By Kim Se-jeong
Pope Francis headed down to Daejeon on Friday, using a KTX train instead of a presidential helicopter offered him by Cheong Wa Dae.
His destination was Daejeon World Cup stadium, where he led a Mass celebrating the Assumption (ascension into heaven) of the Virgin Mary on his second day in Korea.
"He was supposed to travel via a helicopter, but changed the plan," an official from the Catholic Church in Seoul told reporters. He did not say exactly why he opted to go by train to Daejeon, but said, "It's not just because of the weather. We assume that he wanted to meet more ordinary people."
The weather was foggy and windy in the morning in Daejeon. Some observers assumed that the bad weather prompted him to avoid using the chopper.
However the official's comment fits the personality of the Pope, who is known for his down-to-earth approach to people.
"Using a helicopter was optional from the beginning. We also have had an option of taking a KTX train," the official added.
The 4019 KTX train left Seoul Station at 8:46 a.m. and arrived at Daejeon Station at 9:42 a.m.
His entourage used four of the train's 18 cars. Almost 500 passengers were aboard the same train. They initially did not know about the Pope's proximity, but there was eventually an announcement that the Pope was one of the passengers, sparking loud cheers.
The train was nonstop to Daejeon.
Shin Sang-hee, 40, a train attendant, had the privilege of serving the Pope.
She was quoted by local media as saying, "Each time I brought him things, he smiled at me and thanked me. I could feel humbleness from him."
The Pope gave her his autograph on a copy of a book, with a short note saying in Spanish, "Dear Shin Sang-hee, May God bless you. And please remember me in your prayers."
As he got off the train, people surrounded him, reaching out to him with hands and smiles. The Pope hopped into a Kia Soul car to move to the stadium.
As the car moved slowly, he shook hands with people and patted a baby on its head with blessing words.
Later in the day, he moved to Dangjin, South Chungcheong Province where he met with young Catholic leaders from other parts of Asia.