SEOUL, South Korea — Celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Mary in South Korea, Pope Francis prayed that Christian values would overcome demoralization in economically successful societies.
“The hope held out by the Gospel is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness,” the pope said Aug. 15 in his homily at the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon.
With some 50,000 people gathered for the Mass, the pope voiced his hope that Christians in South Korea, the world’s 13th-largest economy, might “combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife.”
“May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child,” he said.
At the end of Mass, before praying the Angelus, the pope mourned the approximately 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, some of whose relatives he had met briefly before the start of Mass.
“May this tragic event which has brought all Koreans together in grief confirm their commitment to work together in solidarity for the common good,” he said.
Pope Francis’ sobering words stood in contrast to the ebullience of the crowd, and of the pope himself, as he entered the stadium in an open-sided popemobile. The pope, who had traveled the 85 miles from Seoul by train instead of helicopter as originally planned, was greeted by thousands of people performing the wave and holding signs of welcome, including a banner reading “We love you” in Italian.
The day was overcast but warm and humid, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s. Before the Mass, members of the congregation were asked not fan themselves with the hats or booklets during the liturgy. Many women wore white lace veils, a tradition still widely practiced in Korea.
The pope celebrated the Mass in Latin, with the readings and responses in Korean. He delivered his homily in Italian.