Pope Francis prays for aborted infants in S. Korea disability center
KKOTTONGNAE, South Korea – Pope Francis prayed at a garden memorial for aborted fetuses on Saturday, August 16, as he toured a South Korean hilltop community for the sick and disabled that has been tainted by unproven allegations of financial misdealings.
The decision to include Kkottongnae ("Village of Flowers") in the papal tour had been criticized by some rights groups who believe the sprawling facility, about 90 kilometers south of Seoul, seeks to isolate and "ghettoize" the severely disabled.
But its supporters see it as a shining model of the Catholic Church's concern for the marginalized and downtrodden in a country where disability still carries a stigma.
Welcoming Pope Francis to the care center, the bishop of the local Cheongju diocese said many of those being cared for in Kkottongnae had the "misfortune to have been abandoned twice" – first by their parents and then again by a society where few would consider adopting a disabled child.
In the facility's main building, known as the "House of Hope", the Pope moved among disabled residents of all ages, gently touching their heads and offering his blessings.
The center was founded in the 1970s by Catholic priest Oh Woong-Jin who, together with other officials, was investigated 10 years ago on allegations of embezzling funds.
The Supreme Court acquitted Oh of any charges in 2007, and Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the organizers of the five-day papal visit had decided that Kkottongnae should be included in the itinerary.
After leaving the "House of Hope," the pope stopped for a moment and prayed in symbolic garden cemetery for aborted fetuses dotted with hundreds of small white crosses.
Pope Francis is a staunch opponent of abortion, which he has denounced as a "culture of death", and the Catholic Church has regularly criticized the frequency of abortions in South Korea.
The pope travelled to Kkottongnae after conducting an open air mass in Seoul in front of an estimated crowd of around 800,000 people. – Rappler.com