Pope prays for Sewol victims in first public Mass

Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the April sinking of the ferry Sewol during his first public Mass in Korea on Friday.

"We especially entrust to her (Our Lady, Queen of Heaven) all who lost their lives in the sinking of the Sewol ferry, as well as those who continue to be affected by this great national disaster," the pontiff, wearing a yellow ribbon on his chest in memoriam, said during the Mass for the Assumption of Mary held at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon.

"May the Lord welcome the dead into his peace, console those who mourn, and continue to sustain those who so generously came to the aid of their brothers and sisters."

The highest cleric of the Roman Catholic Church arrived in Seoul on Thursday on his five-day pastoral visit to Korea. It is his first visit to Asia since taking over the papacy in March last year.

Around 30 survivors and family members of the victims attended the Mass which marked the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and her bodily assumption into heaven.

The pope consoled 10 of them in a private meeting held right before the Mass.

The stadium was packed with about 45,000 faithful who shouted "Viva il Papa" as the Holy Father entered the venue at around 10:20 a.m.

The pontiff, who was slated to arrive via helicopter in the city, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul, went by KTX, the bullet train, due in part to cloudy and foggy weather.

"It's not just because of the weather conditions. The Holy Father seems to have wanted to be in touch with more people," said Father Hur Young-yup, the spokesman of the Committee for the Papal Visit to Korea.

Riding in a doorless car on his way to the stadium, the pope greeted the crowd outside the stadium, stopping several times to kiss and bless babies. After the Mass, the pope had lunch with around 20 young Asian leaders from 16 Asian countries at Daejeon Catholic University. He then headed for Solmoe in Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province, where he attended the sixth Asian Youth Day, a festival of young Catholics.

Solmoe, which is Catholic holy ground, is the birthplace of Korea's first priest Kim Tae-gon.

Asian Youth Day is the primary reason for the 77-year-old Argentine pontiff's trip to Korea, his first outing to Asia since becoming pope in March last year. About 2,000 young believers from across Asia are gathered for this year's festival. No pope has attended the event before. The pontiff returns to the Vatican on Monday.

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