Catholic leaders in Guam urge calm amid rising tension with North Korea

Tourists stroll along a road on the island of Guam Aug. 10. Growing tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has seen the U.S. island territory in the western Pacific Ocean placed in the crosshairs of a potentially deadly standoff. (CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters) 

Catholic leaders in Guam, the U.S. island territory caught in the middle of an escalating war of words between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, are urging calm and asking believers to pray for peace.

“Following national news reports that North Korea has threatened to strike our island with missiles, the Archdiocese of Agana reminds everyone to stay grounded in the peace of the Christ,” reads a letter dated Aug. 9 signed by the Rev. Jeffrey C. San Nicolas, an administrator for the archdiocese.

“Look to God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened and pray always.”

“Look to God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened and pray always,” it continues.

Priests of the archdiocese have been asked to pray for peace during Sunday Masses, according to the Pacific Daily News.

“Please offer prayers for peace between our nations, just resolution of differences and prudence in both speech and action,” Archbishop Michael Byrnes told priests. “Please also offer prayers for the men and women of our military, especially those whom we host on Guam, that they might find grace for diligence and courage as they execute their respective duties.”

North Korean leaders threatened earlier this week to fire missiles aimed at the waters off Guam, home to two strategic U.S. military bases with about 7,000 American soldiers. The island itself, which is roughly the size of Chicago, is home to about 160,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Catholic.

On Friday, Mr. Trump tweeted: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path,” escalating an exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.

Later this month, the United States and South Korea, a key U.S. ally, are expected to hold joint military exercises, which involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. Washington and Seoul say the exercises are defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

“We place our complete trust in our God.”

The heightened tension brought about by a possible military conflict comes as the local church deals with the fallout from a massive sexual abuse scandal, in which a former archbishop and more than a dozen priests have been accused of abuse. Last year, Pope Francis removed Archbishop Anthony Apuron from ministry after allegations of abuse were levied against him, assigning Archbishop Byrnes, previously an auxiliary bishop in Detroit, to run the archdiocese.

Seeking to reassure a flock amid the current geo-political crisis, the letter urges residents of Guam “to remain calm and trust that the security of our island is in good hands with local and national defense forces in place to address such threats.”

 

Father San Nicolas said the community must stick together during uncertain times.

“This is the time for all of us to come together,” it reads. “If a family member, co-worker or neighbor is troubled, take time to talk to them, pray for them and remind them of the providence of our Lord,” it says. “We place our complete trust in our God.”

Finally, residents should pray for peace.

“Please pray that the Holy Spirit will instill in the leaders of our country and all nations the virtues of wisdom and understanding to promote peace rather than war,” he wrote.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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