VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).-A Vatican delegation recently visited North Korea to improve relations with the People´s Democratic Republic.
Vatican envoys, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States, and Fr. Luis Mariano Montemayor, adviser to the Nunciature in the State Secretariat, ended their mission on May 14.
“This was the sixth visit of a Vatican delegation to North Korea. It has reaffirmed the constant solidarity of the Holy Father in favor of the North Korean people and has contributed to give continuity to relations established with governmental authorities of Pyongyang, in particular, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry,” a Vatican Press Office statement explained.
According to the statement, the Vatican delegation held meetings in Pyongyang with officials of the Association of Catholics of North Korea (controlled by the Communist regime), and was able to celebrate the feast of the Lord´s Ascension with the local and international Catholic community in the Church of Chan Chung.
The Vatican and North Korea do not maintain diplomatic relations. Along with the People´s Republic of China, it is the only country for which the Statistical Yearbook of the Church has no figures on the number of Catholics.
Before Korea was split in two, there were some 60 priests in the North. It seems that after the split, all of them were martyred.
There has been no news on Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho of Pyongyang since 1962. It is most probable that he died, although last year the Vatican missionary agency “Fides” did not discard the possibility that he was confined in a re-education camp.
In recent years, Caritas has been one of the few aid agencies that has worked in the country, offering food and other assistance.