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Pope baptizes father of SKorea ferry victim

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Pope Francis, right, kisses a girl as he arrives with the popemobile to celebrate a mass and the beatification Paul Yun ji-Chung and 123 martyr companions at Gwanghwamun Gate in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Paul Yun Ji-Chung, born in 1759, was among the earliest Catholics on the Korean peninsula. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis, right, kisses a girl as he arrives with the popemobile to celebrate a mass and the beatification Paul Yun ji-Chung and 123 martyr companions at Gwanghwamun Gate in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Paul Yun Ji-Chung, born in 1759, was among the earliest Catholics on the Korean peninsula. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The faithful gather during the beatification mass of Paul Yun Ji-Chung and his 123 martyr companions in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Pope Francis beatified 124 Korean martyrs on Saturday, telling hundreds of thousands of people who turned out for his open-air Mass that their ancestors’ willingness to die rather than renounce their faith two centuries ago was a model for Asian missionaries today. (AP Photo/Korea Pool via Yonhap) KOREA OUT

Faithfuls gather during a mass and the beatification Paul Yun ji-Chung and 123 martyr companion celebrated by Pope Francis at Gwanghwamun Door in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out Saturday for one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea: The beatification of 124 Koreans killed for their faith over two centuries ago. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis, center, waves to the Catholic faithful as he passes by a tent for relatives of victims of the sunken ferry Sewol upon arriving to lead a mass at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out for one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea: The beatification of 124 Koreans killed for their faith over two centuries ago. (AP Photo/Ed Jones, Pool)

Pope Francis, center, waves to the Catholic faithful as he arrives to lead a mass at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out for one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea: The beatification of 124 Koreans killed for their faith over two centuries ago. (AP Photo/Ed Jones, Pool)

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Pope Francis made another gesture Sunday toward families who lost loved ones in South Korea’s ferry disaster, baptizing the father of a student victim.

Lee Ho Jin took the Christian name “Francis” during the rite, which the pope administered in the Vatican’s embassy in Seoul, according to the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Lee had been one of a dozen relatives of victims and survivors of the April ferry sinking who met privately with the pope Friday. He asked to be baptized and Francis agreed.

Francis has gone out of his way to show support for the Sewol ferry families, who are demanding an independent inquiry into the sinking that killed more than 300 people, most of them high school students. Aside from meeting publicly and privately with them, he has worn a symbolic yellow ribbon on his cassock in solidarity.

Lombardi has said Francis isn’t getting involved in their demands for a parliamentary inquiry, but is merely offering them support and prayers. He said Francis was particularly pleased to have been asked to perform a baptism since Korea’s Catholic Church has been growing steadily thanks in large part to an unusually high number of adult baptisms each year.

The rite was Francis’ first — albeit unofficial — event of the day. Afterward, he headed about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Seoul to Haemi for a meeting with Asian bishops, where he was expected to outline his priorities for the Catholic Church in the region. He was expected to offer a similar reflection to a few thousand young people gathered for a Mass ending the Asian version of World Youth Day.

The Mass was taking place inside the walls of the Haemi castle, a 15th century fortress that was used in the 19th century as a detention center for Christians persecuted by Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. In a nearby sanctuary, some 132 martyrs were tortured and killed.

The event looked poised to be something of a washout: A steady rain was drenching the castle grounds and hours before it was to begin, bands of kids were roaming the area in brightly colored ponchos trying to avoid ever-expanding mud puddles.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

Associated Press

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