World Views
11:48 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Despite Missile Tests, Koreans, Chinese Optimistic During First Papal Visit In 25 Years

South Korea's Defense Ministry says North Korea has fired three short-range projectiles into the sea.

“After the situation in Ukraine, any time that we see rockets going into the air in the vicinity of an airplane, it makes us a little bit nervous,” says University of Oklahoma College of International Studies Assistant Dean and KGOU’s World Views panelist Rebecca Cruise. “I think the North Koreans picked this moment because they knew it would be on the news. They have said that this is in reaction to U.S.-South Korean military exercises that will be going on next week.”

The apparent test firing Thursday came less than an hour before rival Seoul welcomed the pope for the first papal visit to South Korea in 25 years.

“It's kind of a pivot to Asia being made by our pope. There are a few reasons for that, but one of the most significant is that you have a growing Catholic population in Asia,” Cruise says. “About 10 percent of the population [in South Korea] now. The Philippines is a majority Catholic population because of their colonial history. You had more people baptized in the Catholic faith in Asia last year than you had in Europe, so there's been a significant shift, and this pope is aware of that and is going as a symbolic gesture to Catholics in that area.”

Chinese Catholics cheered the pope’s South Korea visit, saying they hoped it would help end the estrangement between their government and the Vatican.

Francis' first visit to Asia including a first-ever papal flyover of Chinese airspace, during which he sent a telegram expressing greetings and prayers to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people.

On Friday, Catholic laypeople and priests who flocked to mass at Beijing's oldest church said they felt closer to the pope and expressed hopes for a papal visit in the not too-distant future.

China and the Vatican have no formal ties and relations have been tense over Beijing's demand that it have the right to appoint bishop. The Vatican says that key prerogative belongs to it alone.

“I don't know if it'll make much headway on that, but the Chinese did allow the pope's plane to fly through their airspace,” says College of International Studies Dean Suzette Grillot.

On Friday, Catholic laypeople and priests who flocked to mass at Beijing's oldest church said they felt closer to the pope and expressed hopes for a papal visit in the not too-distant future.

China and the Vatican have no formal ties and relations have been tense over Beijing's demand that it have the right to appoint bishop. The Vatican says that key prerogative belongs to it alone.

The pope has also urged Asia's Catholic youth to renounce the materialism that afflicts much of Asian society today and reject "inhuman" economic systems that disenfranchise the poor, pressing his economic agenda in one of Asia's powerhouses where financial gain is a key barometer of success.

Francis received a boisterous welcome Friday from tens of thousands of young Asians as he celebrated his first public Mass in South Korea, whose small but growing church is seen as a model for the rest of the world.

In his homily, Francis urged the young people to be a force of renewal: "May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife."

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