Pope Francis Warns Against Materialism, Urges Evangelism in First South Korea Public Mass

Pope Francis
Pope Francis (C) greets faithful as he arrives for the Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup stadium August 15, 2014. |

Pope Francis urged South Korean Catholics to hold fast to the spirit of evangelization and reject "inhumane economic models" as their country's economy continues growing. The pope was addressing close to 50,000 people at Mass in his first ever visit to Asia.

The pontiff warned against the "allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife," Vatican Radio reported on Friday.

Speaking before a packed crowd at World Cup Stadium in Daejoen, Francis encouraged believers to "reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child."

The public Mass fell on the second day of the pope's five-day visit to South Korea, where the Roman Catholic Church leader has already touched on a number of issues.

Francis called for peace, democracy and social justice in the divided Korean peninsula, referring to the long-standing tension between North and South Korea since they signed the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953.

"Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the pope said on Thursday before 200 government officials at Seoul's Blue House, the official residence of President Park Geun-hye.

He noted that Koreans have "long suffered because of a lack of peace," and praised "efforts being made in favor of reconciliation and stability."

He continued: "Korea's quest for peace is a cause close to our hearts, for it affects the stability of the entire area and indeed of our whole war-weary world."

Francis lauded the virtues of the Korean church, looking back into history and praising the 18th-century nobles who converted after reading Catholic books imported from China. He noted that the first Korean Christians "did not have the temptation of clericalism, they were able to go on alone" to found the church.

He blessed the 10,000 Koreans who were martyred for their faith in the 18th and 19th centuries, and said that they offer an inspiring example of Christian hope to a "world that, for all its material prosperity, is seeking something more, something greater, something authentic and fulfilling."

Francis told Korea's bishops at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea:

"You and your brother priests offer this hope by your mystery of sanctification, which not only leads the faithful to the sources of grace in the liturgy and the sacraments, but also urges them to press forward in response to the upward call of God."

He again noted the country's rise as an economic power, but warned against allowing the country's "prosperous, yet increasingly secularized and materialistic society" to distract the church from its duty to evangelize.

"In such circumstances, it is tempting for pastoral ministers to adopt not only effective models of management, planning and organization drawn from the business world, but also a lifestyle and mentality guided more by worldly criteria of success, and indeed power, than by the criteria which Jesus sets out in the Gospel," the pope said.

During Friday's Mass, which was celebrated both in Latin and in Korean, the Vatican leader addressed all Korean Catholics, describing them as "heirs to a noble tradition" and telling them that they are "called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations."

"This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst," he added.

Present at the Mass reportedly were survivors and family members of the tragic Se-Wol ferry accident in April, when over 300 people were killed.

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