Daejeon (AsiaNews) - Saint Andrew Kim and the Korean Martyrs "are a shining example for the whole Korean Church," Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik told AsiaNews. "Once a while, I wonder what they might think of us when they look upon our efforts; whether they are happy of our work or not. We must often examine our conscience to see if we lead the best possible life," said the bishop of Daejeon who also chairs the Episcopal Commission for the Care of Migrants. He spoke on the anniversary of the beatification of the great Korean martyr.
The shrine dedicated to the saint is located in Mgr You's diocese. After his ordination in Shanghai, the saint came home to be hatefully killed along with fellow Catholics. "His example is the brightest light of our Church. At this morning's Mass, I told my parishioners that they have to reflect upon the great saint's example, and ask themselves what he and the Holy Spirit might think of us. It might seem old-fashioned, but it is always important to remember that we are children of God and that we are accountable to him for our deeds."
The bishop told the thousand or so worshippers present at the site where Saint Andrew was martyred "to pray for the pope and the Universal Church. The Holy Father needs all the support and love he can get. The Church must renew its spur to improve every day. In our own small way, we are trying to do what we can."
Andrea Kim Taegon was born in 1821 into a noble Christian family, growing up in an milieu bathed in Christian principles. His father had turned their home into a 'house church' that attracted Christians and neophytes seeking baptism alike. When the authorities discovered him, he refused to give up his faith and died a martyr's death at the age of 44.
Lay people founded the Korean Church and still support it. The Christian faith arrived in Korea in the 17th century with foreign delegations that visited Beijing every year.
However, the new religion was unfavourably received by the local government, which fiercely persecuted it for centuries. Today 10 per cent of the population is Catholic, growing each year in strength.
More than 10,000 Koreans died as martyrs during the age of persecution. Two groups were beatified in 1925 and then 1968. On 6 May 1984, all 103 of them were canonised by Pope John Paul II in Seoul. Ten of them were non-Korean (three bishops and seven priests). All the others, catechists and believers, were Korean.
This "ferocity pushed our people to react forcefully. We have faced wars and dictatorships under the light of this extraordinary grace. We must live up to it," Bishop You said.