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Pope Francis to beatify 124 Koreans during August visit

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
7/31/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (

Pope will beatify nation's first martyr, Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 23 companions

Pope Francis plans to beatify Korea's first martyr, Paul Yun Ji-chung, as well his 123 companions in his visit to South Korea in August. Paul Yun Ji-chung along with his companions were killed for their faith in the 19th Century.

Pope Francis plans to beatify Korea's first martyr, Paul Yun Ji-chung, as well his 123 companions in his visit to South Korea in August.

Pope Francis plans to beatify Korea's first martyr, Paul Yun Ji-chung, as well his 123 companions in his visit to South Korea in August.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (
7/31/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Korea, beatification, persecution, Paul Yun Ji-chung, Confucianism

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pontiff will be in South Korea August 14-18, visiting the shrine of the martyrs of Seo So-mun the morning of August 16. The Pope will then travel to Seoul's Door of Gwanghwamun to say Mass and beatify Paul Yun Ji-chung and his companions later that day.

Catholicism in Korea, in contrast to China or Japan, was not introduced by a colonial or foreign power. Korean scholars learned of the teachings of Christ at the beginning of the 17th century, which was then spreading in China. The scholars at that time undertook travels with Jesuit missionaries there in order to study it.

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These scholars then returned to Korea to promote the faith. Christianity spread so quickly that only a few decades later, when a Chinese priest managed to enter the country, he found a well-established -- if ostracized, group of Catholics numbering in the thousands.

For Korea, a strictly hierarchical society made up by privileged scholars and nobility on the one hand, and commoners and slaves on the other, Christianity was seen by the authorities as dangerous heterodoxy to the political system of Confucianism. They also viewed Christianity as a religion that intended a social revolution.

Catholics called themselves "friends of the Lord of Heaven," which implied a relation to God based on equality, a concept unacceptable to Confucians. Authorities tried to prevent the faith from spreading by prohibiting Catholic books. Violent persecution occurred in several spurts throughout the 19th century, with more than 10,000 persons martyred.

The first of these persecutions happened in 1791. Paul Yun Ji-chung was converted to Christianity by his uncle, a scholar. Later that year he and another Catholic, James Kwong Sang-yon burned their ancestral tablets, acting in accordance with their understanding of Catholic teaching.

In what became known as the Chinsan incident, the two members of the nobility were charged with heterodoxy from Confucian norms, and beheaded.

The next violent persecution was in 1801, when hundreds of Catholics were executed, and hundreds more exiled. A few years after missionaries arrived from Paris in 1839, there were more executions of the faithful.

The Pyong-o persecution in 1846 claimed another round of martyrs for Korea, including Andrew Kim Tae-gon, its first native priest. The Pyong-in persecution of 1866 claimed most of the martyrs for Korea - 8,000 were killed, including nine foreign priests.

Of the thousands of Korean martyrs, St. John Paul II canonized 103 on May 6, 1984. During the Mass, he preached that "in a most marvelous way, divine grace soon moved your scholarly ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God's word and then to a living faith in the Risen Savior."


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