VATICAN CITY, MAR 4, 2000 (VIS) - The Holy Father this morning welcomed President Kim Dae-jung of the Republic of Korea, the first Korean head of state ever to be received by John Paul II and the first Catholic Korean president to visit the Vatican. Diplomatic relations were established between the Holy See and the Republic of Korea in 1963.
In his speech in English to the president, the Pope spoke of his pastoral visits in 1984 and 1989 to "the Land of Morning Calm," recalling the "warm welcome and friendliness" of the "citizens from various backgrounds and religious traditions." He said he had observed "the difficulties and challenges facing the Korean people in their yearning for unity and their desire to create a prosperous and peaceful society, built on the solid foundations of justice, freedom and respect for inalienable human rights."
The Holy Father underscored the "fresh initiatives taken to foster inter-Korean dialogue," noting that, though "the path of reconciliation will be long and difficult, ... you have not allowed yourselves to become discouraged in your endeavors to establish a climate of good and harmonious relations." He also highlighted the "natural calamities and poor harvests" suffered by North Koreans and called upon the international community to assist them in their plight.
He then pointed to the "economic challenges arising from the Asian financial crisis," and said: "Productivity and profit cannot be the sole measures of progress; indeed development is not authentic unless it benefits individuals and the promotion of the good of the family, the nation and the world community."
"The Church's commitment to education, health care and social welfare," continued John Paul II, "stems from her firm conviction of the innate dignity of the human person and the primacy of people over things." He stressed that the Church's "principal contribution" is "her social teaching as an ethical and ideal orientation which, while recognizing the positive value of the market and of enterprise, insists that these must always be directed to the common good of people."
The Pope said that the "violence, persecution and warfare" of the just-ended century "has led to an increased awareness of the need for agreement and cooperation among nations," for peace, justice and the defense of human rights, as well as "eliminating the corruption which all too often mars public life. People are becoming more aware that the realm of politics is not morally neutral."
Underscoring the "existence of transcendent truth," the Holy Father affirmed: "Indeed, if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power."
In closing remarks, John Paul II expressed the hope that "the people of South Korea will draw on their rich cultural and spiritual patrimony ... to build a society worthy of your country's ancient traditions."
AC;PRESIDENT REPUBLIC KOREA;...;KIM DAE-JUNG;VIS;20000306;Word: 460;