By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
GENEVA – While the purpose of Pope Francis’s trip to Geneva on Thursday was spiritual diplomacy, he also engaged in a bit of global peacemaking when he greeted a delegation of North and South Koreans earlier today.
Prior to delivering an address in which he was to outline his vision for Christian unity, Pope Francis greeted four individuals from North Korea and four individuals from the South. The meeting was confirmed by a Vatican spokesman.
Pope Francis has long urged prayers for peace on the Korean peninsula and last month he appointed Maltese Archbishop Alfred Xuereb – previously the Secretary of the Secretariat for the Economy, and before that, private secretary to both Popes Benedict XVI and Francis – as the new papal representative to South Korea to help facilitate that process.
During his Easter Urbi et Orbi remarks earlier this year, the pontiff prayed “for the seed of Jesus to bear fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula so that the talks taking place in this period will promote harmony and peace within the region.”
On Wednesday, after concluding the meeting of its Central Committee, the World Council of Churches (WCC) – the global body representing over 560 million Christians, whose 70thanniversary the Holy Father is there to mark – issued a statement of “hope-filled affirmation” following the recent summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, as well as the recent declaration signed in April by both North and South Korea.
The WCC, which has a storied history of bringing together North and South Koreans, hailed the recent developments as “an important first step back from the brink of nuclear-armed confrontation, and towards a more peaceful and secure future in the region.”
In May, leadership from the WCC, including General Secretary Reverend Dr. Olav Fyske Tviet who is serving as the host of the papal trip, visited Pyongyang at the invitation of the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).