VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will beatify 124 Korean martyrs and celebrate a Mass of peace and reconciliation on the war-divided peninsula during his upcoming visit to South Korea, the first papal trip to the Far East in nearly 20 years.
The Vatican on Wednesday released details of the pope's busy Aug. 14-18 trip, during which he will participate in an Asian Catholic youth festival and encourage lay and religious missionaries.
For the Vatican, the trip will be a chance to show off how the Catholic Church is growing in Asia, while it continues to wither in traditionally Christian Europe.
Francis' brief stay will mark the first time in 25 years that a pope has visited the Korean peninsula, and the first papal visit to the Far East since Pope John Paul II drew a record 5 million people to a 1995 Mass in the Philippines.
It's the first of two Asian trips that Francis has planned for the coming months: In January, he plans to visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines, making up for Pope Benedict XVI, who didn't manage to visit Asia during his papacy.
One of the highlights of Francis' trip will be a Mass for peace and reconciliation to be celebrated in Seoul's cathedral on the final day of the visit. Another will be a beatification Mass on Aug. 16 for the 124 Korean martyrs killed during the anti-Christian persecution of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Seoul's current archbishop, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, is a direct descendant of the lay missionaries who brought Christianity to the Korean peninsula, some of whom were executed during the anti-Christian backlash of the Joseon Dynasty.
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