Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Francis Kim Ji-young, the new ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See.
In his English-language address to the diplomat, the Pope mentioned "the remarkable growth of the Catholic Church" in Korea which, he said, is "due in no small part to the heroic example of men and women whose faith led them to lay down their lives for Christ and for their brothers and sisters.
"Their sacrifice," he added, "reminds us that no cost is too great for persevering in fidelity to the truth. Regrettably, in our contemporary pluralist world some people question or even deny the importance of truth. Yet objective truth remains the only sure basis for social cohesion. Truth is not dependent upon consensus but precedes it and makes it possible, generating authentic human solidarity.
"The Church — always mindful of the truth's power to unite people, and ever attentive to mankind's irrepressible desire for peaceful coexistence — eagerly strives to strengthen concord and social harmony both in ecclesial life and civic life, proclaiming the truth about the human person as known by natural reason and fully manifested through divine revelation."
Turning to consider the Korean people's desire for peace on the peninsula and in the region as a whole, Benedict XVI reiterated "the Holy See's support for every initiative that aims at a sincere and lasting reconciliation, putting an end to enmity and unresolved grievances." And he praised the country's efforts "to foster fruitful and open dialogue while simultaneously working to alleviate the pain of those suffering from the wounds of division and distrust."
"Every nation shares in the responsibility of assuring a more stable and secure world. It is my ardent hope that the ongoing participation of various countries involved in the negotiation process will lead to a cessation of programs designed to develop and produce weapons with frightening potential for unspeakable destruction."
The Pope noted how Korea "has achieved notable successes in scientific research and development," especially in biotechnology which has "the potential to treat and cure illnesses so as to improve the quality of life in your homeland and abroad." However, he added, "discoveries in this field invite man to a deeper awareness of the weighty responsibilities involved in their application," and "under no circumstances may a human being be manipulated or treated as a mere instrument for experimentation.
"The destruction of human embryos, whether to acquire stem cells or for any other purpose, contradicts the purported intent of researchers, legislators and public health officials to promote human welfare. The Church does not hesitate to approve and encourage somatic stem-cell research: not only because of the favorable results obtained through these alternative methods, but more importantly because they harmonize with the aforementioned intent by respecting the life of the human being at every stage of his or her existence."
Pope Benedict concluded his remarks by recalling how "the promotion of human dignity also summons public authorities to ensure that young people receive a sound education. It is incumbent upon governments to afford parents the opportunity to send their children to religious schools by facilitating the establishment and financing of such institutions. Catholic and other religious schools should enjoy the appropriate latitude of freedom to design and implement curricula that nurture the life of the spirit without which the life of the mind is so seriously distorted."