Fri, June 17, 2011
World > Asia-Pacific

ROK Catholics: End the Korean tension

2011-06-17 08:30:43 GMT2011-06-17 16:30:43(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Catholic nuns release dove-shaped balloons during a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Catholic nuns attend a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula, at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]

Catholic nuns hold dove-shaped balloons during a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Catholic nuns release dove-shaped balloons during a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Catholic priests lead a procession with a statue of the Virgin Mary before a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Catholics react as they look at a rainbow around the sun during a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

A Catholic writes the Korean characters for "Unification" on a steel wall during a mass for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula at Imjingak Peace Park in Paju, near the demilitarised zone separating DPRK from ROK, June 17, 2011 [Photo/Agencies]

SEOUL - Some 20,000 Catholics of Republic of Korea (ROK) held a Mass Friday, calling for an end to hostility between the two estranged Koreas as tension remains high on the divided peninsula.

The first of its kind in eight years, the Mass was held at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone separating the ROK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Unification Minister Hyun In-take, Seoul's point man on the DPRK, was among the attendees.

"We are facing the biggest crisis since Korea was divided. With inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges put on hold and mutual aspersions on the rise, we have reached a phase where both Koreas resort to military power," Bishop Luke Kim Woon-hoe of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea said in a statement.

"We should now respect each other's different lifestyles and resume exchanges," he added.

The Catholics, urging talks between the leaders of the two Koreas and among regional players, said arms reduction on the Korean peninsula would help build peace in East Asia.

Cross-border military tension sharply ratcheted up last year following the fatal sinking of a ROK's warship and shelling of an island near the disputed sea border off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, which altogether killed 50 ROK nationals.

Seoul has long demanded the DPRK apologize for the incidents. The DPRK has repeatedly denied its involvement in the sinking and claimed its artillery bombardment on the island was provoked by military drills between Seoul and Washington near the disputed western sea border.

Masses dedicated to inter-Korean reconciliation used to be held annually from 1987 through 1995.

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