Pope agrees to Sri Lanka trip, honours Korean martyrs

VATICAN CITY, February 8, 2014 (AFP) – Pope Francis on Saturday turned his focus to Asia, announcing a possible trip to Sri Lanka and approving the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs.

Asia has repeatedly been tipped as a destination for possible papal trips as Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI did not travel there during his eight-year pontificate and evangelisation in the continent is a big priority for the Vatican. The beatification ceremony for Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 fellow martyrs — who were killed for their Catholic beliefs between 1791 and 1888 — will take place in South Korea on August 15, the Vatican said in a statement.

The ceremony could well be attended by the pontiff himself after the Vatican last month said Francis was considering a trip to South Korea to coincide with Asian Youth Day in mid-August.

Also on Saturday the pontiff met with a group of Sri Lankan immigrants living in Italy and accepted an invitation to visit their country, without however specifying when the trip might take place.

Pleading for reconciliation in Sri Lanka nearly five years after the end of a bloody separatist war, the pope said: “It is not easy, I know, to heal the wou