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North Koreans celebrate Mass for Pope

About 100 Catholics in the North Korean capital celebrated a memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II at the only Catholic church in the communist nation.

Associated Press reports that the mourners, including many women wearing white head coverings, sang hymns and received communion during Sunday's Mass. The mass was celebrated by an ethnic Korean priest from the United States.

A choir in pink dresses sang as a woman played the piano. The congregation included women wearing white head coverings.

"When I first heard about the pope passing away, I was very surprised, although of course I knew already that he had been sick," said Kim Yong Il, an official at Chang Chung Catholic Church. "When I heard the news that he had died, as a Catholic I felt very sad."

Kim said his church association held a prayer gathering in the church, and Catholic families prayed privately upon hearing the news of John Paul's death April 2.

The Pope;s death was not announced in the official state media until three days later.

North Korea does not encourage religion among its tightly controlled population of about 22 million, although the country's constitution guarantees religious freedom.

The communist state claims it has 3,000 Catholics, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry. North Korea has no seminaries for training priests.

North Koreans Celebrate Mass for Pope (The Guardian/Associated Press 11/4/05)

N Koreans hold Mass for late Pope ( 11/4/05)
North Korean Catholics in Pyongyang attend Mass for repose of the soul of Pope John Paul II (Fides 10/4/05)

12 Apr 2005