SEOUL – Korean women forced to work at Japanese military brothels during World War II have been invited to a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Aug. 18 during his planned visit to South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing an announcement by the preparatory committee for the papal visit.
Furthermore, efforts are underway to arrange a meeting between the pope and the “comfort women,” many of whom are Catholic, a committee official said Monday.
Pope Francis is expected to deliver a message to the women during the Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in central Seoul as part of his Aug. 14-18 mission pushing peace on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap said.
There appears to be no plan yet for the pope to meet alone with the women and it is unclear if their presence in the congregation will give them a chance to talk to him.
The South Korean committee plans to inform the Vatican ahead of the trip that the women will be in the congregation, Yonhap said.
If the head of the Roman Catholic Church were to meet with the comfort women it would likely make headlines worldwide.
The trip will be Pope Francis’ first visit to Asia since he was elected in March 2013. It will be the first papal visit to South Korea since 1989, when John Paul II traveled there.
The pontiff is expected to hold a range of meetings, including with President Park Geun-hye. About 11 percent of the population is Catholic and many other South Koreans are members of Protestant churches.