SEOUL, June 19, 2013–A new cathedral dedicated to forgiveness and atonement will be inaugurated on June 25 on the border separating the two Koreas, on the occasion of the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war that divided the peninsula . According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the South, the new church “wants to be a clear symbol of the desire for peace and reconciliation in the country.”

Credit: AsiaNews

Credit: AsiaNews

The place of worship (see photo) is located in Paju, about 50 kilometers north of Seoul. The inaugural Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, Archbishop Emeritus of the capital: “The church – says the prelate – represents the desire for peace, unity and reconciliation that animates the Korean people.” During the function “we will pray for those who died in the war and to ask God to grant us serenity.” The pastor will be Fr. Lee Eun-hyung, director of the Episcopal Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean people.

Construction of the building began in 1997, when a group of Catholics who fled from North Korea decided to buy the land and donate it to their local church for the construction of a “sign of hope and peace.” Since April 2006, the project has been supervised by the Archdiocese of Seoul, which has funded the work.

Inside are the mosaics commissioned from artists Mansudae Art Studio, located in the North: they depict the martyrs of Pyongyang and the province of Hwanghae, the areas most affected by religious persecution. Instead the exterior was designed on the basis of the Jinsadong cathedral, built in 1926 and destroyed by communists.

The Center for National Reconciliation stands beside the church run by the Catholic community. For several years it has welcomed refugees fleeing the Pyongyang regime offering them courses for social inclusion and to find a job. Also, new missionaries are also trained here in religious dialogue and exchanges with the North.

The Director of the Secretariat of the Archdiocese of Seoul, Fr. Matthias Hur Young-yup, toldĀ AsiaNews: “The most important thing that the Korean Church can do help reunification, is pray and educate. For years the Commission has been committed to reconciliation in the field of education, to help the South Koreans to better understand their brethren in the North and thus reduce communication problems. Our best hope is dialogue.” (AsiaNews)