Pope John Paul began an Asian tour Saturday with a call for reconciliation in the Korean peninsula but scolded activist priests there for disobeying a ban by their bishops on political protest.
The pope, who was presented with a model firebomb and tear gas canister by students, concentrated in his speeches on what he called the "painful divisions" both within South Korea and with the Communist north.He said disunity, rancor, hatred, envy and violence were all too frequent in the world. "You yourselves are witnesses of the painful divisions that affect your own people," he said, calling for reconciliation.
Immediately after landing on his 44th foreign tour, he urged Korea to prove to the world that division and war could be overcome and he later preached internal reconciliation while criticizing activist priests for disobeying the church's ban on political protests.
He was quickly reminded of the frequent civil strife between South Korean students and the government.
At an evening Mass for 10,000 young people in an Olympic gymnasium, he was presented with the composite bronze model of a firebomb and gas canister set into the pages of a bible.
During the service several thousand young students wore lapel stickers demanding an end to a national security law that critics say is used to silence opponents of the administration of President Roh Tae-Woo.
About 700 students at a Catholic university on the other side of town staged a noisy demonstration against the law while the pope celebrated Mass but Roh told the pontiff as he arrived that political oppression had disappeared.
The pope said some of the young people may have personally suffered for the sake of justice but he made clear that he shared the Korean church's opposition to political activity.
He told about 1,000 priests at a Seoul parish church earlier they must "have the prudence, maturity and humility to work in harmony and under lawful authority for the good of Christ's body and not arbitrarily on their own."
Church sources said this was aimed at activists who have broken the ban on political activity. Three Catholic priests are currently behind bars - one who went to North Korea to escort home a woman student who made an illegal visit and two who helped plan his trip.
During his 15-hour flight from Rome to Seoul, the pope strongly defended his visit later on the Asian tour to the disputed territory of East Timor, which was annexed by Indonesia in 1976.
Critics say that by visiting the territory while on a tour of Indonesia, the pope is granting de facto recognition to Jakarta's rule which is not accepted by the United Nations.
The pope told reporters this interpretation was false and he would be insulting the territory's predominantly Catholic population by not going there. "Let's leave politics to the politicians," he said.