From the S&S archives: Pontiff begins Korea travels
Stars and Stripes May 5, 1984
KWANGJU, South Korea — Pope John Paul II blessed the children of Korea and the world Friday as church authorities expressed hopes that there won't be a repeat of a student demonstration that stung the pontiff's eyes with tear gas late the night before.
As John Paul visited Catholic University in Seoul Thursday night, some 300 students demonstrated at a neighboring campus — apparently pushing a demand for more campus freedom. Police fired tear gas into the small crowd and fumes saturated the area, irritating the pope's eyes and nostrils and causing him to sneeze frequently.
"It is regrettable that the pope and some of his party had problems with the tear gas," a South Korea Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "But the police had no alternative."
Fears were expressed that there could be riotous demonstrations at Seoul's Sogang University, which the pope is to visit Friday. The school has a history of disorder.
"We're hoping there won't be a problem, praying there won't be a problem," a spokesman said.
If John Paul was upset by the previous night's events, he showed no signs of it at Mudung Stadium in Kwangju, about 300 miles southwest of Seoul.
The pope, accompanied by Seoul Archbishop Stephen Cardinal Kim, drove into the stadium in a van with a bulletproof cupola — an ungainly white limousine built by security-minded South Koreans for his pilgrimage here. It circled the track of the stadium, packed with 65,000 people, as John Paul returned cries of "Viva Papa" by raising his hands like a saint in an old world mural.
A woman's choir in student uniforms and colorful chima raised their voices in the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah."
Near the red-draped altar and stage, with an empty white chair to be occupied by the pontiff, there were lame and sick in wheelchairs and the white lace of prayer shawls was seen everywhere.
The pope, dressed in golden robes and carrying the silver staff of Peter, appeared clear-eyed and beatifically poised as he walked past a bank of yellow and orange flowers and climbed the stairs to a white-covered altar. His hands folding and closing in deep meditation, he ascended to his chair of office to celebrate Mass in Korean and preside over the confirmation of 72 young people and older converts to the Catholic faith.
It was Children's Day, and for young Koreans and children everywhere in the world, the spiritual ruler of one-fifth of the world's population had a message. He spoke of love.
"This is the meaning of our lives: To love God and to love others — to love our parents, our brothers and sisters, our relatives and friends, all our fellow human beings, even those who may have hurt us or offended us. To love our neighbor means living for others, lending a helping hand, giving service where needed, being just, honest and pure, gentle, truthful and kind. To love our neighbor means helping to build a better world."
For their elders, John Paul also had a message, delivered in a city that was torn by student rioting after President Park Chung Hee was assassinated and Chun Doo Hwan took power.
He said that accepting the faith meant "keeping yourselves free, by God's grace, from hatred and rancor."
"It means pardoning those who may have sinned against you. It means being reconciled to one another and to God in forgiveness and love."
The pope said that "forgiveness is an act that is greater than our poor hearts: It belongs to God alone."
"I am keenly aware of the deep wounds that pain your hearts and souls from personal experiences and from recent tragedies, which are difficult to overcome from a merely human point of view, especially for those of you from Kwangju. Precisely for this reason, the grace of reconciliation has been granted to you in baptism; it is a gift of the mercy of God, manifested in Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose again for us."
In May 1980, 189 people died in the Kwangju riots, according to government officials.