New Catholic church to open as symbol of inter-Korean peace

SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- A new Catholic church will open next week in a South Korean border city to become a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and peace, church officials said Monday.

The dedication ceremony for the "church of repentance and atonement" will be on June 25 when the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea said. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

The church, located in Paju, 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul, will hold services repenting inhuman killings committed during the three-year war and pray for cross-border reconciliation, peace and reunification, it said.

The idea behind the church was initiated by a group of North Korean Catholics who defected to the South before and during the war. They purchased a plot of land in Paju for the church in 1997. The Archdiocese of Seoul later took over the project, and it broke ground in April 2006.

The church was modeled after two of the Catholic churches that existed in North Korea, before the war.

Beside the church is a three-story educational building named "the center for national reconciliation."

Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, former head of the Seoul Archdiocese, will administer the mass to dedicate the new church, according to the bishops' conference.

"The church embodies the people's aspiration for reconciliation, unity, peace and reunification, and the national reconciliation center will become a place for cultivating missionaries to be sent for potential inter-Korean religious exchanges and educating the next generation about peace," a priest at the church said.

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