Pope Francis is praising the decision of North and South Korea to compete alongside each other at the Winter Olympics, saying it shows that conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and mutual respect.
Francis sent a special greeting and blessing to athletes and organizers of the Pyeongchang Olympics at the end of his weekly general audience. He says the traditional Olympic truce “takes on special importance this year” with the decision by the two Koreas, which will compete together in women’s hockey and march together at the opening ceremony.
The pope says the move shows that sports can promote peace.
Francis has frequently warned about the threat posed by the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula, and has demanded complete nuclear disarmament. He said the Holy See would support any initiative that favors peace and encounter among peoples.
Meanwhile, IOC President Thomas Bach is hoping for a repeat of the 2000 Olympics, when North and South Korean athletes made an emotional entry together into Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
As an International Olympic Committee member, Bach says he traveled to North Korea prior to the 2000 Games. He described how talks there were bogged down by protocol, details, and large doses of tedium.
“Some moments were terrible,” he says.
As he tells the story, Bach perks up as he recalls how — at the last moment — South and North Koreans “took each other by the hands and marched into the stadium. This is the Olympic Games. I guess you will see the same here on Friday.” MDT/AP