo Chung pointed out that “only those who love peace, desire it, sacrifice themselves for peace, are able to live peace”. Father Luca Lee, the vice-organizer, said during the homily of the concluding Eucharist of the pilgrimage: “This pilgrimage was an invitation from God to us to live a new life, a life of peacemakers wherever we are. We accept this invitation with a grateful heart”.