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Pope Prays for Sewol Ferry Victims at Open-Air Mass in Daejeon

Pope Francis led prayers today for the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster in a mass in Daejeon on the second day of his trip to South Korea, which commemorates today its liberation from Japanese occupation 69 years ago.

“We especially entrust to the holy mother all those who lost their lives and those who’re still suffering from this national disaster,” the pontiff said at a soccer stadium, according to a Korean translation of the prayer on the official website of the pope’s visit.

The pope rode a bullet train to Daejeon from Seoul, entering the stadium in a open-top Hyundai Motor Co. Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle, television footage showed. He attended Asia Youth Day in the city after the mass, according to the website.

Francis, the first pope to visit South Korea since John Paul II a quarter of a century ago, began his five-day trip to the nation yesterday. He shares some of the same popular appeal as the “rock star” pope, whose visit fueled a surge in Catholicism among Koreans.

After the Sewol sinking on April 16 that killed more than 300 people, mostly high school students, authorities said the ferry company was run by Yoo Byung Eun, the leader of a Christian group called Guwon, or redemption.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said that the country’s recent firing of rockets had nothing to do with the pope’s visit to South Korea.

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