China Reports Pope's Sorrow at Death of Kim Dae-jung

Peace Prize Winner Still Bringing North and South Together

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ROME, AUG. 23, 2009 ( News of Benedict XVI’s message of condolence at the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was reported not only in the leader’s home nation, but also by the official news agency of China.

Kim was a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his attempts to warm relations with communist North Korea. He died last Tuesday at age 85.

He served as president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003. It was in 2000 that Kim had a historical meeting in Pyongyang with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. That same year he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

China’s Xinhua News Agency, the government’s official press agency, as well as other Chinese papers, reported how the Holy Father sent a condolence message. The message, directed to the people of South Korea and its current president, was made public Friday by Kim’s family.

«Having learned with sadness of the death of former President Kim Dae-jung, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI sends condolences to you and to the nation,» said the message, sent through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state. «He commends the late president’s soul to the mercy and love of almighty God, and upon all the Korean people who mourn his passing, he cordially invokes the divine blessing of peace and strength.»

Kim’s funeral, celebrated today, was marked by the first high-level negotiations between North and South Korea in almost two years. Kim Jong Il sent a delegation to the South to meet with President Lee Myung-Bak and deliver an oral message. The delegation did not attend the funeral itself.

Pope John Paul II played a decisive role in Kim Dae-jung’s life, interceding on his behalf in 1980, when the South Korean regime had condemned the leader to death.

In an article marking the death of the Korean leader, L’Osservatore Romano noted how Kim affirmed that it was his Catholic faith that «helped him and supported him.»

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