Pope Francis called on a delegation of South Korean religious leaders to promote reconciliation and spurn violence and fear on Saturday, amid a tense standoff on their home peninsula.
Representatives of several religions met the Argentine pontiff at the Vatican and listened to an address in which he said their work must begin by “rolling up our sleeves”.
“Religious leaders are … called upon to initiate, promote and accompany processes for the welfare and reconciliation of all people,” Francis told the 20-strong delegation.
“We are called to be heralds of peace, proclaiming and embodying a non-violent style, a style of peace, with words clearly different from the narrative of fear, and with gestures opposed to the rhetoric of hatred.”
Wealthy, democratic South Korea is technically at war with its poor, reclusive northern neighbour, which regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States.
North Korea ratcheted up tensions in the region last week with the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific.
In response, the United States and South Korea agreed to revise a treaty limiting development of ballistic missiles, which the South wants to use to boost its defences.
The delegation visiting the Vatican was made up of members of the Korean Council of Religious Leaders, which includes Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Won Buddhists, Confucians, and representatives of the Chondogyo and native Korean religions.