UCA News reports that scores of Korean young people could be seen venerating a cross and icon on an otherwise desolate border bridge barricaded with swirls of razor-sharp wire.
About 100 youth carried the cross as far as they could to the north end of the bridge in Imjingak, where the razor fence enforces the decades-old division of the Korean peninsula. There, each of them prayed in turn, with his or her brow against the cross.
The young people were from Uijeongbu diocese, which borders the Demilitarised Zone separating North and South Korea. The World Youth Day cross and icon of the Blessed Mother that they brought were gifts the late Pope John Paul II gave in 1984 to a group of young people to carry across the world in preparation for the first World Youth Day the following year.
Besides praying for national reunification on the bridge, the youth also prayed the rosary as they brought the 3.8-metre-high cross and icon in procession around Imjingak, a park 50 kilometres northwest of Seoul. From there people can peer through the Demilitarised Zone into North Korea.
Australian Fr Chris Ryan, coordinator of the committee in charge of the cross and icon, described it as "a fantastic moment to witness South Korean youth praying for the reunification of the two Koreas."
He told UCA News, "Their prayer at the cross, with (such) warm faith, was beautiful and it inspires me."
"Nowadays young people don't have much interest in the tragic national division or in reunification," Veritas Kim Min-jeong, one of the young pilgrims, added.
"While praying at the cross, I thought about the role of young people. We as Catholic youth in the diocese need to promote unity and integration of society by spreading the spirit of the cross," the 26-year-old woman told UCA News.
The North and the South have been divided since Korea's liberation from the Japanese in 1945, at the end of World War II.
The World Youth Day cross and the icon arrived on February in Jeju, the southern island of South Korea that is set to host the national youth day celebration. It came from Africa.
Youth Pray For National Reunification With World Youth Day Cross, Icon (UCA News, 28/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
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1 Mar 2007