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    » 05/25/2007, 00.00


    North Korean Martyrs, the first process for beatification gets underway

    Joseph Yun Li-sun

    The announcement was made yesterday by the Order of St. Benedict from Waegwan Abbey south Korea, which has ecclesial jurisdiction over the abbey Tokwon, in the North. There are 36 Martyrs, who died in the communist death camps during the persecution of Kim Il-sung.

    Seoul (AsiaNews) – The process for the beatification of 36 North Korean Servants of God, who accepted martyrdom in the face of demands they renounce their faith during the Stalinist regime of Kim Il-sung, between 1949 and 1952 has opened.

    The announcement was made by the Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey in South Korea which exercises ecclesial jurisdiction over the North Korean Abbacy of Tokwon.

    According to Abbot Simon Petro Ri Hyeong-u, Apostolic Administrator of Territorial Abbacy of Tokwon, “At the moment, the community of Order of St. Benedict Waegwan Abbey is full of aspiration to honour the witness of faith shown by our predecessors. Hereby, this abbey announces that it will play the role of 'actor' in the case for promoting the beatification and canonization”.

    The initiative also has to some extent a “political” value.  Upon till now, in fact the Seoul government has always exerted its influence to avoid the commemoration of these martyrs in order not to provoke a “diplomatic incident” with the present regime, led by Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung’s son.

    The process is entitled “beatification Abbot Bishop Boniface Sauer (O.S.B.), Fr. Benedict Kim (O.S.B.) and companions”. These men underlines Sabas Lee Seong-geun (vice-postulator for the cause), “all died in the North Korean communist death camps during that terrible wave of anti-Catholic persecution after the communists came to power.  We remember them together because in some way they are all linked to the Tokwon Abbey”.

    At present, the Catholic Church in North Korea is in appalling conditions. Since the end of the civil war in 1953, the three local ecclesiastical jurisdictions and the whole Catholic community have been brutally wiped out by the Stalinist regime. Not a single local priest has been left alive and all foreign clergymen have been expelled. In the early years of persecution by Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first dictator, an estimated 300,000 Catholics have vanished.

    There are neither resident priests nor ecclesial structures.  Thus following the erection of the first Orthodox Church in the capital last August, the Catholic Community is the only one not to have a minister for the faith.  

     According to Vatican sources, actual Catholics number 800, far fewer than the 3,000 recently acknowledged by the government. The so-called North Korean Catholic Association, an organisation created and run by the regime, claims to represent local Catholics. The Holy See has always discouraged visits by its leaders to Rome since there are still serious doubts about their legal and canonical status. There are strong suggestions that they are Communist Party officials, not Catholics.

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    See also

    09/12/2004 SOUTH KOREA - NORTH KOREA
    Both North and South consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin, says Bishop of Seoul

    During yesterday's solemn ceremony, Archbishop Nicholas Cheong spoke for the first time about the situation in North Korea urging everyone to pray for its people.

    21/03/2008 DAY OF THE MARTYRS
    The Easter of the Martyrs
    This year, the day in memory of missionary martyrs coincides with Easter Monday. In the splendour of the paschal mystery we remember the necessity of sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ and that of his followers, a sign that truth and love have not abandoned earth.

    13/02/2004 north korea - china
    North Korean refugees convert to Christianity

    21/03/2008 DAY OF THE MARTYRS
    ". . .for you and for all ", the Christian martyrs killed in 2007
    On March 24, the anniversary of the killing of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, the 16th Day for the Commemoration of Missionary Martyrs is celebrated. The event is observed all over Italy, with vigils of prayer and fasting at which many young people participate. The ecumenical list of martyrs, including Catholics and non-Catholics.

    22/09/2006 SOUTH KOREA – NORTH KOREA
    Card. Cheong: "Pray that Eucharist may return to North Korea"

    The cardinal invited Korean believers to follow the martyrs' example and to live a life based on Eucharistic values. He expressed regret about the northern side of the border, where believers cannot receive the great gift of communion.

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