Olympic Games to begin © Ju Huanzong
Now the official starting gun can go off this Friday: Winter Olympics open in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The German Catholic community in the capital city of Seoul, 150 kilometers away, is also cheering for the victory.
CBA: Expect visitors to your parish for the duration of the Winter Games?
Maria Jutta Hassler (pastoral leader in the German Catholic community in Seoul): We have no special Olympic program planned. I also don't expect tourists staying here in the capital to attend our church services. If it does, we would of course be very pleased. Normally, about 50 faithful attend the German-language Sunday Mass. At the ecumenical Christmas service there were as many as 250 people.
CBA: Hostile North Korea also wants to send athletes to competitions. A good sign?
Hassler: It's a good step forward. Both sides could find each other through the participating Olympians. I have hope that after the sporting togetherness it will go on with talks about conflict resolution.
CBA: Are you or parishioners active in Pyeongchang at the Olympics?
Hassler: No. On the ground, Germany's two Olympic pastors serve as contacts. Pastor Jurgen Hunten for the Catholic Church and his Protestant colleague Thomas Weber. For the subsequent Paralympic competitions, a chaplain here from the region will probably support the team.
CBA: Will you at least pay a visit to the Olympic Games??
Hassler: No, but I would like to go there after the Games. I like skiing myself. For the so far rather quiet region of Pyeongchang it is a chance for a revival. I have hope that those responsible have created the sports facilities that have sprung up from the ground in a sustainable way. Some facilities will be deconstructed, but I have hope that those that remain will continue to be used by students and others interested in the future.
CBA: You are very close: Is there enough snow??
Hassler: It's currently minus 14 degrees here, but the big snow has not yet fallen. The athletes need not worry, however: The cold temperatures are good for artificial snow production. Besides, the real winter does not start here with us until the end of January.
The interview was conducted by Rainer Nolte.