By Philippa Hitchen
Speaking at the end of his Wednesday General Audience, the Pope noted that the XXIII Winter Olympics are being inaugurated in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang on Friday, with the participation of teams from 92 countries.
He said that this year, the traditional Olympic truce takes on a particular significance since delegations from both North and South Korea will be marching together at the opening ceremony and competing together on the same team.
The Pope said this fact offers hope for a “world in which conflicts can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and mutual respect”, reflecting the values which sport embodies.
Pope Francis has repeatedly voiced his concerns about the escalating nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula and called for complete nuclear disarmament.
He said he would be accompanying all the athletes with his prayers and he reiterated the commitment of the Holy See to support any initiatives which promote peace among peoples. “May the Olympics be a great celebration of sport and friendship”, he concluded.
Kim Jong-un’s sister to attend Games
The Pope’s words came as North Korea announced that the sister of North Kim Jong-un will attend Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony. Kim Yo-jong, a senior Workers’ Party official promoted to the politburo last year, will be the first member of the immediate Kim family to cross the border between North and South Korea.
The move is widely being seen as an effort to ease tensions between the two neighbours who never signed a peace treaty at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The border, or demilitarized zone between the two countries, remains one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world today.