The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea held a special Mass here Monday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between South Korea and the Holy See.
In a message sent to the Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in downtown Seoul, Pope Francis expressed hope that the two sides will continue to develop their friendly ties and work together for peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
The message was read by Monsignor Fernando Duarte Barros Reis, acting Apostolic Nuncio to Korea.
The pope also expressed his anticipation for the 2027 World Youth Day, saying he prays that young people will continue to bear "this precious witness to Christ" as they prepare for the event.
World Youth Day is a large-scale international gathering of Catholic youth, held every two to four years in a different city around the world with up to millions of participants.
Seoul has been chosen as the host city for the next event, becoming the second Asian host following the Philippines in 1995.
Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon, chairman of the CBCK, highlighted the long-standing relationship between the Vatican and Korea, recalling the active support provided by the Holy See during South Korea's formative years.
He mentioned the crucial role played by Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini, the then Secretary of State of the Holy See, and Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, the Apostolic Nuncio to France, in assisting the South Korean delegation at the 1948 United Nations General Assembly.
This support from the Vatican was the foundation for the country to be recognized as an independent and legitimate government in the international community, he said.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the official establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and the Vatican was already anticipated," he added.
Closing his remarks, Lee expressed his hope for closer cooperation between the two sides.
In his congratulatory message, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed his deep gratitude to the Vatican and the Korean Catholic Church for their role as a "light and salt" in helping South Korea develop as an economic and cultural power.
"I hope the two countries will continue to work together to address pending global issues, based on the trust and cooperation that have been firmly established between them," he said in the message read by Hwang Sang-moo, senior presidential secretary for civil and social agenda.
The Vatican also was to hold a special Mass to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties at the Lateran Basilica in Rome the same day, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.
It was to be attended by Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon, representing the South Korean government.
South Korea and the Vatican formally established a diplomatic relationship in 1963. Since then, the two countries have maintained close relationships, with former Pope John Paul II visiting South Korea in 1984 and 1989. Pope Francis also visited Seoul in 2014.