Saturday, 30 August 2014

#PopeFrancisInKorea: Pope Francis' Message

I had a feeling I wasn't meant to arrive early at the Beatification Mass celebrated by Pope Francis that Saturday morning in Gwanghwamun Square. Had I gotten there early, maybe, just maybe, I would have been able to get a photo of him as his pope mobile drove around the Square amidst the crowds of thousands waving, cheering and taking his photo as well. But with a photo of the Pope or not, attending the beatification that day was an experience of a lifetime. 

But on his last day in South Korea, on his last hour in the Korean Peninsula, I was able to snap an interesting photograph of Pope Francis, which, as I look at it now, made me realize the photo itself was his message.

During his visit in Korea, his message to the Korean people was to shun materialism. Well, having lived here in Korea for years, I discovered that materialism is part of the Korean culture. This may have been brought about by the country's fast economic advancement. Let's throw in greed, which of late, has been the cause of the most painful tragedy this decade. 

Pope Francis leads by example. And on this photograph, he rides a black compact car with a window open, waving to reach out for the last time to everyone who was on the street to see him pass.

It is really unthinkable for another visiting dignitary to ride such a small car. During state visits of other leaders, it would always be a long, black car, presumably bullet proof. And of course, with all windows closed at all times. 

Pope Francis, on the other hand, chose a smaller and cheaper car as if to remind everyone that a leader has to be modest and that everyone should be, too. 

He also chose to open his window, perhaps much to the dislike of his security. But he wanted to connect with everyone he encountered. And he really did connect. That day, the crowd waiting for him in Myeongdong were all smiling after seeing him wave back.

So there, Korea. The Pope has spoken to you about his message. 

Let's all remember it, embrace it and follow it.   

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