As S. Korea Welcomes Pope, North Fires Rockets
Francis stresses peace, reconciliation on first visit to Asia
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2014 7:03 AM CDT
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival at Seoul Air Base as South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, smiles in Seongnam, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon. Pool)

(Newser) – South Korea welcomed Pope Francis today with flowers and a red carpet, as the pontiff kicked off a five-day visit in which he called for peace on the divided peninsula. North Korea, on the other hand, shot off rockets. Pyongyang fired five short-range projectiles off its east coast, including three around the time of the pope's arrival—though none endangered his plane, the Wall Street Journal reports. On his first Asian tour since becoming pope, Francis also marked another first: He made a speech in English, the AP notes. "Quiet listening and dialogue" must replace "mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms, and displays of force," he said.

Though 10 North Korean Catholics were invited to attend Pope Francis' upcoming "reconciliation" mass in Seoul on Monday, the invitation was declined, officials say. Then again, a UN Human Rights Council report this year said Christians "were prohibited from practicing their religion and were persecuted," the BBC notes. The Vatican didn't extend an olive branch only to North Korea, however. In what the Church called "a sign of detente" with Beijing, Francis was allowed to fly through Chinese airspace on his way to South Korea and sent a telegram of prayers to President Xi Jinping as he did so.