SEOUL (Worthy News)– Pope Francis became the first pontiff in 25 years to visit South Korea on Thursday, bringing a message of peace and reconciliation to the war-divided peninsula. Seoul's never-timid rival, North Korea, made its presence felt by firing three short-range projectiles less than an hour before he arrived and two more a short time later, ABC News reported.
The apparent test firing was conducted from Wonsan on the North's east coast and the projectiles flew about 220 kilometers (135 miles), according to a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules. It wasn't immediately clear what the projectiles were. After the initial three firings, Pyongyang followed up with two more after Francis had arrived.
North Korea has conducted an unusually large number of short-range missile and artillery test firings this year. Pyongyang has expressed anger over annual military drills between the United States and South Korea, which it says are invasion preparations. A new round of the drills, which Seoul and Washington call routine and defensive, are expected to start in coming days.
During his visit, Francis plans to beatify 124 Korean martyrs and encourage a vibrant and growing local church seen as a model for the future of Catholicism. But he is also expected to push for peace on the peninsula, in his speeches and especially during an Aug. 18 Mass in Seoul's main cathedral. While North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government.