South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun expressed his gratitude Friday for the worldwide Anglican conference being held in South Korea aimed at helping to reconcile the Korean peninsula.
"It is very meaningful that the worldwide Anglican Peace Conference is being held in Seoul," said Roh, in a statement. "I wholeheartedly welcome leaders of the Anglican Church to Korea. I am deeply grateful to all of you for your prayers and efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula."
More than 150 Anglican leaders gathered this week in Paju, near Seoul, South Korea, for TOPIK (Towards Peace in Korea), which started off with a three-day trip to North Korea.
The Nov. 14-20 gathering will introduce and summarize Korean experiences of war and forgiveness, conflict and reconciliation and explore ways to contribute to the establishment of a permanent peace in Northeast Asia.
"This gathering promises to produce some lasting changes in the relationships with North Korea," said presiding U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in a statement. Jefferts Schori preached at the Nov. 16 opening Eucharist.
"It seems especially timely given recent progress in talks with the North Korean government," she added.
Roh also noted the time was "now ripe for peace" on the peninsula as North and South Korea engage in talks towards greater reconciliation and cooperation.
As examples of progress, Roh listed North Korea's denuclearization effort and last month's historic South-North Korean Summit.
"When the agreements made in the inter-Korean summit are materialized one by one, the Korean Peninsula will be freed from the legacies of the Cold War and the yoke of division," Roh said.
The TOPIK conference was first envisioned in response to a 2005 resolution from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Communion's chief legislative body, which called for peace, reconciliation and reunification between North and South Korea.
Organizers hope the conference will support and encourage others working for peace in areas of conflict. The Anglican Church of Korea wishes to begin a longer-term program of aid to the North, continuing beyond the end of the conference.
"I firmly believe that the future of humanity is bright," Roh concluded. "That is because we are blessed with so many people like you (leaders of the Anglican Church) who have dedicated themselves to resolving diverse disputes and conflicts in the interest of a peaceful world.
"These endeavors will certainly help lay a solid foundation for advancing the age of peace on the Korean Peninsula."