The archbishop of Seoul has said that he wants to invite young North Koreans to the Catholic Church’s next World Youth Day.
Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick shared at a peace forum in Seoul this week that he plans to invite a youth delegation from North Korea to the 2027 World Youth Day to take place in the South Korean capital.
The invitation will be sent to the North Korean government through the appropriate channels, according to Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
North Korea has long been identified as the worst country in the world for Christian persecution. The 2022 report by the International Bar Association’s War Crimes Committee and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said that Christians in North Korea are particularly targeted and tortured within the country’s prison system.
In contrast with North Korea, Christianity in South Korea has experienced rapid growth in recent decades, according to the Pew Research Center. In particular, the Catholic population in South Korea has increased by nearly 50% in the past 20 years.
Chung, as the archbishop of Seoul, is also the apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, North Korea. He said that he is committed to “the mission of peace and reconciliation.”
“Missionary work in North Korea is not only my vocation as apostolic administrator of Pyongyang, but also my responsibility as a Korean citizen,” Chung said.
The archbishop spoke at the 2023 Korean Peninsula Peace Sharing Forum held on Nov. 18 at the Catholic University of Korea. The annual event organized by the Catholic Church brings together religious leaders, diplomats, academics, and South Korean government officials.
Pope Francis announced earlier this year that the next World Youth Day will be held in Seoul in 2027.
The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day (WYD) in different cities around the world since the event was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The weeklong international gathering is typically held about every three years in July or August and has drawn upwards of 3 million people in past years.